From most general perspective the notion of social informatics relates to interaction between society and information-communication technologies (ICT), what can be observed in three directions:
- interaction between society and ICT, i.e. social aspects of computerization, what can be observed at two levels:
- interaction of ICT and society at micro level of specific ICT applications, what includes individual (i.e. human computer interaction) and organizational aspects of specific ICT applications;
- interaction of ICT and society in at macro level, what relates to general changes in society due to the introduction of ICT, i.e. issues related to information society;
- use of ICT as a general tool for studying social phenomena covering a wide range of areas from data mining to computer assisted data collection, overlapping with various aspects of social science methodology;
- applications of ICT in specific areas of social sciences and humanities, e.g. computer modeling of social science data, design of information systems in areas related to social sciences (e.g. application in public sector, social services, etc.).
According to the most popular definitions at University of Indiana the notion of social informatics (SI) thus predominantly relates to the first component (1) above. It covers interdisciplinary perspective that uses both, the tools of the social science and the tools of the computer science to analyze the interaction between ICT and society. Within this framework, the SI covers issues like the use of the information technologies in social context, the roles of information technology in social change and the social shaping of information systems.
However, we can find the notion of SI also in some other contexts. Various SI studies and SI academic courses are organized within very diverse fields of science, including information systems, anthropology, computer science, communications, sociology, library and information science, social science methodology, political science and technology studies. There we found very often the understanding of the social informatics in in the meaning of ICT application in social sciences (2) and also in the context of ICTs being a research tool in social sciences (3).
Majority of areas related to social informatics can be found in the navigation left. Some of them relate to the very core meaning of SI, other touch it only partially, while some may lay at the very questionable edge of being associated with this notion.