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Related documents:

Full March 2011 "State of the School" slide presentation w/script in notes (PDF): SOTS.03.22.11-final-with-notes.pdf

Extended vision statement document based on SOTS (PDF): State of School 2011.2ndhalf.3.20.pdf

Draft new mission statement (for web page, etc).


SI Vision

Jeff MacKie-Mason, Dean
School of Information, University of Michigan

This began as the script for the second half of my 2011 State of the School address.  On 15 April 2011 I posted a drastically shortened, and somewhat revised version, trying to move the many page document towards a digestible vision statement. The original, full speech and slides are available in the PDF attachment linked at the top of this page.

In its current version, I focus on the subject matter of our research and teaching.  I have dropped material articulating a vision for what we can achieve as an institution.  I think perhaps that question should be addressed here as well. 

NOTE ABOUT EDITING: Please feel free to make comments (use "Add" menu upper right, or "Comment" link at bottom), or to edit the text directly.  Create an account and login if you want your edits/comments identifiable, but not mandatory.  If you write a sentence or more, please try to select your text and change it to royal blue using the color menu above (second row in the blue column) to make it easier to notice proposed additions, deletions or revisions.  If you edit here, I will take that as implicit permission to use your words in future written or oral materials I produce for SI.  -- Jeff

We are a community of scholars, dedicated teachers, students and professional staff who share core values: a commitment to excellence, and a desire to make a difference in people's lives.

We share a good idea: That to understand and improve interactions between people, information and its technologies, we need scientific expertise in human behavior and capabilities, in information, and in its technologies, and we need to work together.  There is no other strong academic unit that has as much commitment to all three arms.  Some are stronger in one area or another, but we are the best in the balanced middle. 

We share a willingness to take risks.  All of us, by choosing to work in SI rather than a traditional department, have taken a chance with our careers because we believe in what we can accomplish.   

Our life's work is not just about people, their information and their information technologies.  Our passion is to do our work in service of people.  People first.  Information for people.  Information technology for people.  We will continue to tackle varied problems in varied settings, but our defining concern will be human existence in social contexts. 

Thus, our mission is social engagement information and computing: The study and design of information and its technologies in service of people, engaged in social interactions.

What are some examples of social engagement information and computing?

  • The democratization of health, through improving access to credible, reliable information, and creating safe e-communities in which patients motivate, support and inform each other.
  • Developing low cost information and communications technologies to improve education and health for impoverished populations. 
  • Supporting socially-conscious behavior, such as sustainable living and online charity.
  • Understanding and improving the effectiveness of social media in civic discourse and political action, and in building and maintaining our strong ties with family and friends.
  • Advancing universal authorship – public writing with public critique and reaction – beginning with new writers in K-3.
  • Preserving the historical and cultural records of oppression around the world.

SUMMARY: Our mission is to be the best possible research and teaching institution for social engagement information and computing (SEIC).

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4 Comments

  1. Unknown User (mdc)

    "...we are going to be the best academic program in the world – teaching and research – at social engagement information and computing."
    This seems like the central proposition. We've often said that we can't be best at everything and will have to define a tighter focus. Mostly that's where the conversations have paused. Jeff has put a proposed focus out there for us to consider.
    Is something like "social engagement information and computing" the right ballpark? Is it the right specific phrasing? Do we roughly agree on what it means?
    I'm hoping some conversation about these kinds of questions will get going here. The proposal could be a turning point in the history of SI.

    1. Anonymous

      What does it mean?

      1. Anonymous

        Sorry. What does social engagement information and computing means? Why not social information and computing or social computing and information engagement?

        1. I was just today working on a definition for social engagement information and computing (and would be delighted to have a better name for it -- suggest away!)

          First, parsing: I intended it to be read as (social engagement) (information and computing), with a postfix operator :)  That is, (information and computing) applied to (social engagement).  Here is a wordier version: 

          "What is social engagement information and computing?  It is the study and design of information and its technologies in service of people, engaged in social interactions."

          Per your versions: "social information and computing".  Well, it's not social information (that's information modified by social); it's information for people engaged in social interactions.  "Social computing" as it is generally understood is fine (that's usually meant as computing or IT in support of social behavior), but too limiting by itself (it focuses on technology, but we're about technology *and* information).

          Your second version: "social computing and information engagement".  Again, "social computing" is fine in part, but insufficient.  I'm not sure what "information engagement" would mean.

          Aside from the reason above (that "social information" doesn't read correctly, I think), I inserted "engagement" for a second reason: as described in the full statement above, at SI there is a strong orientation towards service, towards "making a difference".  And that's another reading of "social engagement": being engaged in service of society.