Embracing Technology and the Challenges of Complexity

  • Alice Robbin School of Library and Information Service, Indiana University Bloomington
Keywords: information and communication technologies (ICTs), social informatics, theory, methodology, empirical evidence, complexity


Advances in new digital platforms, innovative applications, and the convergence of computer, information, and communication technologies are transforming our everyday lives. ICTs have consequences for governance, community, work, information, knowledge, human communication, and well being, to name only a few. We live in a world where change is a constant, where interdependencies are multiple, heterogeneous, and increasingly fragile, and where uncertainty, ambiguity, incomplete information, and unanticipated consequences are the norm. The outcomes of our engagement with technology are complex and unpredictable. They defy simple conclusions because they are historical, temporal, situational, and embedded. Moreover, they are problematic and surprising: inconsistent, paradoxical, disorderly, contradictory, and contingent. In this talk I want to examine some of the empirical evidence about the complexity of our technological landscape and suggest ways to make sense of what is happening through theoretical frameworks drawn from different disciplinary traditions. Following Nobel Laureate in Economics Elinor Ostrom, our aim should be to “dissect and harness complexity rather than eliminate it” so that we can create responsive and resilient systems.

Author Biography

Alice Robbin, School of Library and Information Service, Indiana University Bloomington
Alice Robbin is an associate professor in the School of Library and Information Science at Indiana University Bloomington. Her research interests include information policy, communication, and information behavior in complex organizations and societal implication of the information age. She teaches courses in information policy, social informatics, and organizational informatics. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science (minor in Sociology) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She investigates various aspects of information policy design and analysis of the national and international information infrastructure. Her current research investigates information seeking behavior on the Internet and the four-year public review initiated by the U.S. Office of Management Budget to modify policy on the classification of race and ethnicity. She has published articles and book chapters in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science & Technology, Administration & Society, Journal of Government Information, The Information Society, Internet Research, and the Annual Review of Information Science & Technology. For more information, see http://ella.slis.indiana.edu/~arobbin/.