[Air-L] Social Engineering

Murray Turoff murray.turoff at gmail.com
Wed Jan 14 09:17:49 PST 2009

A bit of shaggy dog response here!

I have not heard the term social engineering for a decade or more.  I
think it had a political rough time at one time when one of the
administrations in the US felt no one should try to change the social
system especially in education.

All of us who designed computer mediated communication systems tended
to believe we were really designing social systems and it was
expressed in some early papers.  Let me give very a very early simple
example or two.  Our first messages systems at OEP and at NJIT had
their own internal message systems and we designed them to provide
notifications of delivery when someone actually displayed the text of
a message they received by printing it out on their terminal which was
usually thermal paper.  So you knew when someone received your
message.  Some individual users claimed this was an invasion of
privacy.  However, since the message system was part of a group
communication systems and we were trying to foster group collaboration
and cohesion our position was that we were making the choice that
benefited the group and not the one which might be felt benefited the
individual.  This was before the days of browsers and unfortunately we
can not any longer detect the actual display of a message.  Of course
we were also dealing with much slower baud rates in those days which
were about at reading speed or less.

Displaying membership list which indicated the amount of material
individuals contributed to the group was also considered a violation
of individual privacy but once again we felt it was important to
encouraging participation.  We also gave signals when members of group
logged on so they could chat when they wanted to.  This was back in

A lot of interface design functionality choices affect the group
atmosphere and so it is always social engineering that a designer of
CMC is doing and hopefully consciously.  I used to give an exercise in
my interface course for the students to design a dictatorship CMC
systems which generates a lot of interesting design choices.

A good friend of mine in those days was a social engineer, Sam
Schelee.  In the Delphi Method book from 1975 (free on my website)
there is a chapter on the philosophy of Delphi design and Sam did a
wonderful chapter explaining "negotiated reality" as a design
principle and how one designed Delphis can be based upon that
philosophy (Heidigger) for that form of communications.  A lot of
illustrations in that chapter that are worth looking at.  In fact that
book has a lot of CMC designs that have never been implemented yet on
computers but where successful in paper and pencil forms of group
communications.  The other chapter in the philosophy section explains
the design of Inquiry Systems based upon C. West Churchman's approach
using the scientific philosophies-Leibnitz, Lock, Kant, Hegel and
Singer.  Negotiated reality is not considered scientific; however, it
is the philosophy behind advertisements, marketing, labor management
negotiations, international treaties, and other such things.  Those
are all forms of social engineering.  Sam was also an
ethnomethodolgist.  That is a person who always faces the back in an
elevator among other things.  That is good training for a social

Message: 1
Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2009 10:21:16 +0100
From: "Stephan Humer" <stephan.humer at web.de>
Subject: [Air-L] Social Engineering/Social Hacking anyone?
To: <air-l at listserv.aoir.org>

Hello everybody.

Social Engineering is one of my research topics, but
unfortunately a neglected one. It would be great to
change this situation, so I?d love to get in touch with
people who are also working on Social Engineering/Social
Hacking issues. Are there any researchers out there
who?d like to connect? Are there any research projects
I can?t afford to miss?

Thanks a lot in advance!

Dr. Stephan G. Humer
Research Director, Digital Class
University of the Arts Berlin
humer at udk-berlin.de - stephan at humer.de
Phone: +49 (0)176 6719 3413 - www.humer.de

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