[Air-L] CFP: The Information Society sp issue "Regimes of Information"

Sawhney, Harmeet hsawhney at indiana.edu
Thu Aug 2 16:50:18 PDT 2012

The Information Society

Call for Papers:

Regimes of Information: Embeddedness as Paradox

Hamid Ekbia, Jannis Kallinikos, and Bonnie Nardi

The friction between situated modes of interaction and the structural 
arrange-ments into which such interaction is embedded is intrinsic to 
the modern way of life. As social order, modernity thrives on the 
mobility of people and resources, which require the support of complex, 
standardized and decontextualized sys-tems of measurement, exchange and 
control (Heller 1999). Social practices, by contrast, have always been 
constituted as regional or domain-specific arrange-ments, clearly 
marked off from the background of wider societal and institu-tional 
orders. While neither can exist without the other, the social dynamics 
characteristic of our time can perhaps be understood as transient and 
manifold resolutions of the ever-present friction between institutional 
orders of wider reach and the particular contexts or domains within 
which social practice by ne-cessity unfolds.

This friction acquires new forms as the result of social and 
technological devel-opments that are associated with the deepening 
penetration of the social fabric by various kinds of digital 
information. Since the advent of writing, information and the marks by 
which it is carried have been constituted so as to withstand time 
depreciation (Borgmann 1999; Bowker 2005) and to transcend the bounds 
of practice (Gleick 2011). Organizations, for instance, would have 
never been able to become the persistent social formations they are 
without standardized information on the basis of which resources and 
outcomes can be assessed and compared across space and time (Beniger 
1986). Similarly, practices in domains such as medicine and education 
often need to be compared with practices de-rived from the sphere of 
economy, which requires the development of standardi-zed cognitive 
idioms able to cut across domain specifities (Borgmann 1999; 
Kal-linikos 2006). These standardized and decontextualized attributes 
of informa-tion have been carried to new levels of perfection by 
digital technology and its ability to separate and reassemble the marks 
(data and data fields) from the very content by which information is 
defined, through automated, machine-enacted rules.

On the one hand, information owes much of its value to the contingent 
nature of the events it helps illuminate and manage. The meaning and 
value of information is relative to the expectations of social agents, 
and only to the degree that it is recognized as relevant to their 
dealings -- it is a difference that makes a differ-ence (Bateson 1972). 
That relevance is, in turn, circumscribed locally in particu-lar 
contexts that dictate the priorities, skills and tools of practice 
(Garfinkel 2008; Rawls 2008). One can even go further and claim that 
information cannot but be constituted (rather than simply interpreted) 
as information locally, at the moment its relevance to a background of 
practice is born, figured or traced. In-formation is in fact part and 
parcel of a complex web of significations, a regime, as it were, 
against which it is perceived and acted upon (Ekbia and Evans 2009). In 
this respect, information may depreciate rapidly as the contingent 
upshot of events against which it makes sense fade, despite the 
impressive technological structures that support its production, 
diffusion and storage. Practices by con-trast, while locally bound and 
less standardized, can survive the ups and downs of events and maintain 
its integrity and persistence over time.

The friction between the specific and domain-bound nature of 
information and its context-free attributes has often been glossed over 
in contemporary social research, and occasionally suppressed by the 
epistemological and ontological divisions that afflict current academic 
inquiry, especially in the Anglo-American tradition. The purpose of 
this special issue is to expose and understand the in-herent frictions 
outlined above. We invite theoretical and empirical contribu-tions that 
explore this topic. Our aim is to reframe the problematic rather than 
provide definite answers, but we also welcome practically oriented 
research that shows ways of dealing with the tensions between the 
mandates of disem-beddedness and the demands of specific situations. 
Individuals, organizations, and communities face these tensions in 
their lives and practices on a day-to-day basis, often with high 
psychological, operational, or political cost but also as oc-casions 
for creativity and innovation. We are interested in both the hurdles 
and opportunities. Our ultimate hope is to open up a dialogue in the 
information and social sciences on the socio-cultural, moral, and 
political challenges and implica-tions of dealing with such tensions.

Interested authors are invited to email a long abstract (no longer than 
a thou-sand words) to the guest editors by December 31, 2012: 
hekbia at indiana.edu, J.Kallinikos at lse.ac.uk, nardi at ics.uci.edu. Authors 
of selected abstracts will be invited to submit full submissions by 
August 31, 2013, which will go through the standard peer review process 
of TIS. The special issue is slated for publication in the summer of 


Bateson, G. (1972). Steps to An Ecology of Mind. New York: Ballantine.

Borgmann, A. (1999). Holding on to Reality: The Nature of Information 
at the Turn of the Millennium. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Bowker, G. C. (2005). Memory Practices in Sciences. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Ekbia, H. & Evans, T. (2009). Regimes of Information: Land Use, 
Management, and Policy. The Information Society, 25(5), 328–343.

Garfinkel, H. (2008). Toward a Sociological Theory of Information. 
London: Para-digm Publishers (edited and introduced by Anne Warfield 

Gleick, J. (2011). The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. 
London: Harper Collins.

Heller, A. (1999). A Theory of Modernity. Oxford: Blackwell.

Kallinikos, J. (2006). The Consequences of Information: Institutional 
Implications of Technological Change. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

Rawls, A. W. (2008). Editor’s Introduction, in Garfinkel, H., Toward a 
Sociological Theory of Information. London: Paradigm Publishers.

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