The Social Life of Information
The Social Life of Information is a 2000 book by John Seely Brown (the former Chief Scientist of Xerox Corporation and director of Xerox PARC) and Paul Duguid, (Adjunct professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information), which discusses recently developed practices in the transmission of information in social and business context.
As the introduction states, the authors argue that the developing effects of contemporary information practices need to be more thoroughly weighed than the sometimes tunnel-vision mentality of technological enthusiasts. That is, it shouldn't be taken for granted that increased digitization ultimately and flawlessly lead to an incontrovertibly better future. The text deals with examples of the office world's adoption of technology in part, and the provides a less affirmative view of the benefits to be had.
Serving as an early example of the ambiguous utility of software to human, the authors discuss software known as autonomous agents which manipulate information. Different forms of such agents include information broker, product brokering, merchant brokering, and negotiation. The authors use an example of information brokering using the Macintosh program named Sherlock that searched for the word "knobot" via the Internet. Product brokering would be an example of an online bookstore sending a person an email about a book for sale based on the previous types of books the customer bought. Merchant brokering, now widely practiced, consists of finding the best price for a product. For example, Ebay allows users, not necessarily in the same location, to buy new, used, or refurbished products through an auction, at a fixed price, or through negotiation.
This book has been republished in 2002 with a new introduction, by the Harvard Business School Press.
Reviews of the book from professional journals include:
- Journal of Marketing (2002, 66(4): 124-127)
- Planning for Higher Education (2001, Summer, 38-39)
- Portal: Libraries and the Academy (2001 1(2) pp 180-12).
- Library Quarterly (2001 71(1) pp 94-95)