Launching our Call for papers on the role of users in socio-technical innovation has been similar to throwing a bottle with a message into the sea. Who would find it, and how many researchers, in the vast shores of social studies on Information Society, would answer it? What would be the “catch”, in terms of research results, of understanding about the routes in which individuals and groups appropriate and turn information and communication technology useful for their own specific practices? The Call for Papers itself turned into a kind of practical research on how users are relevant regarding socio-technical innovation.
A number of colleagues have answered this Call, proving the deep interest which exists in the Community Informatics world about the analysis of the processes through which specialists observe the innovations carried on by communities or individuals and integrate them into new products.
In the last decades studies and experience have shown that users matter in regards to technological innovation. Books such as "The Co-Construction of Users and Technology” analyse the creative capacity of users to shape technology in all phases, from design to implementation. Lately, citizen´s labs are also trying to integrate individuals and communities to technological innovation. They try to combine the old “collaboratory” concept launched in the 1990s in academic environments, or virtual laboratories, where scientists collaborate though networking, with the concept of citizens´ networks, in which citizens collaborate in a digital environment for various uses, and that have become freshly popular through social networks such as Facebook or Twitter.
Individuals, groups and community have actively participated in the process of technological innovation and are increasingly aware of their capacity for making and changing technologies. Internet - based social networks, open source software, content creation, redesign by use, citizens ´participation in living labs, are just a few examples of people actively enlarging the original uses of information and communication technologies (ICT).
The goal of this special issue is to examine, using a variety of multidisciplinary approaches, the mutual interaction between ICT and users. The authors have reflected on the hypothesis that any understanding of users must take into consideration the multiplicity of roles they play, and that the conventional distinction between users and producers is largely formal and artificial.
Contributing knowledge about the process in which individuals and communities appropriate and makes information and communication technology functional for their own specific purposes is the goal of this special issue of JOCI. The objective is to advance on the subject of how communities utilize technology, meanwhile creating innovative uses. The papers published in this issue consider how users consume, modify, domesticate, design, reconfigure, and resist technological development, as well as in which ways users are changed by ICT.
The papers may be classified into three main categories: Social and Technological Networks, Technological and organizational tools for innovation, Living labs experiences. Some of the key issues that are reflected upon are:
- Case studies about technology appropriation and modification of ICT changes by communities.
- Alternative-use hunters: analysis of the processes through which experts perceive the changes by communities or individuals and incorporate them into the goods or services.
- The follow-up and analysis of the framework of technological relationships between human and non-human agents
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