History of social computing

November 17th, 2010 |

Hello! I have recently completed a PhD in Communication (in a Science and Technology Studies perspective) at University of Quebec at Montréal (UQAM) and just started a post-doc in the Communication Department of University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). I’m interested in the emergence of early “social software” in PLATO, a pioneering e-learning platform developed at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the 1960s and 1970s. Some applications developped on that platform were very influential, like, for instance, PLATO Notes, which became later Lotus Notes, and which began as a hybrid e-mail/forum communication system. Also many early computer games (including multiuser arcade games and MUD-like games) were developped on PLATO long before the first Internet games. The question I am exploring with this case study is : under what conditions an educational platform becomes social? Symmetrically, it would be interesting to know how social networking applications can become educational.

Like for my doctoral research which was on the development of the Internet Relay Chat in the 1990s, my research project on PLATO is heavily relying on the gathering and the content analysis of e-archives, i.e. collections of preserved digital sources : from technical notes and RFCs to historical narratives to the ‘logs’ of online group communications in ‘forums of development’. The main difficulty I am facing with PLATO is the scarcity of such archives, and when some are available (ex : at the UoI Archive Center), they are not in digital format. If any one has hints, feel free to contact me ;-)

I would also be very interested in learning and sharing ideas on gathering digital archives and making them processable for content analysis and accessible/usable for other researchers in digital repositories (e.g., a concrete problem I’m facing is how to digitize and process forum messages hat have been printed out in the early ’70s on computer paper with print consoles).

Also, if there are some STS folks here using DH tools for their research, I would be glad to meet you.

Looking forward to meeting you all at the camp,


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