As someone who started out long ago with an interest in academic philosophy, I've been interested in academic work that actually makes it to the real world in some form. Philosophy is certainly not considered the most practically applicable major and I eventually lost interest because I wasn't sure that we were talking to anyone but ourselves (as academic philosophers). Thus I eventually found myself in IST, a place that was looking at real-world issues and solutions. And there is a wide range of issues being studied in IST. Two areas of practical importance that interest me right now are the application of technology to humanitarian issues and the area of information policy in general. And two of communities that reflect that are ISCRAM and TPRC.
Most of my research so far within IST has been focused on the issues of the not-for-profit communities and how they use technology to improve their effectiveness. This includes local organizations as well as international organizations, whose missions might include anything from delivering meals to the homebound in the US to providing relief supplies in an international crisis area after a major earthquake. The most interesting community that I have found that is related to this work is the International Community on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM ). This community includes academics from a range of information-related areas, as well as people that actually work as practitioners in the field. Areas of interest include a range of issues related to the use of ICTs for humanitarian relief and disaster assistance. ISCRAM started in 2004 with a conference in Brussels and 400 members, and have alternated between the US and Europe, with the 2008 event taking place in China. The next is scheduled for May 2009 in Göteborg, Sweden. Several IST faculty have participated, including Carleen Maitland, Andrea Tapia, Jack Carroll and Rosalie Ocker.
While I can't say that I am actively focusing on it lately, I
think policy really matters for the future of technology. We ignore technology policy
issues at our own peril. Thus, another conference that I am interested in is
Telecommunications Policy Research Conference (TPRC).
The conference covers a range of policy issues, including the legal, social and
economic consequences of policies that affect the use of IT and ICTs. This includes topics like Fair Use
and copyright issues to policies that inhibit municipal Municipal WiFi
projects, as well as a wide range of other issues. TPRC started in 1972 and the last conference was just held at The National Center for Technology & Law,
George Mason University School of Law, Arlington, VA in September, 2008. Carleen Maitland, Andrea Tapia and John Bagby are regular participants from IST.