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Distinguished Speaker Series 2008-2009

John King

John King

Professor, School of Information and Vice Provost for Academic Information, University of Michigan



Society as Software
(PDF slides, Video-iTuesU)

February 6

Refreshments and Networking: 1:30 - 2:00
Presentation: 2:00 - 3:30

Faculty Host: Prof. Richard N. Taylor, ISR Director


RSVP: Email RSVP required to Jessica Garcia at by Monday February 2.

Location: Donald Bren Hall (building #314), room 6011

Cost: No cost to attend.

Directions and parking information
are available.


Abstract: This talk is in the grand tradition of turning the inanimate into metaphor for the animate. It's a fool's errand, to be sure, but it can be jolly fun and, with luck, instructive. The purpose of this endeavor is to knock together two things we don't understand very well -- society and software -- and see if we can learn something. The exercise is a form of non-destructive testing: neither software nor society will be injured in the process. A former UCI faculty member once said that the law is just software. And Larry Lessig said that both software and law are "code." If one digs far enough back into the history of ICS, one can find reference to "procedures and procedure-followers." Things of this sort form the basis of a set of conjectures about society and software that hopefully enhance our understanding and uphold the honor of the fool's errand.


About the Speaker: John Leslie King is Vice Provost for Academic Information and Professor and former dean in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. He has published more than 150 books and articles on the relationship between information technologies and institutional change. His work focuses primarily on IT use and effect in highly institutionalized production sectors, including government, education, health care, transport, finance, electric power utilities, and common carrier communications. He served as Editor in Chief of the INFORMS Journal Information Systems Research, and associate editor for many other journals. He has recently served on the Board of Directors of the Computing Research Association, and is currently a Senior Scientific Advisor with the National Science Foundation, and a member of the advisory committees for the NSF Directorates for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, and Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences. He was until recently a senior scientific advisor for cyberinfrastructure for the National Science Foundation as well as a member of the the NSF advisory committee for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. He is currently on the NSF advisory committees for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences and for Cyberinfrastructure. He is a member of the Council of the Computing Community Consortium. King is a Fellow of the Association for Information Systems and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.