WELLMAN_science___Computer_netwks_as_social_netwks

WELLMAN_science___Computer_netwks_as_social_netwks -...

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ing of ESTs that substantially alleviated, even if they did not totally resolve, this threat to science from overbroad patent rights. 34. Directive 96/9/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 1996 on the Legal Protection of Databases, 1996 O.J (L 77) 20. 35. For a critical commentary on the EU database directive and kindred U.S. legislation, see, e.g., J. H. Reichman, P. Samuelson, Vanderbilt Law Rev. 50 , 51 (1997). 36. See, e.g., National Research Council, Bits of Power: Issues in Global Access to Scientific Data (National Academy of Sciences Press, Washington, DC, 1997) (expressingconcernaboutEuropeanUnion–styledata- base protection). 37. The role of scientific organizations in facilitating changes in U.S. policy is recounted in ( 38 ). 38. P. Samuelson, Va. J. Intl. Law 37 , 369 (1997). 39. These efforts are recounted by J. H. Reichman and P. F. Uhlir [ Berkeley Technol. Law J. 14 , 793 (1999)]. 40. I gratefully acknowledge research support from NSF grant SEC-9979852. VIEWPOINT Computer Networks As Social Networks Barry Wellman Computer networks are inherently social networks, linking people, orga- nizations, and knowledge. They are social institutions that should not be studied in isolation but as integrated into everyday lives. The proliferation of computer networks has facilitated a deemphasis on group solidarities at work and in the community and afforded a turn to networked societies that are loosely bounded and sparsely knit. The Internet increases people’s social capital, increasing contact with friends and relatives who live nearby and far away. New tools must be developed to help people navigate and find knowledge in complex, fragmented, networked societies. Once upon a time, computers were not social beings. Most stood alone, be they mainframe, mini, or personal computer. Each person who used a computer sat alone in front of a keyboard and screen. To help people deal with their computers, the field of human-computer interaction (HCI) de- veloped, providing such things as more accessible interfaces and user-friendly soft- ware. But as the HCI name says, the model was person-computer. Computers have increasingly reached out to each other. Starting in the 1960s, people began piggybacking on machine-machine data transfers to send each other messages. Communication soon spilled over organiza- tional boundaries. The proliferation of elec- tronic mail (e-mail) in the 1980s and its expansion into the Internet in the 1990s (based on e-mail and the Web) have so tied things together that to many, being at a com- puter is synonymous with being connected to the Internet. As a result, HCI has become socialized. Much of the discussion at current HCI con- ferences is about how people use computers to relate to each other ( 1 ). Some participants build “groupware” to support such interac- tions; others do ethnographic, laboratory, and survey studies to ascertain how people actu- ally relate to each other. This work has slowly
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