Apologies for cross posting

The second workshop on Technology and Social Action will take place in Sheffield, on 20th & 21st of June 2005.

Please see the attached document, or visit for details.

Please feel free to forward this message as appropriate.


Andy Dearden
Communications & Computing Research Centre
Harmer Building
Sheffield Hallam University
S1 1WB

email: [log in to unmask]
Tel: 0114 225 2916
Fax: 0114 225 3161 


Technology and Social Action:
Designing a future

Sheffield, UK, June 20 & 21, 2005


Citizen involvement in civil society goes far beyond just voting. Social action takes effect by capturing the imagination of
individuals, engaging in dialogue, galvanizing direct collective effort and bringing about change. Trade unions, residents'
associations, environmental and development groups, voluntary & community organisations, campaigns for freedom of speech or human
rights: all express the vital role of social action in society. 

The global diffusion of communication technologies in society has changed the speed with which situations of social need are
noticed, and the ability of social actors to respond. Logistics and coordination within and between groups benefits from
technologies, from mobile phones and email, from a simple spreadsheet, to complex project management software. How can
technologies and organisations be designed to facilitate effective social action? 
*       How can individuals and organisations (NGOs) maximise their benefit from technologies: e.g. online networks, electronic
petitions, (e-)participation, online fundraising, organisational learning and development?
*       What risks accompany the promise of technology to serve social action? How can organisations respond to the different
technical experience of different members? 
*       How do technologies relate to organisational aims and open democratic values?
*       How can emerging social technologies (blogs, wikis, social bookmarking etc.) be used to promote effective knowledge
sharing and networking for positive change?
*       How should organisations respond to the very different attitudes to technology amongst their members & supporters? 
*       How do technology costs and developments such as open-source software impact on the work of organisations?
*       How do current trends in technology impact on different groups in civil society? How can organisations respond to these
trends and set out alternative directions? 
*       How can designers and design skills help improve the effectiveness of social actors? What is the role of the arts in
supporting social action?


We wish to bring together people involved in social action, as individuals or as members of groups, to explore the potential of
technology to assist their actions, and the design challenge of finding effective ways to utilise technology.

The Second Workshop on Technology on Social Action will take place at Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield on the 20th and 21st
of June 2005. 


The workshop will be organised around three themes. 

Free / Libre and Open-Source Software (FLOSS)

Open-source software might offer social action organisations lower software costs, and shares similar values of openness and
knowledge sharing with the social action sector. But how well are current open-source projects matched to the requirements of
organisations in the social action sector? Are there unmet requirements, or unrecognised opportunities for innovation? Where can
organisations turn for advice? This theme will explore the current scope of open-source software and services in relation to the
needs of the social action sector, and develop an agenda for future developments.
For more information about this theme, please contact Andy Dearden ([log in to unmask])

STORYTELLING: narrative and drama to galvanise social action

People relate to one another way in all kinds of ways. Whenever calls to take action are in the air, relations are more likely to
be passionately animated than colourless and objective. The conflict of voices wanting different things can mean some people are
put off entering the arena, and that energy fizzles out before action can be taken. People have stories to tell and to share, to
mutually appreciate their excitement and their grievances. The ability to engage through storytelling could be a way for
communities to build momentum, and to galvanise their efforts. This theme will focus on innovating online environments that create
opportunities for dramatic and narrative storytelling and exchange. It will ask how to create new electronic media that are
designed for joint participation in writer-reader, publisher-subscriber, actor-audience roles. The outcome will be a set of design
challenges, relating to technological opportunities, the nature of social action and understanding of conflict, narrative and

For more information about this theme, please contact Leon Watts ([log in to unmask])


While there is a large body of research and knowledge to inform those concerned with the design and use of digital technologies in
business and government, there is much less for those involved in social action settings. The purposes, contexts and values of ICT
use in social action are frequently radically different, limiting the extent to which useful knowledge can be inferred. Hence,
effective evaluation can play an important role as a vehicle for social and organisational learning about technologies and their
use. This theme will focus on exploring issues in the philosophy, design, conduct and dissemination of evaluation of
technology-related projects. The objective is to ensure both that lessons are learned and are presented in forms which can be
applied in different social action settings. The workshop will use one or more case studies through which to identify key issues
in T&SA evaluation.

For more information about this theme, please contact Steve Walker ([log in to unmask])


Participants in the workshop will be invited to work with a sub-group on one of the three themes. Each sub-group will collaborate
over the two day workshop to:
1.      Share understandings of issues, drawing on historical and current developments
2.      Explore potential innovations in relation to the theme
3.      Establish realistic design goals for the short and medium term.
Plenary sessions will permit the groups to share their findings, debate and gain feedback from a wider audience.


If you participated in the first Technology and Social Action Workshop (Held at Leeds earlier this year), then please email Paul
Manning, [log in to unmask], identifying which of the three themes you are most interested in pursuing.

If you have not previously participated in the project, to apply please email Andy Dearden: [log in to unmask] briefly
explaining your relevant interests and background in technology and social action.

Financial support for travel and accommodation is available but preference will be given to members of voluntary organisations. 


We are the organisers of the Technology & Social Action project. 

We have been funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Board and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to advise
them on the design & technology research agenda for the 21st Century. We are committed to finding out and properly communicating
the needs and aspirations of the social action user community for the design of sensible & usable technologies.

Andy Dearden, Sheffield Hallam University.
Mike Press, Director, Grays School of Art, Aberdeen.
Steve Walker, Leeds Metropolitan University
Leon Watts, University of Bath.

David Wilcox, Partnerships Online