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Emilee Rader

Associate Professor @ the University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Group Information Repositories as Social Systems

by: Emilee Rader


Many workgroups use information systems for storing and organizing information online, in a central location that all members can access. Examples of such group information repositories include multiple-author blogs, wikis, content management systems, and version control systems for software code (e.g.: Drupal, Subversion, Sakai, OpenText Livelink, shared network folders, etc.) Group information repositories are essential for document sharing, and can be greatly beneficial for organizational efficiency, communicating organizational goals, and also for learning and innovation. They can contain “mission critical information” such that if it were lost there would be serious consequences (Blair, 2002). Despite the growing importance of these systems, ineffective document management incurs costs such as “lost work time, ineffective access to information, duplication of effort, failure to share information, and information overload” (Gordon, 1997).

Information management behaviors and systems are often studied in terms of an individual’s efforts toward organizing and using their personal information (e.g., Jones & Teevan, 2007). However, group information repositories are collaborative systems, situated in a social context. A repository is more complex than just an “aggregate of every individual’s contribution” (Jian & Jeffres, 2006); both users’ choices about what to contribute to a repository, and how the information within it is organized, are influenced by social practices. In this paper, I argue that analyzing group information repositories from the perspective that they are social systems highlights ways they are different from other information management and document sharing domains.


Emilee Rader. “Group Information Repositories as Social Systems.”4th Annual SIG SI Social Informatics Research Symposium, at ASIST 2008. Columbus, OH. October 2008.

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