Social Studies of Information Research Group at UWM


The mission of the Social Studies of Information Research Group (SSIRG) is to promote inquiry and pedagogy in the historical, social and cultural dimensions of information at its most fundamental levels, including information institutions, practices, industries, technologies, disciplines, users, policies, and ethics.

About the Social Studies of Information Research Group

The Social Studies of Information Research Group was created in 2012 to support the development of teaching and research within SOIS, the iSchool of the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee. Social Studies of Information is a broad set of historical, social and cultural approaches to the study of all aspects of information, including its related institutions, practices, industries, technologies, disciplines, users, policies, and ethics (see here).

Membership of the group is open to all faculty, academic staff, and graduate students within SOIS. Governance has so far taken place on an informal basis, with interested members forming ad-hoc groups to carry out particular activities.

The group’s activities include

  • Hosting regular group meetings and social events; as well as conducting administrative business, these allow group members to get to know each other and their work better. This encourages the sharing of ideas and, where appropriate, collaboration.
  • Exchanging ideas about teaching aspects of Social Studies of Information within the school’s various degree programs, including opportunities to collaborate on syllabus design, coordinate coverage of topics in related classes, and identifying gaps in our current offerings.
  • Establishing an intellectual community to mentor and advise Ph.D. students within the track currently identified as Information Policy, soon to be broadened as Social Studies of Information.
  • Running a speaker series bringing scholars from around the world to SOIS. Visitors receive travel funds and a small honorarium. They deliver a public lecture and are encouraged to take part in less formal interactions with group members and other graduate students, often including an informal seminar based on their work in progress. Whenever possible, lectures are cohosted with other groups and departments on campus to bring a genuinely interdisciplinary audience. Visitors are encouraged to help us in shaping the priorities of the research group and our broader sense of what Social Studies of Information should be.
  • Giving speakers from SOIS and elsewhere an opportunity to present their work in the speaker series.
  • Managing the recruitment process for a visiting postdoctoral researcher in Social Studies of Information each year.
  • Supporting graduate student members with contributions toward the cost of conference travel and professional society membership.
  • Coordinating a number of informal reading groups and ad-hoc working groups to address areas of particular interest.
  • Establishing the website SocialStudiesOf.Info and its associated resources and email lists to spread the idea of the Social Studies of Information beyond SOIS and serve as the hub for the growth of a new scholarly community.

Speaker Series



SSIRG Welcomes Alessandra Renzi as 2012-2013 Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Alessandra Renzi will be the first Social Studies of Information Research Group Postdoctoral Fellow starting this August. Dr. Renzi, originally from Italy, has an interdisciplinary MA degree in North American Studies from the Free University in Berlin, Germany. She went on to complete her PhD in Sociology and Equity Studies in 2010 from the Ontario Institute for the Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Her focus was on media studies and the title of her dissertation was “From Collectives to Connectives: Italian Media Activism and the Repurposing of the Social.”

Since receiving her PhD, Dr. Renzi has been the research fellow at the Infoscape Centre for the Study of Social Media at Ryerson University in Toronto. Dr. Renzi discusses her work at Ryerson University: “I have collaborated on a research project on the criminalization of dissent that used multimedia platforms and Freedom of Information Act documents as research tools. I am very excited about the book that resulted from this research and that will be published in November this year with Arbiter Ring Press. The book, co-authored with Dr. Greg Elmer investigates the current effects of surveillance protocols, media and austerity measures on civil society in Canada.”

Dr. Renzi’s research interests include: media activism; art and emerging communication technologies; social networking and collaborative platforms and Italian Marxist-Workerist and Feminist Thought referred to as Autonomia. She also works on developing community art projects: "My latest project ‘Activism beyond the Interface: the Sandbox Project’, developed with Dr. Roberta Buiani, will be presented in New York City at the Queens Museum of Art in September. We hope that this event will spur a series of discussions and productions that think about how media can be used to support and connect local communities.”

While at SOIS, Dr. Renzi will be teaching as well as continuing with her research. She is excited to work with SOIS faculty: “Before I saw the position, I was already familiar with the work of some of the SOIS faculty. This is, for me, a great opportunity to work with scholars I respect and to be embedded within a school of information studies that welcomes interdisciplinary researchers and is interested in supporting sociological research on information.”

Although Dr. Renzi has been to the Midwest, this will be her first visit to Wisconsin, and she looks forward to living near Lake Michigan. During her free time, Dr. Renzi enjoys plotting art or media interventions with friends. She loves to travel, cook local food, and ride her bicycle. “While in Milwaukee, I would like to explore the city and its countryside, and learn to ride horses."

SSIRG Members

Kimberly Anderson

Title: Assistant Professor
Phone: (414) 229-6817
Areas of Interest: Archival appraisal and acquisition; Archives and archivists; Sociology of knowledge; Professional ethics; LIS education, pedagogy, and learning; and Social aspects of records and recordkeeping across cultural contexts.

My major research areas are archival appraisal, archival education and the socio-cultural aspects of recordkeeping. I study the intersections of these – e.g. how archivists learn to appraise, Australian/North American conceptual differences in recordkeeping temporalities, what lay communities identify as the significance of recordkeeping, the shape of our professional literature, and the role of influence and mentoring in information professionals’ learning and dissemination. My cognate area is in the history of science - in particular the social construction of scientific truth and evidence from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. The rise of empiricism and the scientific method have implications for the archival process of appraisal, the analysis of archival evidence, and the affective, epistemological, and spiritual aspects of records and recordkeeping.

Maria Haigh

Title: IST Director & Associate Professor
Phone: (414) 229-5397
Areas of Interest: Co-construction (Mutual Shaping) of Users and Technologies; Cultural construction of information institutions and practices in Eastern Europe; Open access models in different countries; Stakeholders' shaping of information systems; Cultural construction of file sharing, piracy, intellectual property in different countries; Co-construction of libraries and national identity; and Cultural construction of race and national identity in Soviet animation.

Thomas Haigh

Title: Associate Professor
Phone: (414) 229-6840
Areas of Interest: Social Informatics; Information Technology use in Business; History of Technology; Information History; Business History; History of Computing; Sociology of Online Communities; Sociology of Organizations; Open Source Software; and Oral History.

Nadine Kozak

Title: Assistant Professor
Phone: (414) 229-
Areas of Interest: Development and use of information technologies; Intellectual property; Information policy; Social studies of information; and Science, technology, society studies.

My research interests center on the critical analysis of information technologies, policies, and laws, currently through the evaluation of projects to expand broadband access and intellectual property law. My work explores the top levels of law and policy making, investigating the processes through which policies and technologies are developed and the factors involved. In addition, it looks at how people impact and are impacted by these policies and technologies and how they experience them in daily life. Aligned with my research interests, in my teaching I encourage students to critically analyze the information institutions, practices, industries, technologies, and policies they encounter.

Jessicia Moyer

Title: Assistant Professor
Phone: (414) 229-6937
Areas of Interest: Digital literacy; Ebooks and ebook readers; Readers' advisory and reader services; Reference and information services; Public libraries.

Wilhelm Peekhaus

Title: Assistant Professor
Phone: (414) 229-5033
Profile link:
Areas of Interest: The political economy of information; Access to knowledge for development; Open access publishing; Information policy; and Science, technology, and society studies.

Richard Smiraglia

Title: Professor
Website :
Areas of Interest: Instantiation theory; Knowledge Organization; Domain analysis; Informetric analysis; Theory of Knowledge; Theory of Information; Epistemology; Ontology; Information ethics; Information history; and Musicology and information theory.

My research agenda is centered on the evolution of theory and intellectual foundations of information and its components, including but not limited to, history, evolution, cultural synergy, social epistemology and the dual role of information and institutions in society.

Tom Walker

Title: MLIS Director & Associate Professor
Phone: (414) 229-2904
Areas of Interest: Information science; Research methods; Business information; Special libraries; Indexing and abstracting; The organization and retrieval of web-based information; Information resources and services; and Music bibliography.

Michael Zimmer

Title: Assistant Professor & Director, CIPR
Phone: (414) 229-3627
Areas of Interest: Information ethics; Information policy; Privacy; Web 2.0 and Library 2.0; Internet Research Ethics; and Values in Design.

I'm excited to be a part of the formation of the Social Studies of Information Research Group at SOIS. SSI represents an important interdisciplinary commitment to exploring the historical, social and cultural dimensions of information at multiple levels of engagement. As Director of the Center for Information Policy Research, and see the existence of SSIRG playing a vital role in the Center's own mission of studying of the intersections between the policy, ethical, political, social and legal aspects of the global information society.

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