Ada Lovelace Day | Professor Lee S. Sproull, Stern School, NYU

March 23, 2009 · · Posted by Greg Lloyd

For this first Ada Lovelace Day I've chosen to write about Professor Lee Sproull an internationally-recognized sociologist whose research centers on the implications of computer-based communication technologies for managers, organizations, communities, and society. Professor Sproull is a pioneer and visionary in the rigorous study of what we now call social software.

I heard Professor Sproull talk at the MIT/Brown Vannevar Bush Symposium celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Bush's As We May Think. After the symposium I read and enjoyed her 1991 book Connections: New Ways of Working in the Networked Organization (co-authored with Sara Kiesler). Connections is based on original field research, social and psychological experiments the authors performed to understand how computer based communication technology - email, bulletin boards, computer networks - changed the way people communicate, work together, and make decisions.

In her 1995 talk at the Bush Symposium, Information Is Not Enough: Computer Support for Productive Work, Professor Sproull said:

Any vision of a new technology implies a vision of human beings and their behavior. In this talk I describe the vision of human behavior associated with the most influential technology visions of personal computing, epitomized by Vannevar Bush's Memex -- the vision of the solitary thinker and problem solver. I contrast this vision with an alternative view of how human productive behavior actually occurs -- in interdependent social relationships. I review the current state of computer support for social actors and propose an alternative view in which information processing is subordinated to relationship managing. - Abstract

Professor Sproull conducted research in Fortune 500 firms, scientific communities, municipalities, universities, software development teams, households, and electronic groups. In all of these settings she has documented how technology induces changes in interpersonal interaction, group dynamics and decision making, and organizational or community structure. She has been a visiting scholar at Xerox PARC, Digital Cambridge Research Lab, and Lotus Development Corporation and has published the results of her research in eight books and more than sixty articles including Essence of distributed work: The case of the Linux kernel, First Monday Volume 5, Number 11, Nov 2000.

At present Professor Sproull is Vice Dean, Academic Affairs and Professor of Information Systems & Management, Lawrence N. Stern School of Business, New York University.

About Ada Lovelace Day
On January 5, 2009 Suw Charman made a pledge to publish a blog post about woman in technology that she admires, but only if 1,000 other people pledged to do the same. Suw named this Ada Lovelace day in honor of the world first computer programmer and author of the first description Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine. Suw wrote:

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Whatever she does, whether she is a sysadmin or a tech entrepreneur, a programmer or a designer, developing software or hardware, a tech journalist or a tech consultant, we want to celebrate her achievements.

See the Ada Lovelace Day blog for news and special events, including Ada Lovelace day at the London Science Museum

New: Meet meet Ada Lovelace herself in a video interview by the original Analytical Engine!

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