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Sometimes I Wish That It Would Rain Here

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

what is informatics? grad student party definitions

a recent CACM article describes why someone might want a degree in informatics. having a degree from an informatics department myself (though my degree is technically in Information and Computer Sciences), I thought the article did a pretty good job of describing what informatics is and why it's a valuable field.

it also reminded me of a discussion on a departmental mailing list a while back. someone asked for a "party definition of informatics," that is, "What is your best definition, to be given at social occasions such as parties, of what Informatics is?" this sparked some pretty standard and some really fabulous responses, which I want to quote below (these are all anonymized--if anyone wants to claim credit for one of these, let me know; or if you want your definition removed, I can do that, too).

"People ask me if I work on the hardware or software side of computing. I tell them I work on the sociology side of computing."

"The process of transforming Data into Information"

"Sometimes I do strange things with computers. Sometimes I watch other people do strange things with computers."

"I usually start by saying that 'Informatics' is a silly word that gives almost no insight into what the field is actually about and just serves to confuse people.... Then I say something useful ;)"

"Computer Science with a heart!!"

"I think that is what makes the difference between HCI, ubicomp, SE and the rest of disciplines in computer science."

"Informatics, the softer side of ICS."

"I say that I study how technology is shaped by culture and how culture shapes technology. And sometimes, if so inclined, I mention that this is important to understand for technology design."

there you have it, a zeitgeist of what informatics is from a bunch of informatics grad students.

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