Social Informatics (SI) is an interesting interdisciplinary field. Instead of just concentrating on making interfaces more usable, it explores how to make entire systems in their social context more usable. Indiana offers a description of SI.
JASIS dedicated an entire issue to the topic in 1998. In the introduction, Kling, Rosenbaum, and Hert explain that “considering IR from a specifically social perspective means that its fundamental intellectual problems are not necessarily the retrieval of all the relevant documents but the production and consumption of knowledge, which can be facilitated by the retrieval of relevant documents. This approach leads to new ways to conceptualize IR and the tools that we build to facilitate it.”
SI is given an overview in the Jan 1999 issue of dlib in What is Social Informatics and Why Does it Matter?
There’s another field that seems to draw from the same disciplines and examines similar problems—Computational Social Science (CSS). I don’t know what the difference is between CSS and SI or even if there is one. UCLA has a Center for CSS which may have changed its name to Human Complex Systems.
Seems that there are a number of interdisciplinary fields these days that are having difficulties naming what they do and deciding who really does it.
There’s a funny quote in Collaboration and Conflict in the Development of a Computerized Dispatch Facility from the JASIS issue. Concerning the isolation of technology from social relations and vice versa, “purely social relations are found only in the imaginations of sociologists, among baboons, or possibly, just possibly, on nudist beaches; and purely technical relations are found only in the wilder reaches of science fiction.” (Originally from Shaping technology/building society.)