Out at IBM today for University Day. This is a time when IBMers talk about programs that support the local Universities and for the Universities to talk about their programs — this time mostly Computer Science departments (NCSU, NC A&T, Duke, and UNC especially).
One recurring theme, besides my personally beloved Open Standards, Open Code, and the question of Patents, was the attempt to start a discussion of a new area of study, “Service Science.”
Don’t imagine burger flipping. Instead think that 70% of Americans work in jobs in the Service sector. That means you (most likely).
When we were mostly agricultural, we created and developed Agricultural Science (later agro-science). When we were mostly industrial, we created and developed Industrial Science . Both of these fields further specialized and as they grew our insight into agriculture and industry grew and our practices changed and some would argue became more effecient. (Wendell Berry or authors of “I’ll take my stand” would probably disagee, but history at least in the immediate term is not on their side, but there is still resistance or at least a different tact on Agro-Industry Science).
That said, the IBM take on services is broad, very broad. It includes Grid Computing and social conscience as in the World Community Grid, services to customers like autonomic computing, and technological advances that drive and support services, as well as business and management practices like say remote group work, collaboration, extreme programming and the like.
To some extent, Services Science shows IBM taking a gamble at entering into Social Sciences. And other press is already out on this from Cnet, in an interview with Jim Spoher of IBM’s Almaden Services Research in which he calls Services Science the “coevolution of technology and business innovations”, in a Technology Review article called “Research in Development” featuring SILS Graduation speaker Paul Horn, and even in academic papers such as “The Role of Text Analytics in Managing of Intangible Assets and the Emergence of Service Science” by Dr. Wlodek Zadrozny.
So this is serious here. The question is whether Service Science is the buzzword of the quarter heating up only to fade as the insipid Knowledge Management seems to have or will it usher in a seachange of research and education. NCSU’s Michael Rappa, in a hallway conversation with speaker Lillian Wu and myself, points us to the sociology and history of science studies for clues.

Note: one of my appointments is in a School of Information and Library Science.