The purpose of this paper is to examine and reinterpret information ecology in the context of the changing environment of services, which has been strongly affected by digitalisation and increasing citizen engagement. Here, information ecology refers to the interaction and co-evolution of technologies, human beings and the social environment.
The data consist of 25 thematic interviews conducted in a public Finnish organisation responsible for organising welfare services, and in its collaborating organisations. The interviews were analysed qualitatively. The analytical framework is based on Nardi and O'Day's five components of information ecology: system, diversity, co-evolution, keystone species and locality.
The analysis shows that these basic components still exist in the digitalisation era, but that they should be interpreted and highlighted differently, for example, stressing the openness of the information system instead of closed systems, as well as emphasising the increasing meaning of diversity amongst digitalisation, and the dynamic co-evolution between the elements of the system. New capabilities, such as the ability to combine various kinds of information and knowledge, are needed in this adaptation.
The study illustrates a wider, updated information-ecology concept with the help of empirical research. Technology affects care organisations' information ecologies in numerous – often invisible – ways, which this study brings into light.
So far, information-ecology research has overlooked social and healthcare, but this study provides findings concerning this societally important sector.