The Societal Effects of Computers: Partner or Placebo in Policy Analysis.

by Paul Y. Hammond

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Too often technology is seen as predetermined, disregarding social, commercial, and economic givens. Computer system designers typically ignore or attempt to defeat informal organization and social network constraints. Social or collective action should be seen as a legitimate part of the human side of the man-machine relationship. Since public opinion takes time to form, technologists could call upon social scientists to predict public reactions as an input to system design. Past experience, particularly public reaction to the privacy issue, should be documented and analyzed, to help construct procedural and performance standards for computer applications. Systems should be designed adaptively. Computer technology can facilitate public opinion formation by simulations and displays in community "situation rooms" that enable citizen groups to visualize choices for discussion. Management information systems now mainly support middle management; an adaptive feedback Management Information System could be developed to aid top managers with real-time policy analytic capability. 13 pp.

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