The Social Effects of Communication Technology

by Herbert Goldhamer, R. Westrum

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This report reviews, in a nontechnical fashion, the principal technological developments that underlie the communication revolution, especially the transistor and the computer. A number of devices and communication subsystems that make use of these developments are described, together with the new capabilities that they permit. The principal discussion centers on possible social consequences of the communication revolution and indicates some policy questions they raise. In some cases changes are already under way. Social effects are discussed in the fields of education, political behavior, crime, economic life, governmental regulatory action, and the quality of life. There is reason for both optimism and pessimism about these various effects, but considerably more analysis, research, and social experience will be required to foresee future developments and enable steps to be taken that will increase the chances of favorable outcomes. Some guidelines are provided for research on the social effects of communication technology.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Report series. The report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 1993 that represented the principal publication documenting and transmitting RAND's major research findings and final research.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.