Computer Technology and Social Issues

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Interconnected political, economic. Social and human factors are paramount in determining the success of information technology. As global economic competition has become ever more important, the social issues of computing combine to make public policymaking more urgent in computer-related domains. Though often perceived in purely technological terms, when it comes to computing, political issues are pervasive.

The book starts by examining charges that computing threatens democratic values. Is computing creating a technological elite? Does it foster dehumanization and a de-skilled workforce? And what of the opposite claim that computing will foster a new era of electronic democracy--a network nation in which participatory team approaches and electronic civic democracy displace hierarchical models of the past? Empirical data and case studies on both sides of these and other related questions are examined from a social science viewpoint.

Subsequent chapters deal with computing as a threat to privacy, intellectual property rights in a computer era, computer crime by individuals and organizations, gender and race inequity, technostress and health issues, liability for the effects of computing and numerous related topics. Discussion of the social issues and problems of computing leads into chapters which examine employee resistance to computing, sociotechnical change, information cultures and success factors in computing implementation. Final chapters of the book deal with arguments that information technology investment may not lead to productivity gains. The call for establishment of a national information technology policy to meet the demands of global competition is then taken up. Public goods theory is discussed as a background to reviewing governmental efforts to regulate or promote information technology up through the current proposals of the Clinton Administration. A concluding section on computing and public policy accountability argues for a focus that takes account of the social factors behind successful technological implementation and is not blind hardware-oriented subsidy of all forms of information technology investment.

G. David Garson is a professor of political science and public administration at North Carolina State University. He is editor of the Social Science Computer Review, published by Duke University Press, and is author or editor of a dozen books and monographs on research methods, public administration and American politics. Dr. Garson is a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Universities. In addition to his full professorship, he serves as associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, supervising three computer laboratories in social sciences and the humanities at the North Carolina State University.

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Editorial Reviews


"...this is a book that should be read by all politicians, industrialists and academics who are involved in the application of IT." --Simon Rogerson, The Times Higher Education October 13 1995

Stephan Bell

"I found Garson's book to be a stimulating and informative work. Through its balanced presentation of the issues, the book delivers a good alternate view of computing-not merely as a tool, but as a powerful force for public change. -- Journal of Information, Communication and Library Sciences

Addresses issues of the computer age in the context of developing a national public policy for information technology. Incorporates research and case studies in discussion of the potential of computers to threaten privacy or encourage democracy. Other themes include information technology as personal, organizational, and societal power. Useful for instructors wishing to give computer science students a perspective on the social issues and political choices surrounding computing. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781878289285
  • Publisher: IGI Global
  • Publication date: 1/1/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 444
  • Product dimensions: 6.45 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 1.28 (d)


Computing lends itself to images of authority and domination. Themes of technology-based Joseph Weizenbaum studied the pathologies and mindsets associated with computing. These range from the microworld of the hacker to the global fantasies of the military computer gamer in the Pentagon. To some, computing seems to be an all-beneficent deus ex machina solving human problems at every turn. However, to others it is quite the opposite. Of all the visions, fears, and fantasies associated with computing, perhaps none is so recurring and important as that associated with the issue of whether computing is a force for the centralization of political and organizational power.

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