Technology Assessment in Software Applications

Technology Assessment in Software Applications

Technology Assessment in Software Applications

Technology Assessment in Software Applications

Synopsis

This volume offers an expansion of ideas presented at a recent conference convened to identify the major strategies and more promising practices for assessing technology. The authors -- representing government, business, and university sectors -- helped to set the boundaries of present technology assessment by offering perspectives from computer science, cognitive and military psychology, and education. Their work explores both the use of techniques to assess technology and the use of technology to facilitate the assessment process.

The book's main purpose is to portray the state of the art in technology assessment and to provide conceptual options to help readers understand the power of technology. Technological innovation will continue to develop its own standards of practice and effectiveness. To the extent that these practices are empirically based, designers, supporters, and consumers will be given better information for their decisions.

Excerpt

The impact of technology on all aspects of contemporary life is an unchallenged fact. We alternately suffer with and revel in the side effects of technology: from toxic waste, the social effects of too much television, and carpal tunnel syndrome, to the wonders of spreadsheets, tiny video cameras, and WD-40. Yet technology effects, both good and bad, seem always to take us by surprise. Why don't we systematically look at technology and better anticipate its consequences? In fact, many scholars do study technology, but most of our methods are weak and our attention at best happenstance. Limited in many ways by a geewhiz view of technology, we greet every new "advance" as unalloyed good. It is only later we feel we may have been tricked. Paradoxically, the task of technology development itself affects the assessment of its utility. Technology serves to codify and automate procedures and to extend our sphere of action. Unlike scientific findings, which are subject to interpretation, we act as if technology development is binary: either it works or it doesn't, it runs or it crashes, it delivers or fails. Thus for many designers and developers, technological innovation is an existence proof. Look at what we made! And the novelty either does or doesn't capture our imagination.

Assessing a technology involves making an estimate or judgment of its current state with regard to its effectiveness in a foreseeable range of applications. Technology assessment involves, therefore, at least two levels of prediction: first, predicting from the current status of technology to future utilities (e.g., U.S. Department of Commerce, 1990); second, generalizing from a specific case or cases to unknown applications to be invented in the future. These leaps in generalizability typically do not worry experimentalists, who engage in their predictions using conventions of science. Scientific safeguards include the cre-

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