Some functions of the technique

      So what? Let me anticipate two "so what?" questions. So what's new? This exercise could, indeed, have been conducted before. However, it would not have been done before. It would have been too cumbersome and costly. Fast Eddy produced this on-line printout in five minutes and those three off-line printouts in ten minutes. Admittedly, slow Scot took a long time to build the matrix. However, this can easily be mechanized so that fast Eddy can take over. Will someone out there please tell me how to tell him how to do it? So what has this to do with us? We are all, presumably, interested in social impact assessment. This new technology introduces a new tool to our tool box, a club to our golf bag.


      At the very least, it provides us with a systematic way to survey the literature. Thus, if you want to survey the literature on "word processing," you read citations 1, 11, 15, 23, 28, 29, 30, 32, 36, 37, 39, 41, 42, 43 and, then write the corresponding section of your literature review. Its potential probably goes far beyond this. It sets up a domain of discourse. A posteriori, it is obvious that any social impact study could be entitled The Social Impact of (Technology) on (Sector of Society) with Respect to (Issue) using (Research Methodology). e.g. The Social Impact of Word Processors on Secretaries in Montreal with respect to Employment using Survey/lnterview Methods.

      However, I doubt I would have realized those were the four major categories unless I had conducted this exercise. Appendix B shows how a wide variety of social impact studies can be organized in terms of the level of technology and of society at which the study is conducted.

      The four categories could be considered as the four dimensions of a four-dimensional space, with each cell representing the social impact of a particular technology on a particular sector of society focusing on a particular issue and using a particular methodology. Fitting the research which has already been conducted into this matrix will help organize the body of literature within the domain of discourse. Messing around in the empty cells of the matrix will generate a multitude of research proposals. The problematique (the system of questions) for this domain of discourse can be derived logically from this matrix.

      The matrix, in itself, constitutes useful data. It enables us to do research on research. The marginals provide interesting information about the relative emphasis within this database on different aspects of the domain. I haven't yet built a similar matrix for the other databases. However, a comparison with this one will provide information about the relative emphases from database to database, depending on the interests of the scientific communities which share them. Since the citations appear in reverse chronological order, it would be easy to explore changes in emphases over time. I would appreciate brainstorming this technique with you in order to help realize whatever potential there is in it, and in testing this structure for stress by inviting you to describe your interests within this domain of discourse.

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