Opportunities Relating to Economic and Social Impacts of Computing and Communications held a 2-day workshop on June 30 and July 1, 1997, involving participants with expertise in economics, social sciences, and computer science and engineering. Since this was an endeavor of limited budget and time frame, centered on discussions and interactions among participants at a single workshop, the workshop steering committee focused on identifying and developing examples of some significant research issues and concerns, rather than aiming to cover the full range of relevant topics. The content of this workshop report thus reflects suggestions made and issues raised in workshop activities and in the position papers submitted by workshop participants.
Chapter 1 outlines some of the trends in the growth of computing and communications discussed at the workshop and highlights several policy areasincluding economic productivity, wage inequality, and technology designin which interdisciplinary research involving both information technologists and social scientists can contribute to a better understanding of the economic and social impacts of information technology. The value of the social science approach, which draws on systematically developed theories of human behavior in combination with sound supporting data, is contrasted with the overreliance on anecdotes, extrapolation, and sloganeering that often characterizes the writing of pundits.
Chapter 2 presents examples of cross-cutting research that has been conducted to understand information technology's influence in personal, community, and business activities and gives suggestions regarding important open research questions. Incorporating examples given at the workshop and in position papers, it indicates some ways in which use of methodology from economics and the social sciences might contribute to important advances, and it describes how interdisciplinary research between social scientists and information technology researchers might help to improve knowledge of outcomes affecting private life and the household, the community, the social infrastructure, and business and the workplace. Chapter 2 concludes with a list of broad research topics offered by the steering committee as examples of promising areas for ongoing research.
Social science research depends on researchers having access to enough reliable data to establish a basis for reaching valid conclusions. Chapter 3 provides a brief overview of the types of data used by social scientists in their investigations and describes some of the problems encountered in data collection, management, and use. According to some workshop participants, researchers working at the intersection of information technology and socioeconomic issues confront a number of challenges related to the availability of data. Chapter 3 concludes with some suggested approaches to meeting these challenges.
Based on discussions at the June 1997 workshop and on material in the position papers submitted by its participants, the steering committee identified several options for fostering interdisciplinary research and making the results of