term, visionary ideas rather than being simply the result of incremental improvements and near-term commercial exploitation.
Research of the sort suggested in this chapter would help society reap the rewards of “learning by doing” and would accelerate that process. It would help researchers recognize patterns in their results and develop new theories and would enable them to select better research targets and exploit their work more effectively. The new approach to research would take nothing away from the tried-and-true work that continues to offer many benefits; it would be an additional, complementary asset in the overall production system.
The tight linkages between the technical and nontechnical components of sociotechnical systems mean that effective research will have to draw on a broad range of constituencies, much as work in civil engineering is influenced by architects, urban planners, and transportation engineers (Box 4.2). Technology researchers, social scientists, and domain experts will have to work together to identify and solve problems related to the social applications of IT.
To date, research on the social applications of IT has tended to fall into one of four categories:
Research on IT systems addressing generic issues of technology, informed (it is hoped) by a knowledge of application needs and addressing a broad swath of application contexts rather than focusing on a single context (examples include many of the issues mentioned in Chapter 3, such as security, administration, and flexibility);
Applications research that addresses a specific context, trying to see how existing technologies can provide value to that application and how that application context (such as an organization) can be reorganized around IT technologies;
Software engineering research that explores generic techniques for developing and deploying new IT-based applications; examples include the processes involved in understanding the application context, translating this understanding into requirements and specifications, implementing the applications, measuring and refining their behavior, deploying the application, training users, and supporting the deployed application and its users; and
Social science research that explores how people undertake different activities and exercise their different physical and mental abilities to engage IT and other resources and research that explores how people adapt the structure of organizations and activities in response to the intro-