Prometheus: Vol 15, No 1 (1997)

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Information Technology: A Critical Perspective on its Economic Effects
Pages: 5-25


Information Technology (IT) is commonly seen as the most important motor for growth and economic restructuring in the near future. Visions about massive benefits to be derived from these developments are contrasted by frustration over productivity effects, by uncertainty about impacts on employment, and by concerns about a general ‘information overflow’ in a global network society. The contradictions between enthusiastic forecasts and much more sober outcomes have given rise to a debate on the potential and danger of IT. The present paper intends to add to this debate. Promises of common IT scenarios will be confronted with problem-oriented and critical approaches. The paper proceeds from an analysis of deficits in the current debates towards the identification of new elements of a critical approach in IT research.

Multidisciplinary Policy Research—An Australian Experience
Pages: 27-39


A brief overview is provided of a project which examined the feasibility of conducting a trial of heroin prescription for dependent heroin users. The processes used in the feasibility study brought together multiple disciplines and interest groups and some detailed examples of how this worked are presented. The paper concludes by drawing out some general strands relating to the strengths of multidisciplinary research generally, guidelines for how to do it and comments on multidisciplinary policy research in particular.

Nurturing National Talent: The Australian Research Council’s Fellowship Scheme
Pages: 41-53


This paper examines the functioning of a Research Fellowship Scheme in Australia and its place in the higher education system. It indicates the educational paths and early career tracks which have led the gifted researchers studied to their elite positions. It indicates how the research strategies of supervisors (Heads of Department and School) affect the placing of Fellows and how the sociological and institutional contexts of the broader education system influence outcomes. It suggests some of the dilemmas faced by policymakers attempting to strengthen the research and higher education systems of small countries with limited resources which want to maintain a national and international science capability.

Symposium on Evolving Communications and Socio-economic Change (STEP 1996)
Page: 55

Economics and the Diffusion of Communication and Information Technologies: Joseph Schumpeter and the Self-organisation Approach
Pages: 57-71


Economic motivations and economic processes play a key role in the emergence and diffusion of communication and information technologies. The objective of this paper is to offer an economic approach which is better suited to understanding such motivations and processes within an interdisciplinary context than the conventional, equilibrium-oriented, perspective. It is argued that many modern ‘neoclassical’ economists, stressing competition, have little in common with the old ‘classical’ tradition in economics, which was based on synergies. The ideas of Joseph Schumpeter are highlighted as a distinct alternative to neoclassical economics and viewed from a self-organisational perspective. It is explained that self-organisation in the economic domain is a related, but different, process to that identified by Ilya Prigogine in physio-chemical contexts. In particular, knowledge and informational considerations become central. A modelling strategy that can track self-organisational growth processes and provide an assessment of their structural stability is discussed.

The Knowledge-based Economy: A Sisyphus Model
Pages: 73-81


The current fashionable emphasis on the knowledge-based economy is missing the real significance of the dichotomy between tacit and codified knowledge. A continuing input of tacit knowledge is essential to sustained innovation and growth. Without this, the modern thrust towards codification based on IT can lead to an economy with plenty of processing capacity but no new knowledge to process.

Modelling the Coevolution of Communications and Socio-economic Structure
Pages: 83-100


Economic modelling that employs ‘the complex systems’ approach shows that factors such as communication and diversity are vital to systematic function and evolution. A ‘complex systems’ model of market evolution is presented and discussed to illustrate these issues.

Communicative Strategies and the Evolution of Organisations Facing the New Turbulence: ICTs as Problems and Opportunities
Pages: 101-109


Traditional organisational structures are currently being challenged by rapid changes in their environments, primarily caused by the introduction of computer and information technology. Successful transition to new patterns of organisation which makes sense of the complex meaning of these new environments require both ‘creative’ (self organising) and stabilising (self referencing) processes. This paper justifies the theoretical importance of considering communication as a necessary response by organisations to non-linear change. The processes by which organisations might accommodate new organisational turbulence and strategies for creating desirable futures within turbulent organisational environments are considered.

Signs of Convergence? Images of the University in the Management of R&D
Pages: 111-123


This paper examines the adoption of university images in a pharmaceutical R&D company, arguing that this may be intended to bring benefits to management. The author finds some irony in this, identifying tendencies within the UK higher education system to draw on the images and the practices of business and commerce in its own management. Drawing on empirical data from interviews at Pharmco, the paper argues that, in practice, the image cannot be sustained and competition in the pharmaceutical sector is leading to a disparity between the projected image and management practice. Management in both types of organisation, it concludes, are responding to their respective environments by tightening control.

Pioneering Strategies and Small Firms, an Australia–UK Comparison
Pages: 125-135


An important aspect of strategic choke is whether to be a pioneer or a follower. This issue is especially important for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), potentially disadvantaged by scale in design, production and marketing. However, empirical evidence suggests that, in spite of their size, SMEs may benefit from being pioneers or first movers’. Indeed, in some markets being first may be the only way SMEs can compete against larger firms, whose advantages in exploitation may be more scale intensive than in earlier stages of the innovation process.

The UK and Australian economies present an interesting context for a comparison of SME pioneering strategies. The UK market is larger and its relative competitiveness is increased by smaller geographical distance and the ability of the market to support a greater number of firms, both large and small. Such differences in the potential competitiveness of markets might substantially influence the nature of SME strategies and the role of pioneering advantage.

The study reported in this paper examines the strategies of a matched sample of 478 firms in Australia and the UK. Timing of entry models are developed and tested. The different economic contexts, however, provide contrasting explanations of pioneering strategies. Technological turbulence and size of firm appear to be important determinants of strategy in both countries, but are most statistically significant for UK firms. Perceived competitive advantage provides the bulk of explanation of strategic behaviour for Australian firms. The overall UK models perform better statistically, suggesting that there may be more convergence towards some ‘norm’ for these firms. Overall statistical fit suggests a robust model construction and successful operationalisation of important strategy variables.

Book review
The Making of the Australian National University 1946–1996, S. G. Foster & Margaret M. Varghese Sydney, Allen & Unwin, 1996, xi+ 464 pp., A$59.95, ISBN 1-86448-0831
Ann Moyal
Pages: 137-139

Book review
Tendencies and Tensions of the Information Age: The Production and Distribution of Information in the United States, Jorge Reina Schement & Terry Curtis New Brunswick, USA, Transaction Publishers, 1995, viii + 285 pp., ISBN 1-56000-166-6
D. McL. Lamberton
Pages: 139-141

Book review
The Crisis of Vision in Modern Economic Thought, Robert Heilbroner & William Milberg Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996, ix + 131 pp., A$23.95 (Pbk), ISBN 0-521-49774-4
John Laurent
Pages: 141-144

Book review
Does Technology Drive History?: The Dilemma of Technological Determinism, Merritt Roe Smith & Leo Marx (Eds), Cambridge, MA, London, MIT Press, 1995, xv + 288 pp., ISBN 0-262-69167-1
John Howells
Pages: 144-148

Book review
Information System Concepts: Towards a Consolidation of Views, Eckhard D. Falkenburg, Wolfgang Hesse & Antoni Olivé (Eds), London, Chapman Hall, 1995, viii + 315 pp., £50.00 (hbk), ISBN 0-412-63950-5
Stephen E. Little
Pages: 149-151

Book review
The Tyranny of the Market: A Critique of Theoretical Foundations, Douglas Vickers, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1995, ix + 261 pp., £39.60, ISBN 0-472-10618-X
D. McL. Lamberton
Pages: 151-152

Book review
Science Policy and Research Management in the Balkan Countries, George Parissakis & Nikos Katsaros (Eds), Dordrecht, Boston, London, Kluwer Academic Publishers, in cooperation with NATO Scientific Affiirs Division, 1995, xiii + 236 pp., US$157.00, ISBN 0-7923-3599-6
Dora Marinova
Pages: 153-155

Book review
Evolutionary Economics and Chaos Theory: New Directions in Technology Studies, Loet Leydesdorff & Peter Van den Besselaar (Eds), London, Pinter Publishers, 1994, xi + 215 pp., £35.00 (hbk), £14.99 (Pbk), ISBN 1-855671980 (hbk), 1-85567-2022 (pbk)
John Howells
Pages: 155-158

Book review
Netiquette, Virginia Shea, San Francisco, Albion Books, 1994, 154 pp., $US19.95, ISBN 0-9637025-1-3
David Rooney
Pages: 158-159

Book review
On the Cards: Privacy, Identity and Trust in the Age of Smart Technologies, Perri 6 & Ivan Briscoe, London, Demos, 1996, 128 pp., £9.95, ISBN 1-898309-72-8
Richard Joseph
Pages: 159-161

Book review
Evaluation of Commonwealth Support for MFP Australia, Bureau of Industry Economics, Canberra, Australian Government Publishing Service, 1996, xv + 150 pp., ISBN 0-644-36222-7
Thomas Mandeville
Pages: 161-162

Page: 163