Prometheus: Vol 18, No 3 (2000)

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Social Informatics: A New Perspective on Social Research about Information and Communication Technologies
Rob Kling
Pages: 245-264


Social informatics is the body of research that examines the design, uses and consequences of information and communication technologies in ways that take into account their interaction with institutional and cultural contexts. This article draws upon some 25 years of systematic, analytical and critical research about information and communication technologies (ICTs) and social change to illustrate key ideas from social informatics research.

Towards a Knowledge Economy? Changes in New Zealand’s Information Work Force 1976‐1996
Hans-Jürgen Engelbrecht
Pages: 265-282


The New Zealand economy has undergone tremendous change since 1984, being transformed from one of the most regulated OECD economies to one of the most deregulated. Recently, the concept of a ‘knowledge economy’ has received attention in New Zealand, and policies are now aimed at creating such an economy. This study contributes to the debate by exploring the changes in the country’s information work force in recent decades, and by attempting to relate them to some of the major features of the economy which have to be addressed in the search for an appropriate knowledge economy model.

Innovation and Industry Development: A Policy-relevant Analytical Framework
Jane Marceau
Pages: 283-301


Public attention is increasingly focusing on the role played by product and process innovation in the economic development of modern nations. There have been many studies of national innovation systems, regional and local innovation systems, and technological and sectoral systems. There have been innovation surveys and efforts concentrating on measuring the effectiveness of different innovation systems. The ‘system’ debate has distracted attention from the search for policy mechanisms to encourage development in a more specific manner. The approach developed in this paper enables the analyst to both hone in on the general dynamics of industrial change as they relate to particular situations and to highlight the points that may need public or private action if a country, region or locality is to maximise the efficiency of the players in its national, regional or local innovation systems, or indeed its sectoral ones.

Rationality and Rhetoric in the Corporate World: The Corporate Annual Report as an Aristotelian Genre
Robert White & Dallas Hanson
Pages: 303-317


This paper is part of a research programme into corporate annual reports. Reports do provide the information on the past performance, present state and future prospects which investors in listed companies require for the rational choices attributed to them. They also reveal the companies’ responsiveness to the publics comprising the civil societies in which they are embedded. This effect requires more than strict rationality. To use Simon’s distinction, the reports then entail both substantive and procedural rationalities. We argue that classical rhetoric and its recovery in the ‘new rhetoric’ yield useful approaches to the latter, and that annual reports comprise a genre in the rhetorical sense. We illustrate our case through generic features in the reports of the Australian-based multinational, Amcor. We suggest for future research that accounts of corporate functioning are incomplete unless they include the pre-structured interaction between companies and their publics which we have shown here through rhetoric.

Pharmaceutical Patent Term Restoration in New Zealand
John Parker
Pages: 319-326


This paper draws attention to the 1998 legislation in Australia which introduced a drug – specific patent term restoration procedure called a supplementary protection certificate. After investigating effective patent life data the results suggest that there is a case for such a measure in New Zealand.

Australian Universities in Crisis
Graham Maddox
Pages: 327-332


That this book, having been recommended for publication by the editors of Melbourne University Press, was subsequently rejected through the intervention of the University authorities, is a symptom of the very malaise which the contributors address. Since the Dawkins ‘reforms’ to Australian higher education the university system has come under increasing surveillance by government functionaries, and university ‘managements’ have been subverted through their desire to win favour from government and to display their ‘competitive edge’ against other ‘institutions’. The ‘reforms’ have mandated the wholesale introduction of business techniques, and a pervading business ethos, which is quite inappropriate to the traditional function of universities. The very word ‘traditional’ is rejected as contrary to the commitment to change required of expanding businesses. That universities have a role in conserving and transmitting a public culture is all but repudiated by university managements in their desire to appear at the ‘cutting edge’ of government privatization agenda. The authors of this book affirm a public role for universities, and reassert the conviction that they must protect a threatened independence in the search for truth, and in the responsibility to ‘speak truth to power’. Since ‘managements’ are now unlikely to uphold these duties, it becomes the responsibility of the members of the community of scholars to maintain independence of thought and to expound the truth.

Book reviews
Pages: 333-343

Shorter notices
Pages: 345-346

Contributors to this Issue
Page: 347