Sunday, 30 November 2008

30. Reflections on computing needs

With increasing amounts of software becoming online, the idea of ownership of software or services , or even where the boundaries of the computer are, is becoming more indistinct. While for many people this is not a problem, consider those who are funded for support, such as a centrally funded disabled student allowance, where traditionally funding has, in effect, been given to a single software and hardware provider to supply tangible goods.

If one was to scan through the entries in this blog, there may be many services that are useful, such as back-up and storage, online concept mapping (without adverts), and online text-to-speech (some of which are free, but experience showns that better ones will be part of a paid for service soon). Who then controls that funding? Will these individuals be allowed to make personal choices, or are they at the mercy of the "technology assessor" who may not necesserily know of everything that is suitable.


Traditionally there has been only a small number of products that appear regularly on a list of assistive technology. Probably more than 95% of all text-to-speech sales in the UK are covered by just six commercial software packages. It is probably the same with concept mapping. But who will say in future what should be accepted, and how does one control the budgets?

This is not to say that most existing system do not allow for such diversity. But there is another aspect to consider - when you buy software from the box, it is always yours. Rarely does it come as an annual licence arrangement. But what of the online software that is usually a monthly licence. Who will make sure the payment a) go through, and b) are stopped at the right time. If the funding ceases at the end of, say, a three year course, the individual will have to "buy again" all the software when they start work.

3 comments:

gillberk said...

Technology becomes subordinate to values through economics, government, or the professions. Our biggest problem is learning to recognize that we do have options, albeit often limited ones. Our tendency is to just create more technology rather than ask why.
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gillberk said...

Human-Computer Interaction is concerned with the design, implementation and evaluation of interactive computer-based systems, as well as with the multi-disciplinary study of various issues affecting this interaction. The aim of HCI is to ensure the safety, utility, effectiveness, efficiency, accessibility and usability of such systems.
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ian.smythe@ukonline.co.uk said...

Unfortunately any brief review of the "research" literature shows that, for example, those working in the field of e-learning and HCI are excited when their new technology-led developments show through their "statistics" that acceptance has risen from 82% to 85%. But I would be more interested in not only the other 15%, but also those who decided not to try it. I have yet to see a report that attempts to really understand the dissatisfaction.

As to creating technology rather than asking why, I tend to agree with you, and is part of the subject of a book I have been commissioned to write.

Thanks for your comment. I shall try to reflect on your comment in a future entry.