Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Conclusion The conclusion to be drawn from the preceding observations and theorizing should be that we must be very much aware of what has been called “technological functionalism” (Pieper, 1986:11). While functionalism as such is not bad, the moment it succumbs to mere structural technicality, the functions stop functioning: forced “adaptivity” takes the place of “adaptable” interaction. That this problem is not due to a primordial blame, to be attached to the computer, becomes clear when one compares the computerized environment to other surroundings, such as, for example, the psychiatric treatment. In the psychiatric interview, as Davis (1986, 1988) has shown, the interest of the therapist is often limited to establishing a “contract” for treatment: for the therapist to function properly, there must be a therapy-defined (or therapy-definable) problem for him/her to attack, using the skills and experiences of the profession of which he/she is a representative and for which he/she has been properly trained. This function, however, may not coincide with the patient's needs: it may well be the case that the problem which originally caused the patient to approach the therapist for treatment, in the end turns out not to be the problem that both agree on as the objective of the therapeutic treatment. “Re-formulating” the patients' problem in terms suitable to the available resources and techniques is thus typically a case of adapting the human to the system: again, we're faced with technological functionalism in the shape of what has been called “forced adaptivity” (see Mey, 1986). We need to think seriously about the way we handle our computerized structures and their functions, and in particular about the design of supportive systems such as large databases, computer conferencing, or even simple electronic mail services. While adaptivity always is a case of manipulation, by which humans are tooled to the needs and strictures of the computer, adaptability, by contrast, allows such manipulation only inasmuch as those needs and strictures reflect, and are imposed by, the users' needs. The blind, mechanical force that makes us adapt ourselves to the machine should be replaced by the enlightened, humanizing force of the adaptable computer.
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