The Design of the Designing Community

  • Seymour J. Mandelbaum
Part of the Nato Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 6)


Some of us, like weekend gardeners, attend to the flowers and inevitable weeds of telecommunications evaluation and planning only in time squeezed from other activities. Others, make their living at these tasks. Weekend or weekday — all of our work is channeled by the processes of a community as palpable as those we seek to enhance through the application of telecommunication technologies. The purpose of this paper is to assess this “designing community” of which we are all members. I might be on sounder empirical grounds if I described the firms, agencies, professional associations and individuals engaged in telecommunications design as forming multiple communities. I’ve settled on the singular form in order to emphasize the political hope that they may be able to communicate more fully in the future.


Vocational Rehabilitation Federal Communication Commission Organizational Slack Design Concern Telecommunication Policy 
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  1. 1.
    My own hopes are described in Community and Communications (New York: W.W. Norton, 1972). For an even more ambitious statement seeGoogle Scholar
  2. Harold Sackman, Mass Information Utilities and Social Excellence (Princeton, N.J.: Auerbach, 1971).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    H.W.J. Rittel and M.M. Webber, “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning,” Policy Sciences, IV (1973), 155–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 3.
    George Comstock and George Lindsey, Television and Human Behavior: The Research Horizon, Future-and Present (Santa Monica, California: Rand, R-1758-CF, June, 1975).Google Scholar
  5. Cable Television Information Center, Social Services and Cable TV (Washington, D.C.: National Science Foundation, NSF/RA/760161, July, 1976).Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    Comstock and Lindsey, 44–5.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    Carol H. Weiss, “Evaluation Research in the Political Context,” in Elmer L. Struening and Maria Guttentag, eds.. Handbook of Evaluation Research (Beverly Hills, California: Sage Publications, 1974) I, 13–26.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    The same point was made forcefully by Professor William Capron, at the March 29, 1976 Washington, staff seminar of the Aspen Institute Program on Communications and Society: “We are still so far from the clear identification of policy options in this area that we need the protection of what is sometimes called redundacy and duplication, lest a single, powerful organizational voice — which will inevitably have its own blind spots and biases — lead us down a garden path which turns out to be full of brambles and checkholes.” Refocusing Government Communications Policy (Washington, D.C.: Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, 1976), 26.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Arthur D. Little, Inc., Telecommunications and Society, 1976- 1991: Report to Office of Telecommunications Policy, Executive Office of the President (Springfield, Virginia; National Technical Information Service, PB-256829, 1976) is a fascinating compilation of such scenarios.Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    There is a brief summary of one such map of the Washington-based policy community in Frank Lloyd and Ellie Koch, “The Hidden Network: Communications Policy Is Made In the Strangest Places,” Access 48 (February, 1977), 4–5.Google Scholar
  11. 9.
    James A. Bill and Robert L. Hardgrove, Jr., Comparative Politics: The Quest for Theory (Colombus, Ohio: Charles F. Merritt, 1973).Google Scholar
  12. 10.
    I’m indebted for this illustration to Janet Taplin Thompson whose dissertation-in-progress at the University of Pennsylvania deals with the history of computing and communications.Google Scholar
  13. 11.
    See the volume of that name, edited by Douglass D. Crombie for the Office of Telecommunications, Department of Commerce, November, 1976.Google Scholar
  14. 12.
    See the image of this mediating role described by John VJither-spoon. President of the Public Service Satellite Consortium, June 16, 1976 in Refocusing, 49–52.Google Scholar
  15. 13.
    In the 1950’s many analysts believed that the dense centers of such cities as New York would be sustained by their unique communication advantages. The doubts are beginning to accumulate. See George Sternlieb and James W. Hughes, “Is the New York Region the Prototype?” in the volume they edited, Post- Industrial America: Metropolitan Decline and Inter-Regional Job Shifts (New Brunswick, N.J.: Center for Urban Policy Research, Rutgers, 1975), 101–137.Google Scholar
  16. 14.
    I’m alluding to the work both of the Communications Studies Group and the Post Office Telecommunications Long Range Studies Divisions.Google Scholar
  17. 15.
    The best introduction I know to these ideas is Jeffrey L. Pressman and Aaron B. Wildavsky, Implementation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973).Google Scholar
  18. See also Paul Berman and M.W.Mc Laughlin, Federal Programs Supporting Education Change, Vol. IV: The Findings in Review (Santa Monica, California: Rand, R-1589/4-HEW, 1975).Google Scholar
  19. 16.
    I don’t mean to deny the value of new payment schemes. See Bruce M. Owen, Jack H. Beebe and Willard G. Manning, Jr., Television Economics (Lexington, Massachusetts: Lexington Books, D.C. Heath, 1974), 78–81.Google Scholar
  20. 17.
    Exit, Voice and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations and States (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970).Google Scholar
  21. 18.
    I’ve already described some of the ideas in this section in “Robust Approaches to Regional Communications Planning,” a paper presented at the Fourth Annual Telecommunications Policy Research Conference, April 21–24, 1976, Airlie, Virginia, ERIC Number 122767.Google Scholar
  22. 19.
    CTIC, Social Services and Cable TV, describes the three experiments.Google Scholar
  23. 20.
    See ibid., III, 71–74, and my essay, “On Not Doing One’s Best: The Uses and Problems of Experimentation in Planning,” Journal of the American Institute Planners, XLI (1975), 184–190.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Seymour J. Mandelbaum
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of City and Regional PlanningUniversity of PennsylvaniaUSA

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