Knowledge in Society 3 (3):67-75 (1990)

The introduction of computer-based information systems to be used by farmers, as in many other fields, is preceded mostly by great expectations. Some persons even tend to think that eventually the computer might take over farm management. This article tries to make an assessment of the validity of such expectations. Based upon a study among Swedish farmers, it examines the nature of farmers' decision-making. The latter is based upon an adaptive rationality, as opposed to the normative models of formal rationality used by scientists. Essential to this rationality are coordination skills: the ability of farmers to arrange the many interacting factors important to the totality of a farm in a satisfactory way. What the farmer needs in this complex situation is personal communication and tacit knowledge, knowledge that cannot be reduced to facts and rules. Consequently computer-based information systems can be useful tools only in some aspects of farm management, but they will never replace farmer's decision-making. To understand the possibilities of the computer as a tool in farm management, a distinction between interpretation skills and application skills is necessary
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