In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power

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9780465032129: In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power

A noted Harvard social scientist documents the pitfalls and promises of computerized technology in business life.

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From Library Journal:

Drawing on in-depth interviews with workers and managers in various industries, these two authors illustrate the impact automation will have on those using computers in the work place. Each expresses deep concern about how the ability to monitor employees electronically may be abused. The similarity ends here. Garson (a playwright) shows concern about the dehumanizing effect of computer instruction. She cites examples of how computer monitoring is being abused, and finds little that will change the direction computer use is taking in creating an electronic sweatshop. Zuboff (Harvard) sees this development as a turning point in history. We can either use computers to dehumanize the work place and take from people the gratification they get from work (Garson's feeling), or we can "informate" workers (Zuboff's term), i.e. give them the knowledge to make human judgments that can enhance productivity. Zuboff believes computers can be used humanely to create better jobs, but she also recognizes the risks. The Electronic Sweatshop is a popularly written view of the negative aspects of computers in the work place. In the Age of the Smart Machine is a scholarly look at the impact, positive and negative, of computers in organizations. Both deal with a growing concern of management and labor. If only one can be purchased, Zuboff's is the better choice. Michael D. Kathman, St. John's Univ. Lib., Collegeville, Minn.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Publishers Weekly:

While recognizing that computer-based information systems threaten to subvert the traditional manager's role, Zuboff, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, asserts that the computer is paving the way for a redistribution of authority in the workplace. As she sees it, computers allow clerical staff to take on more decision-making, help top managers rationalize overall efficiency and give blue-collar workers a deeper understanding of the science that undergirds industrial operations. But this optimistic picture of computerization is far from inevitable, she writes. Her five-year study of eight organizationsa pharmaceutical giant, Global Bank Brazil, a Bell System operating company, pulp and paper mills, a dental-claims outfit among themreveals that human resistance to computers can undermine the new technology at every level. Geared to managers and information-systems experts, her findings, though ponderously written, will be a value to those who want to get the most knowledge and power from computerization.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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