Summary

[TBD.]

Keywords

  • computer-mediated work:

Notes

  • “Computer-based technologies are not neutral; they embody essential characteristics that are bound to alter the nature of work within our factories and offices, and among workers, professionals, and managers” (7). Note that Zuboff is interested in (and indeed opens her book with) the site of the factory as well as the office. The factory and supply chain are probably the parts of industrial production most influenced by computing, but the turn toward knowledge work has further obscured and displaced these sites of labor.
  • Distinction b/t information and mechanical technology: information tech produces more information, it is “not mute” (9). “Information technology not only produces action but also produces a voice that symbolically renders events, objects, and processes so that they become visible, knowable, and shareable in a new way.” Informating rather than automating.
  • Note the emphasis on pulp and paper mills as well as the observation that the global bank she studied had recently shifted to “the development of new technology-based products and services” (15).
  • Much of Zuboff’s analysis focuses on problems of managerial authority and the problem of substantiating it in new computer-based regimes (16).
  • “Technology represents intelligence systematically applied to the problem of the body” (22). Note emphasis on embodiment and its framing as a problem. “The development of industrial technology can be read as a chronicle of attempts to grapple with the body’s role in production as a source of both effort and skill and with the specific responses these attempts have evoked from workers and managers” (23).
  • Taylorism resting on the division of effort and skill from the laborer’s body: “Taylorism meant that the body as the source of skill was to be the object of inquiry in order that the body as the source of effort could become the object of more exacting control. Once explicated, the worker’s know-how was expropriated to the ranks of management…” (43).

Archive and Impact

  • Zuboff taught at the Harvard Business School, and unsurprisingly this book has been taken up most by those interested in management studies, sociology, and information systems. Her method is ethnographic: interviews and observations at five different large corporations on both sides of the move to information technology.