Shoshana Zuboff & The Smart Machine

Shoshana Zuboff is required reading for Eaps 760 for four major reasons:
First, her book focuses upon core questions about the impact of the electronic deluge and managing the modern educational organization. The book, researched in the late 1970's and early 1980's and published in 1984, already seems "quaint and obsolete" in terms of the "technology as innovation" compression of the "nanosecond" 1990's. Yet, her focus upon the nature of being smart (reflexivity) and the nature of work (computer mediated) will remain our preoccupation for some time.
Should the advent of smart machines relax the demands on human comprehension and critical judgement?
Does massive diffusion of computer technology in the workplace entail an equally dramatic loss of meaningful employment opportunities?
Will information technology represent an opportunity for the rejuvenation of competitiveness, productive vitality and organizational ingenuity?
Second, she offers an interesting interpretation of certain classic writers that we have been discussing. Certainly, the sociological "spirituality" of Max Weber and her perception of Frederick Taylorism in a modern corporation add to the Shafritz and Hyde exerpts. The following are specific references (by page) that may help guide your readings about implications for managers.
The Suffering Body
- object of contempt - page 28, page 30 - humanization;
- early factory - page 33, "frolick" - page 35 - manager as foreman;
- crafts in factory environment - pages 40, 48;
- time/motion purification of effort - page 42;
- scientific management to get systematic management - page 44;
- authority vs. persuasion - footnote 2, page 445;
- early management authority from ownership - page 226.
Classic Manager Role - page 250
- 1850 US society = image of the independent , self employed man;
- 1890 = labor militancy. social darwinism;
- 1890-1920 = progressive era ; progress as natural law;
- 1930-1940s = managers v. workers = labor statutes values = manual vs. mental - page 237; manager loyalty to hierarchy (Chester Barnard) - page 238;
Ttechnology Challenge = what is manager work?
- managerial meaning of automation = upgrade process control and centralize controls for monitoring - pages 246, 283;
- line authority versus what you know (expert authority) - pages 250, 260, 289;
- Tiger Creek Mill case;
- reduce computer phobia and keyboard skills - page 259;
- expense tracking system - pages 264-265;
Manager = Operator = Engineer - who does analysis? - pages 266-267
- hypothesis of manager dependence - page 269;
- thinking versus environment business - page 276;
- middle manager differences to subordinate role in conventional authority - page 279;
Managing in Informatted Organization - page 396
- informatted organization shape the interpretation of data - page 290;
- how measure ability to think about data interface ? - page 291;
- looking like at work in techno environment - page 293;
- work is responsibility - pages 296-297;
- sense of contract behind work - page 300;
- process of automating the new Taylorism? - pages 302-303;
- automation versus informatting - pages 305, 306, 308-309, footnote 55 page 437, footnote 6 page 440.
Third and, perhaps, most important, Dr. Zuboff offers research about the actual impact of different "technology innovations" upon the conventions of corporate activities. Many school settings in New York are only now facing the issues of the equivalent to process control technology and a data based policy environment (report carding and standards implementation) computer based administering and "clerking" or computer conferencing. Are educational institutions different in the response to incorporating technology? Can we use the corporate model of complex organization to appreciate the operation of public sector organizations? The issue boils down to the relationship of intellectual development and managerial activities.

Sites for Study

Piney Wood= old mill

Tiger Creek= old mill process control technology

Cedar Bluff= modern mill

Metro Tel= computer based administration

Consolidated Underwriter= clerk with desktop terminals

Universial Technology

Global Bank= data base environment

Drug Corp= computer conferencing

Ideas to Think About

continuous process operations= 51, 53, 54

knowledge transfer 56 deskilling into reskilling

disassociating sentiment from knowledge 62, 63

suboptimization of technology 66, 68 mgt role 69, 70

action centered to intellective skill 73, 75

data and concrete reality 79, 81

problem of refertence and psychological trust in computer 83

inference into insight 92, intellective skill 95 ------------------ Intellectual Skill Managerial Activity intellectual skill technology strategy social system development development formulation development definition of problem for analysis determining data for analysis appropriate analytical approach application to improve performance

Finally, Shoshana Zuboff does an excellent job of introducing us to the premise of "panoptican" and Michael Foucault's interpretation of the implications for control and compliance within an "informatted" organization. The organizational issue is more than supplementing the conventional parameters of complex bureaucracy. Zuboff's discussion of the "concentric structure organization" (pages 397, 399, 400, 410, footnote 6, page 435) suggest the electronic deluge as a time of organizational transformation in identity, communication and the nature of authority.

Shoshana Zuboff Sources