INF 385T: Technology and Work


We will examine together the relationship between technology and work in the particular context of five cases. Three cases are contemporary: (1) diagnostic and surgical tools in medicine, (2) ICTs in geographically distributed work, and (3) ICTs in reference librarianship. One case is historical: (4) early automation and IT in offices. One case spans a century to provide both historical and contemporary lessons: (5) the moving assembly line in factories. You will investigate technology and work in a sixth setting: an information occupation of your choice. Through these cases we will come to understand why the study of work is essential for the design of ICTs and why an understanding of ICTs is critical for designing modern work and modern organizations.


Who Should Take This Course
You should take this course if you want to learn about the role that information and communication technologies (ICTs) play in modern work. We’ll investigate how ICTs shape work and are shaped in turn by the individuals who use them. This knowledge is critical for understanding people’s reactions to new technologies at work; it is also essential for preparing for the radical transformations that often accompany technological change. The course involves substantial reading and discussion. You will also practice in class and carry out in the field qualitative fieldwork techniques for data collection (interviewing, observation), data analysis (coding, memoing), and study presentation (verbal, written). In short, the course offers a mix of individual study, in-class activities, individual or group presentations, fieldwork, original research, and class discussion that provides multiple ways for you to engage with the material.