INF 385T: Technology and Work


We will examine together the relationship between technology and work in the particular context of six cases. Four cases are contemporary: (1) diagnostic and surgical tools in medicine, (2) ICTs in reference librarianship, (3) ICTs in automotive engineering design, and (4) ICTs in science. One case is historical: (5) early automation and IT in offices. One case spans a century to provide both historical and contemporary lessons: (6) computers and programmers. You will investigate technology and work in a seventh setting: an 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. Much of our interest will be in examining the occupational changes that often accompany technological change. For this reason, we will pay special attention to issues of status, power, hierarchy, roles, domain knowledge, workforce shifts, and the like.


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.