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Abstract

This chapter summarizes and synthesizes some major perspectives on the relationship between technology and the nature of work. Given the complexity of technology and its impacts, the chapter elucidates different perspectives on this topic rather than summaries of detailed findings in a particular area of technology. The central thesis of the chapter is a follows: Technology's impact on work is contingent on a broad set of factors, including the reasons for its introduction, management philosophy, the labor-management contract, the degree of a shared agreement about technology and work organization, and the process of technology development and implementation. How this is viewed varies with different theoretical paradigms. Looking through a variety of paradigms provides a richer view of the phenomenon, though integrating these perspectives remains problematic. Historically, technology was treated as a deterministic causal force with predictable impacts. More recently there is a recognition of the complexity of technology and its relationship to work which is both bi-directional and dependent on a number of contingent factors. One set of factors integral to the “impact” of technology is the dynamics of the change process and in fact the change process and “outcomes” are inextricably linked. We conclude that the social reality of technology implementation is highly complex. Very different technologies are brought into very different social settings for very different reasons, often with completely opposite effects and thus complex theories that recognize the emergent and socially constructed nature of technology are needed.

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/content/journals/10.1146/annurev.soc.25.1.575
1999-08-01
2024-06-13
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  • Article Type: Review Article
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