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The Machine at Work: Technology, Work and Organization

ISBN: 978-0-7456-0925-6
208 pages
May 1997, Polity
The Machine at Work: Technology, Work and Organization (0745609252) cover image
This highly topical book is a concise and accessible account of the relationship between technology and work. Firstly, it reviews and critically assesses a variety of recent approaches to the social and cultural dimensions of technology. Secondly, it examines the implications of these new approaches for existing ideas about the nature of technology and work organization.

At the core of much thinking about technology is the assumption that the technical character and capacity of artefacts is given. The enduring image of deus ex machina captures the idea that it is the essential capacity 'within' a technology which, in the end, accounts for the way we organize ourselves, our work and other life experiences. Recent work in the sociology of technology, by contrast, sets out relativist and constructivist accounts of technology, which begin to challenge this central assumption.

The Machine at Work includes a reinterpretation of the Luddites; a review of the social processes of development in information technology; a reassessment of theories of the role of technology in work; and an analysis of the common limitations of some constructivist and feminist perspectives on technology. The book argues that only a commitment to a particular conception of constructivism enables the kind of radical rethinking about technology and work relations that is needed.

This engaging and informative text will be of interest to students in a range of subject areas - from sociology, organizational theory and behaviour, to industrial relations, management and business studies.

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Acknowledgements.

Introduction: Deus ex Machina. .

1. Theories of Technology.

2. The Luddites: Diablo Ex Machina. .

3. Configuring the User: Inventing New Technologies.

4. Some Failures of Nerve in Constructivist and Feminist Analyses of Technology.

5. Technology and Work Organizations.

6. What's Social about Being Shot?.

Notes.

References.

Index.
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Keith Grint is Lecturer in Management Studies and Fellow in Organization Behaviour at Templeton College, Oxford. Steve Woolgar is Director of CRICT and Professor of Sociology at Brunel, University of West London.
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* A clearly written critical assessment of recent approaches to the technical, social and cultural dimensions of technology.
* This book sheds new light on the implications of new theories for existing ideas about the nature of technology, especially the relation between technology and work.
* Includes a reinterpretation of the Luddites and a review of the social processes of development of information technology.
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"A challenging analysis of the relations between work and technology from an anti-essentialist perspective. Key issues concerning the production and consumption of technology are debated in a lucid and scholarly manner. Highly recommended." Professor John Hassard, Keele University

"The application of contemporary sociological models of technological change in the workplace is still in its infancy. The Machine at Work plays a crucial role in bridging this gap. It is one of the few recent publications helping the study of technological change at work to come of age." Professor Richard Badham, University of Wollongong

"This book is well written and accessible. Besides being of interest to scholars, especially students of sociology, organisational theory, innovation and management studies, The Machine at Work should provide stimulating reading for those with a more general interest in contemporary analyses of technology." The Times Higher Education Supplement

"A fine introductory text." Information Technology and People

"[A] fascinating book ... [It] raise[s] very real methodological questions and, what is more to the point, attempts to provide answers to them." British Journal of Sociology

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