It is now a commonplace to proclaim that rapid changes in communication and computer technology will radically transform the way in which white- collar work in the United States is done. For many, the implication is that although some may be buoyed up and others towed under by the tide of technology, the tide is inexorable. Yet the computer and telecommunications technologies are flexible and demand that we make choices about their use. These technologies have the potential to deaden and routinize challenging work or to free people from work that is now deadening and routine. They allow people to work at places and times that suit them, but they also allow employers to exploit workers or to transport jobs to regions with cheap and docile labor supplies. They have the potential to increase productivity or to disorient offices and to squander resources.
Can computers and telecommunications be introduced into the white-collar workplace in a manner that both increases the quality and quantity of the goods and services that organizations produce and also increases the quality of working life for the people who produce these goods and services? The present volume brings together leading scientists and practictioners to address these choices. Most of the chapters in this volume were commissioned for a conference on technology and the transformation of white-collar work that was sponsored by Bell Communications Research in June 1984. The authors are social scientists from America and Europe, from academe and from industry, interested in exploring the future and in understanding the past. They share a common desire to understand the ways in which white-collar technology can be introduced into the workplace to exploit its usefulness without exploiting its users.