Social Issues and White-Collar Technology: An Overview
Robert E. Kraut Bell Communications Research
We are in the midst of an information revolution. Decreasing prices and increasing capabilities of computer and telecommunications systems will push these technologies into ever expanding use. This chapter outlines issues necessary to understand the ways these new technologies have been and can be used to change the nature of white-collar work. What will happen to the numbers of white-collar jobs? What will happen to their quality? And can we predict these changes at all? The rest of the book attempts answers.
The history of work has been, in part, the history of gradual changes in work technologies. Yet we term some of these changes revolutionary because their cumulative effects are so large. The industrial and agricultural revolutions took decades, but had the cumulative effect of transforming how manufactured goods and food are produced and how factories and farms are organized. They also had major indirect influences on many other aspects of society, including where people live, how they spend their time, and how their families are organized.
We are now in the midst of an information revolution. Both the visionaries and the doomsayers proclaim it. Certainly as Baker ( 1973) and Iacono and Kling (this volume) have documented, office work has had its share of technological innovations over the decades. But primarily because of declining costs, computer and telecommunications technologies are now influencing a wider range of tasks and a wider range of workers than did