Technology and the Transformation of White-Collar Work

By Robert E. Kraut | Go to book overview

11
Social Interaction and Office Communication: Effects on User Evaluation of New Technologies

Jeanette L. Blomberg Palo Alto Research Center, Xerox Corp.


ABSTRACT

Based on field observations conducted in varied office settings, this chapter explores the interplay between technology and the social organization of the workplace. Differences observed in these office environments suggest that understanding how machine use is integrated into the workplace requires directing attention beyond the human-machine dyad to the network of co-worker interactions that support both machines and office work. Of particular importance is the way in which information about the machine's day-to-day operation is exchanged among end-users, knowledgeable others, and technical support staff. In environments where information about the ongoing behavior of the machine is consistently channeled through an established, recognized individual or group, end-users have available a reliable source for information about both the current status and performance history of the machine or system. These knowledgeable individuals or groups, acting as repositories for information about the operation of the technology, also serve as important links between end-users and technical support staff. The availability of these knowledgeable others, in turn, is related to the organizational relationship between these individuals and end-users, their geographic location relative to the technology and end-users, and the reward and advancement system operative within the organization. Results of this study suggest that realizing the full advantage from new technologies will require more than designing "self-explanatory" machines; it will require conceptualizing human-machine interactions as embedded in ongoing human interactions wherein the "social" significance of the technology is established.

Much has been written in the last few years about the impact of new office technologies on people's work lives. There are those who have speculated

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