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In the Age of the Smart Machine: Future of Work and Power Hardcover – 26 Sep 1988


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Butterworth-Heinemann (26 Sept. 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0434924865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0434924868
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,163,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 31 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
It is a very good book that gives to the reader the opportunity to understand how the working environment changes after the implementation of IT. It provides a critical thought about the informative age and is rich in neologisms (i.e. electronicese, panopticon, informate) and paradigms from existing industries. This book has influenced the business thought of 1990's and throught my experience I can admitt that it is still modern. Even though, sometimes it is difficult to understand what the author expresses and you are led to read the same sentences many times. I would recommend this book to people that are new in the field of IT and seek to acquire a sociological background of this area. However, this book doesn't touch specific technologies and presents employees as "victims" in the modern, information driven organisations.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
An historically informed interdisciplinary account of work. 3 Feb. 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I use this text in a course called "Work and Community" because it shows how various disciplines--history, philosophy, sociology, cognitive psychology --can inform discussions about how work is organized, and the kinds of power or authority relationships that workplaces, especially those where computers have changed the nature of work, abound. What's particularly interesting for me is the way Zuboff hits on the sort of literacy encouraged by computerized workplaces, and how information sharing requires real re-thinking of traditional roles of managers. In addition, the historical treatment of management as a developing professional competence would be critically enlightening for those who tend to study "business" as if it were merely a skill to acquire, rather than something with a history to be understood.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Lead with the subtitle "The Future of Work and Power...." 1 July 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Zuboff's book should have been titled "The Future of Work and Power in the Age of the Smart Machine," because while the book does speak to the increasing computerization of the workplace, it does so in an historical context regarding how power has been and might be distributed between worker and manager. Automation is the effort to remove human skill from work, making humans the servants of the "smart machine." Informating is the way in which the computer can potentially change the workplace by distributing "management information" and power to the workers, making them co-equal partners in the enterprise. Zuboff suggests we still have a choice about which way to go, despite our self-protective impulses
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
14 years and still looking good 19 Aug. 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I re-read this book again this year (2002) after a decade of its first publication in 1988, it still looks amazingly current, especially consider internet's wide adoption since 1995.
It was as though the smart machines and their relationships with human workplace has not changed since 1988. Even in silicon valley where I work, with so many tech companies with managers trained in technology background, their orgazniations keeps failing by repeating the single-minded strategy - replace human with technology.
As long as corporate America keep ignoring the main advice of t this book - that to fully utilize technology you have to understand the non-technical aspects of it (historical, psychological, social) - real productivity gain might be limited, until maybe we move everything to Bangalore, India.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Zuboff explains congnative styles and computers 3 Dec. 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I first read this book back in 1989 when I was working for NeXT computer, and it has remained in my mind as a landmark book. I heard a presentation from a person from Allegeny college that referenced this book. He was discussing the fact that when people are given different tools they solve problems in different ways. If all you have is DOS you abiltiy to solve information problems will be based on what you can do with DOS. But if you had a NeXT... Since reading this book I have tried to apply these concepts to my teaching object-oriented programming and high reuse problem solving techniques. This book really helped me understand that using advanced computers is a lot more then just teaching people a different windowing system. It is about getting them to rethink they WAY they solve thier problems using the cognative styles enabled by advanced software systems. Tim Berners-Lee could never have drempt of the web from a DOS system. But from a NeXT...
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Change Management, Knowing, Expertise, Decision Making, and the Nature of Work 25 Nov. 2013
By Alicia Crumpton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book can be so challenging to get and it's such a shame! Ultimately this book is about knowing, expertise, decision making, and the nature of work. Zuboff describes two paper/pulp mills - a traditional versus a state of the art.

In the traditional mill, workers knew their plant and the quality of the pulp by smell, touch, and sound. Their experience, senses, and history informed their decision making. In the state of the art plant, operators made decisions through the use of data displayed on computer screens - they didn't have the same sensory association with plant operations and/or pulp processing as the older workers. Similarly, older workers could not look at a data printout and tell you what the #s meant in terms of plant status, maintenance, or pulp processing.

Zuboff, affords a rich opportunity to understand generational differences in work, knowledge, expertise, and decision making. Workers' ways of knowing and their sense of reality about the way they approach work can be fundamentally different. As a consultant helping clients adopt technology - I found this book invaluable in the specific ways it helped me understand
a) individual differences in learning, knowing, and sense of reality;
b) the very real differences between sensory knowing and data driven understanding;
c) the resistance to change - not just a harrumph but a real sense of disorientation and fear related to a way of knowing and thinking that can be very different;
d) strategies for helping people navigate change and learn new ways such as bridging old ways of thinking and knowing with new ways; the importance of a phased approach rather than all or nothing; and
e) the human side of organizations - this book increased my sensitivity to workers places within what we are doing, their values, and the valuing of their real responses to change.

A truly excellent, eye opening book. I recommend this book for any leader or consultant who leads change, implements projects that introduce workplace changes, or those just interested in understanding worker knowing, learning, and decision making.
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