The development of computing after the Second World War involved a fundamental reassessment of information, communication, knowledge—and work. No merely technical project, it was prompted in part by the challenges of industrial automation and the shift toward white-collar work in mid-century America. This dissertation therefore seeks out the connections between technical research projects and organization-theory analyses of industrial management in the Cold War years. Rather than positing either a model of technological determinism or one of social construction, it gives a more nuanced description by treating the dynamics as one of constant social and technological co-evolution.
This dissertation charts the historical development of what it has meant to work with computers by examining the deep connections between technologists and mid-century organization theorists from the height of managerialism in the 1940s through the decline of the "liberal consensus" in the 1970s. Computing was enmeshed in ongoing debates concerning automation and the relationship between human labor and that of machines. The work that would become known as "artificial intelligence" grew out of studies of mental work in an attempt to automate the process of making routine decisions within large organizations. Likewise, the technical content of operating systems and programs reinforced ideas about what constituted meaningful labor, even as they created a new basis for assessing the value of mental work. The development of these technologies occurred in a direct relationship with ongoing conversations about American economic development in the 1950s and 1960s. By the mid-1960s, large computer systems were viewed through the prism of the Great Society, while smaller minicomputers were associated with a libertarian backlash. The direct experiences of working with different machines provided a foundation for rethinking the organization of the American office and the place of mental work within an "Information Age."
|Advisor:||Carson, Cathryn L.|
|Commitee:||Hollinger, David A., Winickoff, David E.|
|School:||University of California, Berkeley|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 72/12, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||American history, Science history, Organizational behavior|
|Keywords:||Computer science, Computers, Engineering, STS, White-collar, Work organization|
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