James Cortada and the The labor of computing

Dr. Cortada writes about his analyis of how the use of IT transforms American companies and industries. He looked at 35-40 different industries (including education and governmental work) to derive several conclusions:
  • different industries do not work in isolation, but learn from eachother
  • new IT was implemented incrementally to lower operating costs and improve interenal business operations
  • the use of happened concurrently with fashionable managerial practices
  • by the end of the 1980s, suppliers, producers, and customers were more integrated
  • firms and industries have moved into an undefined style of operation profoudly affected by technology
  • industries resemble ecosystems through homogenous uses of technology
Cortada's summary is interesting, though many of these findings seem fairly unsurprising. For those of us who grew up in such technology, do we really need an in-depth historical analysis to tell us these things (particularly that managers embrace technology to increased speed and efficiency at the workplace)? Perhaps so.

In The Digital Hand Cortada raises some questions for future research. He is interested to extend his analysis beyond the US context to look at other countries' industries. I agree this is interesting, but is it assuming the nation-state as the predominant scale of interest, particularly given the reorganization of financial markets and flows across state boundaries (i.e. globalization)? Such a research study can benefit from also noting how industry adoption of IT practices associated with reterritorialization - deterritorialization of international business and trade.

In Digital Applications in Higher Education Cortada provides a thorough discussion of the history of IT adoption and use within institutions of higher learning. His descriptions tell of the trends within colleges and universities that were effected by advances in technology development and shifting attitudes by administrators, professors, and students.

One question I have with regard to this discussion: How does IT affect the traditionally vertical and departmental flow of money, resources, and power within these institutions? Does it reinforce the tension of turf and control between departments, or does it sometimes facilitate more interdisciplinary or cross-displinary work?

1 comment:

Madra said...

Thanks for writing this.