The shaping of automation

A historical analysis of the interaction between technology and organization, 1950-1985
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ISBN 9789065504142
Auteur(s) Dirk de Wit
NUR codes 680 , 685
Jaar van uitgave 1994
Druk 1
Reeks Publikaties FHKW Rotterdam
Nummer in reeks 13
Bindwijze ing
Aantal bladzijdes 409

After computers had proven their success in the fields of science and the military, suppliers explored their potential in other applications. The use of electronic equipment within businesses appeared on the agenda in the early fifties, and accelerated after the mid-fifties. The office automation gave birth to the metaphor of the paperless office. The shaping of automation discusses the proliferation of these machines and focuses on the development of computer systems within an organizational context. Instead of seeing organizations operating between demand-pull or technology-push positions, technology and organization are studied as a process of interaction. To investigate the relationships between industry, buyer and technology, three different cases are analyzed and compared over a period of about thirty years. The three organizations selected all operate in service industries: the Dutch postal and telephone authority KN PTT, the giro institute NMB-Postbank and the insurance company Nillmij (now called Aegon). De Wit analyzes the organizational and technological development of these three companies focusing on the decision-making processes dealing with computer systems and their implementation. By employing a heuristic framework the dynamic interplay between customer and vendor, between organization and technology becomes clear throughout the book. The underlying business historical perspective shows the important role of organizations in the dissemination of computer systems. By studying organizations one gains insight in specific circumstances influencing the dispersion of computer technology and factors contributing to the rise of the information society. De Wit demonstrates how people with their 'rational' motives and hidden agendas affect choices towards technology. At the same time The shaping of automation allows an understanding of how a comparative method and social sciences can be integrated in historical research. In doing so De Wit addresses the question how the interaction between technology and organization is shaped by different groups, and how organization and technology are shaped by these interaction processes. Throughout the development of technology and organization, different dynamics emerged. These dynamics - and their impact - can only be made visible through historical analysis. Rather than seeing historical description as a tool, it forms a necessary dimension in the study of technology and organizations.    

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