Saturday, October 02, 2004

rosenhaft/downey questions

1. Rosenhaft explains that poor Mr. Dies had every reason to expect that his work with the Intelligenz-Comtoir and the Calenberg would expediate his assent to the class of gentlemen and the scientific community. He was working with new technologies in a new field that directly affected the lives of a great number of citizens. Yet, it did't work out that way - Dies didn't do any social climbing. In fact, it seems that the longer he held his position, the lower he fell in the estimation of his employers and the public. Why wasn't Dies welcomed into the fold of the new information class? Why was he, in fact, actively excluded, and in what ways?

2. Barley & Orr and Zabusky all view technical work as being somehow positioned at a crossroads. Technical workers have a foot in two worlds - one moving forward technologically and one "not quite ready to leave behind the categories of industrialism." I agree with Dorothea that there are many places where this concept of boundaries fits in, and wanted to add to her examples the idea of boundaries in the nature of the labor performed by tech/information workers. Argh... this isn't coming out as a question. I guess my 'question' is pretty much: "Yeah, I want to talk about boundaries, too."

3. "The past isn't over - it's not even past." Post-industrial society, information age, technological revolution - whatever you want to call it - isn't happening in a vacuum. How do the social structures and institutions created by industrial and pre-industrial society still operate now? How "appropriate" are they - do they help us or hold us back? Also, what aspects of industrial and pre-industrial society have disappeared, and what has replaced them?

Friday, October 01, 2004

Rosenhaft/Downey questions

1. We know from Rosenhaft's evidence the base sum from which Dies's and Eisendecker's salaries and pensions were drawn, 500 Rtl. (=Reichsthaler?), and also that each suffered from a work-related health problem. What else can we infer about their hours and other "terms and conditions of employment"?

2. Although responsible for all phases of record-keeping for the Widow's fund, Dies and Eisendecker seem to have been responsible for maintaining the fund's public image, much as the help desk workers, telephone operators, and messengers Greg discusses are held accountable for being the company's public faces. Dies also had the opportunity to damage the Widow's fund in private, because he handled money and knew the Fund's secrets, just as system operators have control over users and access to proprietary information. How did and do these employees mediate between their personal interests and their job responsibilities depending on variations in working conditions, treatment by the employer, and their stake in the success of the employer?

3. What control if any would access to collective bargaining have given Dies and Eisendecker over their working conditions? What advantage would accrue to system operators if they were not treated as managers and had the opportunity to bargain collectively?

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Questions, Downey and Rosenhaft

  1. Perhaps Greg would unpack his notion of "boundary" a little in class? He defines it as relative to subnetworks within an internetwork, but it seems to me there's more going on there: boundaries between network users and maintainers, boundaries between labor and the study thereof, boundaries between labor and management.
  2. In Rosenhaft's article, poor Mr. Dies, despite obvious competence his managers lacked, could not parlay that competence into, shall we say, a competency. Rosenhaft appears to attribute this to vestiges of the patronage system, but I'm not so sure -- it seems a tremendously modern situation to me. So I'm asking: why is the power relationship there so one-sided? Why are Dies's numbers trustworthy when it comes to actuarial analysis, but not when it comes to his own household's financial needs?
  3. Could we talk about the boundaries between "technical" and "professional" work (Downey p. 228, in re: computer programmers)? I'm sure there's a set of distinctions; I'm just highly unclear on what they are, which makes it hard for me to see how the situation of programmers violates them.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Drat, Last Again!

It is a good thing I chose not to indulge in reading the latest Lemony Snicket novel, or this would have been even later.

In the interest of full disclosure, I need to mention that not just once, but twice I fell asleep while reading Bell. While his prose is not quite as turgid as a certain historian of literacy who shall remain unnamed, it comes close.

1. Not a question so much as a statement (namely, ick!): "Whatever the extaordinary appeal of Marxism as a social appeal, it was in backward countries, not advanced capitalist countries, that Marxist movements have been most successful" (56). [italics are mine]

Bell fails to examine his own assumptions, those ideas and ideologies upon which his own worldview are based. Maybe this is my question: if we were to flesh out the assumptions on which Bell grounds this statement, would the argument hold up? How do his biases effect his conclusions and/or affect reaction to his conclusions.

2. "Not only is there a much greater degree of educational attainment, but there is also a greater degree of cultural homogeny" (143). What is Bell's basis for this correlation. Does greater "educational attainment" lead to "cultural homogeny," or are there other factors at play here? In a text full of references to information, he doesn't seem to consider the manner in which information (and entertainment) are disseminated and how this might also be a factor. Or does he?

3. As you probably noticed, I've been busy examining the assumptions behind Bell's argument. Here is another item that troubled me. "News is no longer reported but interpreted"(468). When had it ever been otherwise? While admittedly discussions of representation are perhaps more in vogue now than when Bell wrote his book, he has, I think, quoted enough dead Germans (and others) as well as referred to ethos, the representation of character, the idea of information/knowledge, to understand that all news, all information, is interpreted. Since he refers, at times, to Plato, shouldn't he be more consciously aware of the Forms?

I guess all of this (and other points of question that I didn't post) stem from this issue of assumptions and biases. What did or didn't Bell see, consider, "forecast, etc., because of assumptions he made based on his definitions, the methodologies he privileges (and I have heaps to say about this), etc?

Sunday, September 26, 2004