Friday, October 29, 2004

for 1 November

1. What is the connection between the arguments made and the evidence presented in each of this week's articles? Do Ensmenger, Prasad, and the authors of the article on computers and productivity bother to prove their points?

2. What are the real life alternatives to the historical processes which are described in the three articles, i.e., resubordination of programmers to managers, artificial caps on job growth due to industry adoption of international standards, and organizational change induced by information automation?

3. Do management rights exist?

Questions, this week's trilogy

(Now, when's the Return of the King extended-edition DVD coming out again? Er, sorry.)

  1. How much "productivity gain," either historically or currently, is attributable to moving work further down the skills-and-pay chain? Brynjolfsson and Hitt paint this rosy picture of empowered workers doing better work -- but what happened to the workers at the one firm who resisted change? Demoted? Fired? Outsourced? What?

  2. Ahhhhh, management happy-talk. But seriously. Is it at least possible that the gains in "efficiency" realized by standards-and-TQM-implementing firms in India lead eventually to actual quality gains? I'm not sure there's been time enough for the changes to sink in (again, see Brynjolfsson and Hitt). I'm not wedded to this suggestion, mind you; I just don't think Prasad considered it adequately.

  3. Perhaps Greg would be willing to comment on how his experience speaks to Ensmenger's assertions about management and computer programmers?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

11/1 discussion questions

1. I was fascinated to read Prasad's description of the "dark side" of TQM. We've been talking about it quite a bit in my management class (and taking a postive perspective), mainly as a customer-based, customer-driven process of analysis and evaluation that actually empowers staff to be decision-makers in their organization. So, does Prasad's view of quality management as driven more by cost-effectiveness than actual quality apply to the nonprofit sector as well? Or do the focus and mission of nonprofits make it a more benevolent management strategy in that context?

2. Ensmenger makes a convincing argument for fitting computer programmers into the realm of technicians; however, something about it didn't quite sit right with me. In what ways do programmers NOT fit into the role of technician? Are there other ways of classifying programmers that also work?

3. Brynjolfsson and Hitt make the observation that while purchasing technology is relatively cheap, managing organizational change is expensive. Considering points from the Ensmenger article, what are some ways that management and "technicians" can work together to make this process smoother?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Shwartz, "Getting Real"

The science-fiction story about temps I mentioned in yesterday's class was "Getting Real" by Susan Shwartz. It has been anthologized in Newer York (Roc, ed. Lawrence Watt-Evans 1991) and Suppose They Gave A Peace and Other Stories, a Shwartz-only collection (Gale Group 2002).

SCLS has the Shwartz collection, but not the Watt-Evans. The UW has the Watt-Evans but not the Shwartz. Go figure.

Monday, October 25, 2004

I forgot one...

In what way(s) does the idea of temp work foster hope? In what way(s) is this 'false' hope? What leads people to temp work and what do they hope to gain from it? How is this different from the worker identity that agencies construct in their marketing enterprises?

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Temps Questions and Commentary

Another comparison to Orr: Rogers remarks that 'dress' and 'appearance' are important for good/high-end placement for clerical temps. How can we correlate the temps' experiences with dress and appearance to that of the xerox technicians? How does dress construct identity within these systems?

2. While on the subject of identity construction...How does naming serve to identify workers' status within these forms of employment? What does it mean to be a contract attorney vs. a temp worker? What are the implications?

3. The student of rhetoric asks, in what way do the means of discursive control outlined by Rogers exist or operate in all forms of employment? In what ways are these methods specific to THS? For those out there who have temped, can you throw some examples our way? And how can we compare the storytelling we see in Temps with that which we see in Talking About Machines?

temps questions

1. Although Rogers has stated that the comparison between clerical and lawyer temps is a general overview, with not enough interviews from the lawyer temps to draw any conclusions, I found some differences between the two interesting. For example, Rogers includes both the martial and child status of the lawyer temps but not the clerical. Also, perhaps less significant, is the lack of discussion of jobs being cut short for the lawyer temps, are we to assume this wasn't a problem for temp lawyers? Do Roger's ommisions add or take away anything from her arguement?

2. While white, middle class, female workers seemed to be the epitome of what temp agencies and their clients were looking for in terms of clerical temps, the women lawyer temps seemed to be on the lower spectrum of options within their temping. What do these findings imply about women's place within the general labor market?

3. I could not help comparing the discussion of the isolation facing temps with that of Orr's community of technicains, dependent on talking to each other. Do you think that having a profession to identify with decreases this isolation? The clerical temps section seemed to focus on isolation much more than the lawyer temps, where instead the concern was networking.