Monday September 1st, 2014, 7:27 am (EDT)

Windows on the Workplace

Technology, Jobs, and the Organization of Office Work

Windows on the Workplace
Paperback, 176 pages

ISBN: 1-58367-113-7

Released: May 2004

Price: $17

In this eye-opening book, Joan Greenbaum tells the story of changes in management policies, work organization, and the design of office information systems from the 1950s to the present. Windows on the Workplace takes us behind the news stories of the highly efficient, high-tech workplace and shows us the ways in which technologies—computers, mobile phones, the internet—have been adapted by management to reshape the way work is done. In tracing the introduction of new technologies, Greenbaum reveals how organizations use them to benefit from both increased profits and more intense control over the workforce.

Windows on the Workplace takes as its starting-point the experience of office workers and their own accounts of work. The book includes interviews with a wide range of workers, including young people entering workplaces in which the expectation of stable, long-term employment is no longer the norm. Greenbaum’s approach is to locate their experiences and expectations within broader social and economic patterns, and to show how these patterns are constantly changing. The book traces the ways that freelance, part-time, and temporary work is created, and the form it takes as management outsources jobs around the world.

This book also exposes the myth that technology alone determines the way work is organized and outsourced. Greenbaum’s rapid-paced prose highlights how all office work, including programming and web development, is being divided up into smaller parcels so that organizations can outsource the divided jobs out to new sources of cheaper labor. In exposing the myths about how technologies are really created, she gives readers some insight into alternatives. This updated edition offers ample evidence about how internet related jobs, skills and pay scales are not increasing as the media claims, as well as how work-time has expanded to fill work/commuting/entertainment and home life.

Joan Greenbaum is one of the sharpest writers on workplace technologies and their consequences for office workers. In this revised and updated edition she has brought the argument up-to-date by exploding many of the techno-myths of our time.

—Stanley Aronowitz, distinguished professor, Sociology and Urban Education, CUNY Graduate School

A lucid and authoritative account of the development of office work over the last half-century.

—Ursula Huws, Director, Analytica

Provides a view of contemporary ‘informated’ working conditions that keeps sight of the persistent logics of capital, while also shedding new light on its most recent shifts and transformations. The clarity of Greenbaum’s prose makes this book a sophisticated contribution to research, that will also be an invaluable aid in introducing students to these issues.

—Lucy Suchman, professor, Anthropology of Science and Technology

Center for Science Studies, Lancaster University, UK

Table of Contents

Preface to the New Edition

  1. Through the Looking Glass
  2. The 1950s and 1960s: Dawn of the Computer Age
  3. The 1970s: The Office as the Factory of the Future
  4. The 1980s: Stumbling Towards Automated Offices
  5. The 1990s: Reengineering the Office
  6. The 1990s: The Rise of the Internet
  7. The Office of the Future may be Home
  8. Shaking Off False Assumptions

Epilogue: Downsizing

Joan Greenbaum is professor of computer information systems at La Guardia Community College and professor of environmental psychology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Greenbaum is active in her union, the Professional Staff Congress (AFT Local 2334) where she serves as a chapter chairperson and as co-coordinator of Health and Safety. Her other books include In the Name of Efficiency (1979) and Design at Work (1991).