Trapped in the Net: The Unanticipated Consequences of Computerization

Trapped in the Net: The Unanticipated Consequences of Computerization

by Gene I. Rochlin
     
 

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ISBN-10: 0691002479

ISBN-13: 9780691002477

Pub. Date: 07/27/1998

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Voice mail. E-mail. Bar codes. Desktops. Laptops. Networks. The Web. In this exciting book, Gene Rochlin takes a closer look at how these familiar and pervasive productions of computerization have become embedded in all our lives, forcing us to narrow the scope of our choices, our modes of control, and our experiences with the real world. Drawing on fascinating

Overview

Voice mail. E-mail. Bar codes. Desktops. Laptops. Networks. The Web. In this exciting book, Gene Rochlin takes a closer look at how these familiar and pervasive productions of computerization have become embedded in all our lives, forcing us to narrow the scope of our choices, our modes of control, and our experiences with the real world. Drawing on fascinating narratives from fields that range from military command, air traffic control, and international fund transfers to library cataloging and supermarket checkouts, Rochlin shows that we are rapidly making irreversible and at times harmful changes in our business, social, and personal lives to comply with the formalities and restrictions of information systems.

The threat is not the direct one once framed by the idea of insane robots or runaway mainframes usurping human functions for their own purposes, but the gradual loss of control over hardware, software, and function through networks of interconnection and dependence. What Rochlin calls the computer trap has four parts: the lure, the snare, the costs, and the long-term consequences. The lure is obvious: the promise of ever more powerful and adaptable tools with simpler and more human-centered interfaces. The snare is what usually ensues. Once heavily invested in the use of computers to perform central tasks, organizations and individuals alike are committed to new capacities and potentials, whether they eventually find them rewarding or not. The varied costs include a dependency on the manufacturers of hardware and software—and a seemingly pathological scramble to keep up with an incredible rate of sometimes unnecessary technological change. Finally, a lack of redundancy and an incredible speed of response make human intervention or control difficult at best when (and not if) something goes wrong. As Rochlin points out, this is particularly true for those systems whose interconnections and mechanisms are so deeply concealed in the computers that no human being fully understands them.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691002477
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
07/27/1998
Pages:
310
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents

Preface xi
Acknowledgments xv
1 Introduction 3
Prologue 3
Enter the Computer 5
Compliance and Control 7
The Structure of the Argument 11
The Structure of the Book 13
2 Autogamous Technology 15
Introduction 15
A Brief Historical Essay 16
Operating Systems 23
The Dynamics of Growth 29
The Hegemony of Design 32
3 Networks of Connectivity: Webs of Dependence 35
Introduction 35
From Anarchy to Networks 38
The Interconnected Office 46
Conclusion 48
4 Taylorism Redux? 51
Introduction 51
The Search for Managerial Control 53
The Deskilling Controversy 61
Expertise Lost 67
Heterogeneous Systems 69
Conclusion 71
5 Computer Trading 74
Introduction 74
Markets and Exchanges 76
Automating Markets 82
Conclusion 88
6 Jacking into the Market 91
The Demise of Barings P L C 91
Trading in Cyberspace 94
Global Markets 99
Conclusion 105
Epilogue 106
7 Expert Operators and Critical Tasks 108
Having the Bubble 108
Pilot Error 112
The Glass Cockpit 115
Air Traffic Control 119
Industrial and Other Operations 123
The Computer in the Loop 125
Conclusion 128
8 Smart Weapons, Smart Soldiers 131
Introduction 131
Industrial War 132
Techno-Industrial War 135
The Postwar Transition 137
Quantity versus Quality 140
Trading Tooth for Tail 144
Conclusion 147
9 Unfriendly Fire 150
Introduction 150
A "Reasonable Choice of Disaster" 152
The USS Stark 154
Tragedy over the Persian Gulf 156
Conclusion 166
10 The Logistics of Techno-War 169
Introduction 169
The Gulf War 171
Redefining Effectiveness 182
Computers and the Transformation of War 184
11 C3I in Cyberspace
Introduction 188
The Ways and Means of Modern Warfare 191
Moving toward Cyberspace 199
The Virtual Battlefield 202
Conclusion 207
12 Invisible Idiots 210
Introduction 210
Standardization and Slack 212
Virtual Organizations in a Real World 214
Conclusion 216
Notes 219
Bibliography 265
Index 285

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