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Social Psychology and New Technology

Social Psychology and New Technology

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J o u r n a lo f O c c u p a tio n a lP s y c h o lo g y , 1 9 8 8 ,6 1 ,6 7 - 7 7 . P rin te d in G re a t B rita in
6 7
\u00a9 1 9 8 8 T h e B ritis h P s y c h o lo g ic a l S o c ie ty
A h isto r y o f s o c ia l p s y c h o lo g ic a l r e a c tio n s to
n ew
te c h n o lo g y
J im
C a r lo p io
In d u s tr ia l T e c h n o lo g y In s titu te , P O B o x1 4 8 5 , A n nA rb o r, M I4 8 1 0 6 , U S A
T h e h is to ric a l d e v e lo p m e n t o f n e w
te c h n o lo g y c a n b e u s e fu lly

view ed as a three- phase process w ith a num ber of interm ediate form s. F or exam ple, technology m ay be seen as having progressed from

d e p e n d e n t m a c h in e s (e .g . b u c k e t e le v a to rs ), to s e m i-
a u to m a tic m a c h in e s (e .g . J a c q u a rd
lo o m ) a n d , fin a lly , to a u to m a tic m a c h in e s (e .g .
c o n tin u o u s p ro c e s s te c h n o lo g ie s ). D e p e n d e n t m a c h in e s w e rel a b o u r - s a v i n g te c h n o lo -
g ie s fro m
the w orkers' point of view . They
w e re g e n e ra lly
p o s itiv e ly re g a rd e d a s
they eased our physical burden

a n d a llo w e d o u r in te lle c tu a l a d v a n c e m e n t. S e m i- a u to m a te d d e v ic e s o n ly re q u ire d th a tw e te n d to th e irn e e d s . T h e s e m a c h in e s w e re n o longer assistingu s. W ew ere, and in m any cases still are,assisting them . T hese la b o u r -

e n s la v in g devices require w orkers to perform
s e m i-a u to m a tic ta s k s d e m a n d in g little
m o re th a n re fle x iv e a tte n tio n . T h e th ir d p h a s e in th is h is to ry o f te c h n o lo g y m a y b e
seen from
the w orkers' point of viewa s the introduction ofla b o u r -r e p la c in g processes.
T h is te c h n o lo g y to ta lly re p la c e s th e h u m a n e le m e n t in p e rfo rm in g th e a c tu a l w o rk . It
re m o v e s th e w o rk e r fro m

the production process, for exam ple, into the processes of s u p e rv is io n , p la n n in g a n d /o r m a in te n a n c e o f th e e q u ip m e n t a n d s y s te m s . U n fo rtu n a - te ly , th is p h a s e a lso h a s th e p o te n tia l to d e v a lu e w o rk e rs , u n d e rm in e th e ir p o w e r a n d s k ills , a n d d is p la c e m a n y w o rk e rs fro m

th e ir jo b s .
F ro m
this historical review

of w orkers' reactions to technology, w orkers are fo u n d to re a c t a g a in s t tw oth in g s : firs t, a g a in s t e x p lo ita tio n o r u n s a tis fa c to ry w o rk in g c o n d itio n s (e .g . jo b fra c tio n a liz a tio n

o r o v e rs im p lific a tio n ) a n d , s e c o n d , a g a in s t jo b displacem ent. C urrent academ ic concerns and innovative business practices (e .g . job re d e s ig n , s o c io te c h n ic a l s y s te m s th e o ry , p a rtic ip a tiv e

s ty le s ), a lth o u g h
not com -

p letely satisfacto ry , ad d ress th e first of th e tw o p ro b lem s trad itio n ally asso ciated w ith new technology by attem pting to m odify w orkers' and m anagers'jobs and environ- m e n ts to b e tte r s u it th e ir n e e d s . T h e s e c o n d p ro b le m , jo b d is p la c e m e n t, h a s b e e n to o long ignored by E urope and A m erica. A lthoughw e seem to have progressed in the last 2 0 0 y e a rs fro m

L u d d is m
to unionism , w e are still w ithin
the sam e ' m ind
set' of

m a n a g e m e n t v s . th e w o rk e rs , th e c o n tro lle d fig h tin g th e c o n tro llin g , th a t w e w e re in 200 years ago. It is this ' cultural conversation ' that w e are in, w hich keeps m anage- m e n t fro m

se e in g th e lo n g -ra n g e b e n e fits in tre a tin g w o rk e rs a s th e ir m o s t v a lu a b le partners. M anagem ent needs to see that it is w iser to devise production system s that m a k e u se o f th e fle x ib ility a n d in te llig e n c e o f p e o p le th a n it is to try a n d d e s ig n a ll th e ' life ' o u t o f p r o d u c tio n .

T he historical developm ent of ' new technology ' can usefully be view ed as a three- phase process w ith a num ber of interm ediate form s. F or exam ple, F riedm ann (1955) view ed technology as having progressed from

' d e p e n d e n t m a c h in e s w h e re fe e d in g , c o n tro l a n d re g u la tio n c o n s ta n tly d e p e n d e d o n th e h a n d o f m a n ' to ' s e m i-a u to m a tic m a c h in e s ' w h ic h re d u c e d th e in te rv e n tio n o f m a n , a n d fin a lly ,' b o rn o f th e p e rfe c tin g o f th e first tw o ' to a u to m a tic m a c h in e s ' in w h ic h th e w o rk e r is e lim in a te d in th e ro le

6 8
J imC a r lo p io
o f
o p e ra to r'
(p p .
1 7 7 -1 7 8 ).
E a rly
a tte m p ts
a t
m e c h a n iz a tio n
s u c h
a s
tra n s fe r

m achines or bucket elevators are exam ples of dependent m achines. T he Jacquard lo o m is a n illu s tra tio n o f F r ie d m a n n 's s e m i-a u to m a tic m a c h in e . F in a lly , c o n tin u o u s p ro c e s s in g te c h n o lo g ie s (e .g . p o w e r p la n ts , o il re fin e rie s a n d

chem ical processing
p la n ts ) a re th e a r c h e ty p ic a l' fu tty a u to m a tic ' m a c h in e s in th is c o n c e p tu a tiz a tio n .
W hen a new
phase begins, exam ples of new
te c h n o lo g ie s a re in tro d u c e d
a n d
spread. H ow ever, the use of equipm ent, m achinery and m ethods from

e a rlie r s ta g e s does not disappear. For exam ple, w hen the E uropean Industrial R evolution ushered in s e m i-a u to m a tic m a c h in e s p e o p le d id n o t s to p u s in g o r in v e n tin g n e w

d e p e n d e n t
m a c h in e s . L ik e w is e , w h e n
we m oved
in to
th e
(a u to m a tic )
th ird
p h a s e
w e w ere
s till e x p lo itin g th e in n o v a tio n s a s s o c ia te d w ith th e fa c to ry
and the U S
In d u stria l
R e v o lu tio n
was in
fu lt
s w in g . T h u s , th e s e
p h a s e s
a re
n o t d is c re te
o r
m u tu a tly
e x c lu s iv e . T h e y
a re , h o w e v e r, illu s tra tiv e o f th e m a jo r c h a n g e s a n d
te c h n o lo g ic a l
in n o v a tio n s w h ic h te d to th e s ta te o f a ffa irs w e fin d o u rs e lv e s in to d a y .
D ra w in g from
F r ie d m a n n 's c la s s ific a tio n s c h e m e a n d v ie w in g th e s e s ta g e s fro m
th e p o in t o f v ie w o f th e ir im p a c t o n th e w o rk e r te a d s to a n in te re s tin g
in te rp re tiv e
schem a from

w h ic h to e x a m in e th e e ffe c ts d iffe re n t ty p e s o f te c h n o lo g y h a v e h a d o n w orkers. A t first, equipm ent and m achines w ere used to assist people in doing their w o rk .

T h e s e
' d e p e n d e n t
m achines'
w ere
la b o u r -s a v in gte c h n o lo g ie s
fro m
th e
w orkers' point of view . T hey w ere generally positively regarded as they eased our
physical burden
a n d
a llo w e d
o u r
in te lle c tu a t
a d v a n c e m e n t. T e c h n o to g y

becam e increasingty advanced as our sciences exptored the frontiers of know tedge and we b e g a n to c re a te te c h n o lo g ic a lty

a d v a n c e d
m a c h in e s w h ic h n o to n g e r m e re ty
a id e d
u s in o u r e ffo rt, b u t a c tu a tly
d id
the m ajority
of the w ork
fo r u s . T h e s e

' sem i- a u to m a te d ' d e v ic e s o n ly re q u ire d th a t w e te n d to th e ir n e e d s . T h e y w e re n o lo n g e r a s s is tin g

us. In
fact we w ere, and
in m a n y
cases stilt are, assisting
th e m . T h e s e
m achines w ent beyond the tabour-saving devices of the first phase to a new phase of
la b o u r -e n s la v in g devices. In this phase w orkers'jobs require them
to perform
sem i-
a u to m a tic ta s k s d e m a n d in g littte m o re th a n re fie x iv e a tte n tio n . W o rk e rs , h o w e v e r,
c a n n o t b e c o m p te te ty fre e fro m
th e p ro c e s s n o r u s u a tty d e riv e a n y in te tte c tu a t s tim u -
la tio n fro m
it (F rie d m a n n , 1 9 5 5 ). T h e th ird p h a s e in th is h is to ry o f te c h n o lo g y m a y b e
seen from

the w orkers' point of view as the introductiono ila b o u r -r e p la c in g processes. T h is te c h n o to g y to ta tty re p ta c e s th e h u m a n e le m e n t in p e rfo rm in g th e a c tu a t w o rk . I t re m o v e s th e w o rk e r fro m

the production process, for exam pte, into the processes of
s u p e rv is io n , p ta n n in g
a n d /o r
m a in te n a n c e
of the
e q u ip m e n t
a n d
system s. This
ta b o u r-re p la c in g p h a s e h a s th e p o te n tia t to e te v a te th e w o rk e r to n e w
tevets w ithin
o rg a n iz a tio n a t s tru c tu re s . H a z a rd o u s o r m in d le s s jo b s a re b e tte r p e rfo rm e d
a u to -
m a tic a tty a n d n e w
h e ig h ts of p ro d u c tio n
e ffic ie n c y

a n d q u a tity c a n b e re a tiz e d b y o rg a n iz a tio n s e m p to y in g a u to m a tio n . U n fo rtu n a te ty , th is p h a s e a tso h a s th e p o te n tia t to devatue w orkers, underm ine their pow er and skitts, and disptace m any w orkers fro m

th e ir jo b s . S o c ia l p s y c h o to g ic a t re a c tio n s to th e s e th r e e p h a s e s w itt b e d is c u s s e d
a fte r a n e x a m in a tio n o f p re -in d u s tria t re a c tio n to m e c h a n iz a tio n .
A u to m a ta \u2014 p r e -in d u str ia l in flu e n c e s
M um ford
(1 9 3 4 )
s u g g e s ts
th a t
th e
in v e n tio n
o f
a u to m a ta
(m echanicat
o b je c ts ,
creatures and beings) had an im portant non-technological effect on people and on
S o c ia l p s y c h o lo g ic a l r e a c tio n s to n e w te c h n o lo g y
6 9
s o c ie ty . T h e s e
in v e n tio n s in flu e n c e d
1 7 th -c e n tu ry
p h ito s o p h ic a t th o u g h t b e c a u s e
th e y
s u g g e s te d
' m e c h a n ic a t
a ttrib u te s
fo r
m en
a n d
e x te n d e d
th e
a n a to g ie s
o f
m e c h a n iz a tio n
to m ore
s u b tte a n d
c o m p te x
organic facts' (p. 41). For exam pte.
B o rin g (1 9 5 0 ) m e n tio n s th e in fiu e n c e

of m echanical hum ans on D escartes' appli- c a tio n o f th e p rin c ip le s o f p h y s ic s to m a n a n d o n h is c o n c e p tio n o f th e b o d y a s a m a c h in e . A b o d y w ith o u t a s o u l, w h e th e r it b e a n a n im a l o r a m e c h a n ic a l fig u re o fa p e rs o n , w a s a n a u to m a to n a c c o rd in g to D e s c a rte s (1 6 6 2 ). A little le ss th a n a c e n tu ry la te r. L a M e ttrie (1 7 4 8 ) to o k D e s c a rte s ' n o tio n s fu rth e r a n d c la im e d th a t h u m a n s a re b a s ic a lty a u to m a ta . T h r o u g h th is o b je c tiv e , m a te ria tis tic a n d n a tu ra tis tic d e s c rip tio n of behaviour he paved

the way for tater behaviouristic
p s y c h o to g y
(W erth eim er,
1 9 7 0 ).
D u rin g
th is
e x tre m e ly
lo n g
p re -a u to m a tio n
p e rio d
(1 2 0 0 -1 6 0 0 )

p e o p le d e v e lo p e d b o th th e p h y s ic a l, m e c h a n ic a l te c h n o lo g y , a n d a p h ilo s o p h ic a t a c c e p ta n c e o f it w h ic h e n a b te d th e m to a d a p t te c h n o to g ic a t p r in c ip te s to w o rk a n d ta te r to d e v e to p s p e c ific a tty ta b o u r-s a v in g te c h n o to g ie s .

R e a c tio n s to la b o u r -sa v in g te c h n o lo g y
I n
th e
m id -1 5 th
c e n tu ry , p rin tin g
u s in g
ty p e
c a s t in
a n
a d ju s ta b te
m o u td
w as

em ptoyed and soon spread throughout E urope. W orkers in 16th-century Itaty used e ta b o ra te s itk -th ro w in g m a c h in e ry , a n d c o m p te x m a n u a t to o m s w e re e m p to y e d fo r w eaving figured fabrics. T he Itatians atso m ade the first use of the screw

press for s trik in g c o in s a n d m a k in g m e d a ts . In H o tta n d , th e w in d m itt w a s u se d fo r p o w e rin g saw s and crushers, as w elt as for traditionat grain m itting. T h e w indm itt, scoop-w heet a n d A rc h im e d ia n sc re w w e re h e tp fu t in d ra in in g a n d re c ta im in g ta n d . T h e s e ta b o u r- s a v in g

devices, and
m any
m ore
tike them , ted
t o
num erous
p o s itiv e
c h a n g e s in
p e o p te 's tiv e s ; fo r e x a m p te , iro n re p ta c e d w o o d , k n itte d sitk h o s e b e c a m e a v a ita b te ,
fo rk s re p ta c e d fin g e rs fo r e a tin g , a te w a s tra n s fo rm e d

in to b e e r, a n d th e s p in n in g - w h e e t a n d th e se w in g m a c h in e re v o tu tio n iz e d th e te x tite in d u s try (H a tt, 1 9 6 7 ). In g e n e ra l,

la b o u rs
w ere
re d u c e d
a n d
th e
im p o ssib le
becam e
p o s s ib le
w ith
th e
in tro d u c tio n o f la b o u r-s a v in g d e v ic e s .
T h e e x a m p le s a b o v e ittu s tra te h o w la b o u r-s a v in g d e v ic e s tru ly a id e d h u m a n s in
their w ork. T he eyes, ears, know ledge and skilts of the artisan and craftsm an
w ere
fa c ilita te d

b y th e s e e a rty a u to m a tic d e v ic e s . W ith in th is firs t p h a s e th e tra d itio n a t tra d e s , sk itts a n d c ra fts w e re e ith e r te ft, fo r th e m o s t p a r t, u n c h a n g e d(e .g . th e p o tte r 's w h e e t), o r w e re tru ty e n h a n c e d b y th e in tro d u c tio n o f th e a u to m a tic m e c h a n is m (e .g . th e p rin tin g

press). D uring
th e
M id d te
Ages and
th e p e rio d
of the

R enaissance p e o p le 's h o riz o n s w e re w id e n e d b y te c h n o to g y . T h e ir s ta n d a rd s o f tiv in gr o s e . W e a tth and the distribution of goods increased. T hus, the sociat psychotogicat reaction to ta b o u r-s a v in g te c h n o to g ie s w a s g e n e ra tly p o s itiv e .

R e a c tio n s to la b o u r -e n s la v in g te c h n o lo g y
F ro m

th e d a w n o f h u m a n k in d , th ro u g h th e M id d le A g e s, u p to th e c re a tiv e a n d g lo rio u s p e rio d o f th e R e n a is s a n c e th e re a re c o u n tle s s e x a m p le s o f o u r te c h n o lo g ic a t g ro w th a n d in n o v a tio n . A c c o rd in g to H a tt (1 9 6 7 ), th e M id d le A g e s s ta n d o u t in th e

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