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The Social Life of Information: Home Alone

Jon Marbach

Homework 14

  1. What did you find interesting about the article?

    Well, the first thing I should say is that it was easy to read! And in my opinion, it was due to the larger font and spacing, but probably also that it is taken from a book rather than a research article, so it is more narrative and less dense.

    Content-wise, there were lots of interesting points. Chiat/Day's experimental office space was a great example because I didn't think anyone had taken things that far. It makes sense to me that a balance between their approach and the traditional office would be more ideal. ("Beyond binary choices"...) I also think the beginning story is interesting because I know that I often forget about those difficulties once I work past them, and as the reading suggests, that's a cost that gets disregarded.

    The decline in productivity in light of computers was another surprising yet understandable point. It seems to me that the reading suggests we're still at the bottom of the learning curve for how to succesfully integrate computers with work, especially in the context of a social environment.

    The short point made about the techno-savvy computer geek needing to understand his or her role as more of an educator who has knowledge to share was a good one. If you've seen Saturday Night Live's "Nick Burns, Your Company's Computer Guy" skit, it's a great example of this NOT happening. (here's an mp3 of the skit)

    So many good points, so little time - I'll call it quits there.

  2. What did you find not interesting about the article?

    Nothing - great material!

  3. What do you consider the main message of the article?

    a. The workplace still has its place.

    b. Computer systems that support workplace activities must be designed with the social and collaborative aspects of the workplace in mind, rather than treating them as processes that are done start to finish by one person in isolation.

    c. New technology in the workplace can introduce hidden costs that are unanticipated and aren't accounted for.

  4. Think of a couple of persons who are in a position to use a computer by being "home alone"! Characterize the major problems that these persons have!

    A friend of mine who worked (still does...) as a programmer did quite a bit of his work from home and was told me once that he had to manage his "spaces" correctly to get work done. What I mean is, he found that if he used a physical location - say his bedroom - as a space where he played computer games, he would have a difficult time getting work done there. So he established a place in his house that was his work space and would move his laptop there to get his work tasks done. Then, if he wanted to use the computer more casually, he would move it back to his "play" space.

    At first I thought that was a little extreme but then I realized that I do the same thing, and I assume most people do. When I was an undergrad, sometimes I would bring work home when I went to visit my family, and I never got it done, mainly because my house just wasn't a place that I did work.

    This potentially explains part of the advertising company's failed experiment in that may people need to associate a space with their work.

  5. Describe briefly some new innovative technologies that you can think of which would address these problems!

    Not that it's an extremely novel idea, but have a different "skin" on a computer's desktop to differentiate "work" mode and "play" mode might help establish two environments with different purposes.

    Otherwise, my friend has had quite a bit of "luck" with working partially from home and that may be because since the article was written, technologies like VPNs have matured. On the other hand, he's a "computer guy" and might have just worked through difficulties without complaining.

    Note: There was something else I thought of but while I was working on this earlier the swiki went down, so I wrote in some answers, hit submit, got a page not found error, and lost everything I had typed! Talk about lost productivity! Arrgh!

Thanks to Payal for the format.

Back to Assignment 14

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