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Dipti Mandalia

Assignment 14

1. What did you find interesting/not interesting about the article?
Everyone in the class found the Chiat/Day example given in the paper interesting. The main point that the example raised was "how can a work environment catered to increase productivity increase chaos instead?". This example helped all of us see the various flipsides of blindly "gift-wrapping" technology in work without really redesigning the process.

2. What was the main message of the article? Most of us agreed on the following points as the main message of the article

1. As Payal rightly quoted "Technology design has not taken adequate account of work and its demands but instead has aimed at an idealized image of individuals and information." This indicates the flaws (shortcomings) of the way in which technology is applied to work.

2. The collaborative aspect of work is not catered to by technologies that aim to make "working from home" easy.

3. There is implicit learning at the workplace (with the help of peers and seniors) which is not easy to substitute.

4. Communication is indeed a bottleneck in working from home, especially the face-to-face communication that an environment like the workplace can facilitate. Students also pointed out that the social relationships developed at the work place deserve more credit than they are given.

5. Another aspect that Tomo pointed out was that "technologies must adapt to the human societies and not the other way around".

To summarise all the points, working from home in the current scenario (where technology doesnt really support collaboration, implicit learning etc. i.e. technology is not yet developed enough to be able to replace workplace and provide all the inherent advantages of the "office" setting) social creativity is in danger.

3. What problems do people face in working from home? The following problems were identified:

1. Motivation: John identified really well that one important problem in working from home is "motivation". I think that there are two aspects to this problem; intrinsic motivation (the will to do better at work etc.) and extrinsic motivation (manegerial pressures, deadlines, peer competetion etc.). To approximately indicate the roles of both in work I would say that extrinsic motivation helps us complete work on time (and also do better) and intrinsic motivation helps us in doing this work well. When working from home, due to the lack of this extrinsic motivation (atleast constantly) people tend to "work less". Another important point that John made was that productivity also decreases when people work from home since they tend to select smaller projects. This is because they know the problems they are going to face in working alone and thus they tend to keep the amount of work less.

2. Jon's example also is an example of motivational factor along with being an example of "defining your space" problem. This is also something that I experience when I work from home. I think I always get more work done when I am working in the L3D laboratory as opposed to home becuase the atmosphere is more encouraging per se.

3. With Ritu's example Payal pointed out that the "social" element in the work place is important and that people who work from home have to make extra effort to keep this element alive. The "I will scratch your back and you scratch mine", the feeling of reciprocal altruism is more implicit in the office environment and those who work from home have to make an effort to maintain this sort of relationship with their peers.

4. As Serina pointed out "absence of mentor" (experienced people) is another problem in working from home. However this is more often than not, a non-issue in working in the office setting since here it is tacit that your supervisor or mentor helps you out in case you are stuck.

4. Solutions to these problems Most of the students suggested that introducing technologies that facilitate communication is a solution to the problems faced by people working from home. However I think that this isnt quite true as rightly depicted in the Chiat/Day example. I think (as also Jon suggested) that this is a problem of moving beyond binary choices. We need to stike a balance and make information independent of place but at the same time support collaboration and take advantage of the distributed cognition and social creativity aspects of a workplace setting. As a solution, I wonder if the virtual meeting software (I dont remember the name), developed by Prof. Skip would be a good solution.

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