| In this second wave of automation - the automation of white-collar work - many people have ignored the lesson of the Hawthorne Effect and have repeated the error of time-and-motion studies. They assume that productivity can be maximized by manipulating the physical environment. Secretaries are corralled into word-processing pools (or slightly less centralized puddles), organized in anonymous lanes of workstations, and monitored keystroke by keystroke by feedback from the word processor.|
This office-as-factory model is also seen in the "electronic sweatshops" springing up in suburban regions. Corporations (Bank of America, Pacific Telephones, AT&T, Mobil Oil, and others) are building cheap back offices in suburbs to house their rote work. Low-paid workers sit at rows and rows of cathode-ray tubes in those word- and number-processing factories.
The pessimistic vision of the home of the future is embodied in enclave theory. This is the argument that the home of the future will be a sort of "womb with a view" (or, for those more sociable, a room for two, or perhaps a few, with a view). The view will be provided by a television screen. This screen will be more a window on the world outside than a mirror of the world inside as it often is now. Through this window will pour information about the world outside, through a multitude of channels over various delivery systems. However, the window will be two-way. The authorities outside will be able to monitor the occupants inside. Teleshopping and telebanking services through the screen will further reduce the need to ever leave the womb. The home will become a fortress to protect its occupants from an increasingly hostile environment.
E. M. Forster takes this enclave vision to a terrifying extreme in his short story "The Machine Stops". In his vision people live in individual capsules, which provide satisfiers of all their basic human needs. They are thus totally dependent on the machine to which the capsules are attached. And one day, the machine stops.
|1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16|