My notes on: Julian E. Orr. Talking about Machines: An Ethnography of a Modern Job. ILR Press/Cornell University, 1996. Foreword by Stephen R. Barley.

This was a great read. I blog my notes for my own ease of reference (I search my blog to see if I tweeted or blog-noted something), and I hope that the notes might also be helpful to others, at least on occasion.

Julian E. Orr. Talking about Machines: An Ethnography of a Modern Job. ILR Press/Cornell University, 1996. Foreword by Stephen R. Barley.
Xii: “Policymakers, managers, consultants, union organizers, and academics therefore frequently fall back on images of work based on the occupational structure and industrial culture of the first half of the twentieth century.”
Xiii-xiv: “Orr documents and develops the important and counterintuitive notation that technical knowledge is best viewed as a socially distributed resource that is diffused and stored primarily through an oral culture.[…] Orr puts the flesh of everyday life on Lave and Wenger’s idea of a community of practice[…, now Xiv] enables us to talk about occupational dynamics in situations that lack the institutional supports that sociologists normally attribute to recognizable organizations.”
11: explanation and citation of Donald Schon’s “reflective practitioner is another bricoleur of this sort.”
Book demonstrates value and importance of embedded ethnographic research for technical practices and work, of oral histories, and of things undocumented (sound of machines, page 31).
76: discussion of occupational community, “focused on the work, not the organization, and the only valued status is that of full member of the community.”
105: “Furthermore, intentions and their results must be considered in their social settings; the machines must be seen simultaneously as products of the social context of their design and production and as participants in the goals of the users.”
125: “Telling stories in diagnostic contexts makes some of them extremely elliptical and barely recognizable to outsiders as stories. The ellipsis is permissible because the contexts will be used in interpretation to supply some of the missing detail, as will the common experience of teller and listeners, and because, in an interpretive situation, the teller can count on the hearers to indicate if the ellipsis is too great. Such excessive ellipsis is easily corrected through normal conversational repair.”
148-149: “in common usage the word ‘work’ now refers to the relationship of employment much more than to either the doing or what is done, and that employment further skews our understanding of work by making what is said to be done part of a contest about reward and status. I further suggest that this emphasis may omit vital elements of working practice. I asked what might be learned by shifting the focus and [149] concentrating on work practice instead of on relations of employment.”
151: citation “Sandra Wallman’s 1979 collection The Social Anthropology of Work, provides examples of work contributing to both individual and collective identities.” Then relates to Maanen and Barley on occupational communities.

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