This essay presents a review of the book ‘The Social Life of Information,’ by J Brown and Paul Duguid. People expect numerous changes to take place in their lives due to advancements in technology and the advent of information age.
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The manner in which human beings perform their activities has changed significantly due to technology. However, Brown and Duguid argue that it is not possible for technology to change every aspect of human life.
The book provides two critical arguments. First, it underscores the importance of information literacy. The authors advocate for a more reflexive application of information since human beings cannot entirely rely on information transmission due to the complex nature of information.
For example, they highlight use of software tools to search for information although most users do not understand the limitations associated with the software tools. As a result, they end up getting deficient information.
The authors give various examples to show that social work environment is important to human beings. They argue that working in a lonely environment that lacks fixed space can be stressful. They further explain the importance of casual workplace relationships in enhancing work performance.
Through such relationships, workers are able to assist their colleagues to deal with minor issues that emerge from time to time. Individuals who have experienced certain problems play an important role in helping their colleagues to find solutions once they find themselves in similar problems. Most of the workplace problems seem insignificant, but failure to address them affects productivity.
The authors discourage use of computerized systems or specific manuals to solve problems. Life is difficult and it would be impossible to reduce it to problems that can be solved through computerized systems. There are thousands of variables in life, which make different situations to appear distinct. The implication is that different ways of addressing the situations should be used.
Human beings can analyze different variations of solutions to specific problems and use them to solve similar problems that occur later. Manuals and computers lack the capacity to adapt to different situations hence they should not be relied on to solve all problems that human beings encounter.
Employees in organizations learn a lot from their colleagues. For instance, managers share their experiences working for different organizations. This implies that there is sharing of both knowledge and information. The authors point out that it is easier for employees to share information. On the other hand, knowledge is not easily shared.
Companies find it difficult to use the knowledge in their possession to address different situations. The authors give an example of GUI (graphical user interface) invention. The scientists who invented the concept could not communicate with management engineers, something that interfered with proper use of the technology.
The authors explain how automated offices still use paper because it has advantages that other materials do not have. In addition, Brown and Duguid show the importance of universities in a fast changing world. According to them, the role played by universities cannot be replaced by technological inventions.
The book shows that technological advancements should be looked at holistically. Although rigidity of computerized systems is their strength, the needs of human beings are flexible in nature, which means that it is difficult to address them through computerized systems.
Automations appear impressive on paper, but their practical application is complicated. It is important to consider the human element in all automations. The authors bring out the complex nature of information age, but emphasize that it is important for individuals to acquire basic technological knowledge.