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What will we learn about?

This week we elaborate the picture of computers in organisations. Computers have become such a quintessential part of our lives that we consider them indispensable. They are not. I will try to convince you next week to try to occasionally switch all your computers off (laptop, phone, tablet, smartwatch, etc.) and see how it feels to think, talk to people, or do anything without being glued to an IS/ICT device.

I admit that this is not easy as most things we do involve IS/ICT one way or another. But if we cannot put these things down, that is addiction and any addiction is bad. I am not talking about making your work less convenient. My master (as in a master-apprentice relationship) has started to write on paper with pen recently. Of course, he used to do this a lot before they had computers. When he wrote a paper, he gave it to a secretary to type it up. I cannot do this. Last time I wrote a full page with pen and paper was in my junior university years. Even I cannot read my handwriting anymore. For most of what we do at work computers are, if not essential, at least useful. However, occasionally it is worth coming together and talking about work, switching everything off. Even if you, like me, cannot write with pen on paper anymore, you can draw. I find it very helpful. Let’s try to take stock of what we use computers for at work and what could or should be done without computers.

Searching for information is certainly much more convenient using a computer. My wife just mentioned that today (11th April) is the Hungarian Day of Poetry and she said that it is probably the birthday of the great Hungarian poet Attila József. She was not entirely sure if it was his birthday or date of death and it took me about three seconds to check on the internet that Attila József was born on 11th April 1905 – so my wife was right. We do similar searches almost without noticing. It is convenient and there is something reassuring about being able to obtain information so fast and so conveniently.

It is also great that we can keep track of information either as we expect something to happen or as we are interested in what is happening. I had a research project in which I was trying to understand the highest level of knowledge and to this end I have conducted a series of interviews with Nobel Laureates. I have also interviewed Katsuhito Iwai, who has not got the Nobel Prize yet, but many economists believe that he is the best economist in the world. I follow the announcement of the Nobel Prizes to see whether he is getting it this year. I am also interested in who is getting Nobel Prizes. In principle, this is not different from watching what your friends are posting on Facebook or signing up to receive updates from your favourite news portal.

We do not only do this in our private lives, we do a great deal of similar things at work as well (just think about the freshness and relevance of information from week 2). However, this is only a small part of it. We all do a great deal of document production (regardless of whether these are text documents, spreadsheets or presentations); for reporting and for sales pitches (whether we are pitching to potential customers or to our own board of directors); data manipulation (often, but not always, part of the reports); and we all do lots of emailing – from what I have heard recently from my friends irrespective of the type of work they are doing, we all feel that there are too many emails. Many of us also use some specialised software packages that only a few use in our organisations; for example, engineers use CAD (computer aided design) systems, accountants use financial tools, analysts use various modelling and analysis software, and even call centres have special software tools. This week we will try to get our head around how organisations relate to the IS/ICT they use.

Most importantly however, we will distance ourselves a little from the particular IS/ICT applications we review so that we can focus on the somewhat more generic picture rather than on a particular software. It is important that we consciously focus on the picture, as we always interpret the particular IS/ICT applications through the picture we have in our mind, so it wold be good if we understood it better. If we don’t like it, we can therefore change it.

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This article is from the free online course:

Understanding Information and Technology Today

University of Strathclyde

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