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Information technologies as instruments of social transformation : the computerization of classical scholarship


Computer-based technologies are often seen as instruments that effect radical transformation within workplaces; these transformations are expressed through utopian or dystopian visions of empowered knowledge workers or electronic sweatshops. Visions, however, do little to examine the evidence for and the nature of such transformations. In what ways do new computer-based technologies re-form and reshape the nature, stucture, and organization of work? In particular, how do these technologies affect a domain of work which is abstract in nature and consists of the evaluation and amalgamation of many diverse information sources?

This dissertation reports on an empirical study of the impact of information technologies on a specific class of knowledge workers, classical scholars. My goal is to understand the phenomenon of change due to increased use of information technologies from the point of view of the members of this social world. In order to do this, I will follow the procedures for data collection and analysis of the grounded theory approach as developed by Anselm Strauss and his associates. I employ the social worlds perspective as an organizing framework.

In subsequent chapters, I consider the diffusion of a particular set of computer-based research tools within the discipline and subsequent changes to individuals' work patterns, task definition and interactions within and without the discipline. I further evaluate changes in the accessibility of information and the attendent impact on social and organizational, structures. Finally, I describe the emergence of electronic communities and new domains of work as information and communication technologies become more prevalent.

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