- Johns Hopkins University Press
Structuring the Information Age: Life Insurance and Technology in the Twentieth Century
- Joanne Yates
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- 8.94 X 6.44 X 1.23 inches
- 1.58 pounds
- Business & Economics > Insurance - Life
Structuring the Information Age provides insight into the largely unexplored evolution of information processing in the commercial sector and the underrated influence of corporate users in shaping the history of modern technology.
JoAnne Yates examines how life insurance firms--where good record-keeping and repeated use of massive amounts of data were crucial--adopted and shaped information processing technology through most of the twentieth century. The book analyzes this process beginning with tabulating technology, the most immediate predecessor of the computer, and continuing through the 1970s with early computers. Yates elaborates two major themes: the reciprocal influence of information technology and its use, and the influence of past practices on the adoption and use of new technologies. In the 1950s, insurance industry leaders recognized that computers would enable them to integrate processes previously handled separately, but they also understood that they would have to change their ways of working profoundly to achieve this integration. When it came to choosing equipment and applications, most companies ultimately preferred a gradual, incremental migration to an immediate and radical transformation.
In tracing this process, Yates shows that IBM's successful transition from tabulators to computers in part reflected that vendor's ability to provide large customers such as insurance companies with the necessary products to allow gradual change. In addition, this detailed industry case study helps explain information technology's so-called productivity paradox, showing that firms took roughly two decades to achieve the initial computerization and process integration that the industry set as objectives in the 1950s.
JoAnne Yates is the Sloan Distinguished Professor of Management, Emerita and Professor Post Tenure of Work and Organization Studies and Managerial Communication at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Yates developed MIT Sloan's Managerial Communication curriculum starting in 1980. From 2007-2012 she served as Deputy Dean for programs at MIT Sloan. Her research is both historical and contemporary.
Her most recent historical book, coauthored with her husband, a professor of political science at Wellesley College, is JoAnne Yates and Craig N. Murphy, Engineering Rules: Global Standard Setting Since 1880 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), a study of the rise and important role of voluntary standard setting in the global economy. As part of the longer project that culminated in this book, they also wrote an initial monograph on one standard-setting organization: Craig N. Murphy and JoAnne Yates, The International Organization for Standardization (IS0): Global Governance through Voluntary Consensus (London: Routledge Press, 2009).
Her first, award-winning historical book is Control through Communication: The Rise of System in American Management (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), which traces the emergence of the communication and information system characteristic of US companies during most of the 20th century. Her second single-authored book, Structuring the Information Age: Life Insurance and Technology in the Twentieth Century (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005), provides insight into the largely unexplored evolution of information processing in the commercial sector and the underrated influence of corporate users in shaping the history of modern technologies in the United States.
In her research on contemporary organizations she has collaborated with Professor Wanda Orlikowski (of MIT Sloan’s Information Technology group) and various students and researchers to study how groups and organizations use communication and information technologies, and how that use shapes their work. Specific studies looked at the use of technologies such as electronic mail, instant messaging, the BlackBerry, and corporate blogging.
She is currently also working with a team of faculty from the Work and Organization Studies Group on research aiming to improve academic performance of underrepresented minority students.
Yates holds a BA from Texas Christian University as well as an MA and a PhD from the University of North Carolina.
Source: MIT Sloan School of Management
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