Structuring the Information Age: Life Insurance and Technology in the Twentieth Century

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Mai 2005



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 integrationthat the industry set as objectives in the 1950s.


JoAnne Yates, Deputy Dean and Distinguished Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, is the author of Control Through Communication: The Rise of System in American Management, also published by Johns Hopkins.


Structuring the Information Age makes educating reading and is an important contribution to our understanding of the connection between past and present in the transformation of socio-economic systems. -- Asaf Darr Administrative Science Quarterly 2006 Brilliant volume... Yate's study of the adaptation of information-processing resources in insurance has greatly widened the horizons of our understanding of the dynamics of technological development in a business setting. Business History Review 2006 Yates has contributed another original study to the history of information technology. -- Kenneth Lipartito Technology and Culture 2006 A welcome addition to a growing body of literature on the history of the use of computers by businesses, and a good model for other scholars to use. -- James W. Cortada American Historical Review 2006 Structuring the Information Age examines the history of information technology in the United States by shifting focus away from the producers of that technology and toward a kind of end user that has heretofore received little attention-large-scale corporations, which easily rank among the leading information-technology (it) consumers. -- Timothy Alborn Journal of Interdisciplinary History 2007 This timely and important work is the first scholarly history devoted to the use of information technology within a single American industry. -- Thomas Haigh EH.Net 2007 This valuable addition to the historiography of the computer looks at new technologies from a user's viewpoint. Here the user is the life insurance business, which is an appropriate choice because it has always been an information-intense business. IEEE History Center Newsletter 2007 Structuring the Information Age will interest two types of readers: those who are concerned with the development, adoption, and impact of technology and those who are concerned with the growth, strategies, and economic influence of business organizations. -- Daphne A. Jameson Journal of Business and Technical Communication 2006
EAN: 9780801880865
ISBN: 0801880866
Untertitel: Empfohlen ab 22 Jahre. New. Sprache: Englisch.
Erscheinungsdatum: Mai 2005
Seitenanzahl: 364 Seiten
Format: gebunden
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