An ethnographic study using the work of Heidegger to explore experts' use of information and communication technology (ICT) at work

McDonough, Brian (2012) An ethnographic study using the work of Heidegger to explore experts' use of information and communication technology (ICT) at work. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.

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Abstract / Description

The use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has become a familiar part of the world of work. And as technology in general becomes increasingly sophisticated, ICT is in most cases, a means by which organisations and employers attempt to get everyday workplace tasks carried out more efficiently, saving on time and resources, and very often replacing some of the tasks carried out by experts themselves. I used ethnographic research methods to explore firsthand how my respondents, from a diverse range of professional backgrounds, use ICT in the workplace, to either replace or enhance, the jobs that they do. My thesis draws upon the philosophy of Heidegger, by using his theoretical ideas to investigate how my respondents encounter ICT at work in various ways. The application of Heidegger's ideas to this modern context, has enabled me to develop two fundamental arguments in this thesis. My first argument is that experts have a practical grasp of the jobs they do at work. Following Heidegger, and others, I call this kind of practical understanding know-how. I argue that know-how demonstrates the kind of understanding that is fundamental for my respondents to carry out their jobs, and is one which cannot simply be extracted and programmed into or replaced by an ICT system. In fact, attempts to extract expertise, I argue, result in a deficient mode of understanding and can ultimately be inferior in carrying out the tasks at work. The second argument in this thesis also draws upon Heidegger's philosophy, but in this case focuses on the way in which my respondents communicate via mediating technology (various forms of ICT specifically used for communicating with others). Here, mediating technology seemingly replaces or enhances how workers are able to communicate with others in the workplace, by using for example, email, telephones and video conferencing, rather than communicating with them face-to-face, whereby they are bodily-present with others. I argue that contemporary advances in ICT have had varying effects, on work environments and experiences of work because of distancing in communicative processes. My arguments drawing on Heidegger's ideas, are supported by the primary data I gathered from a series of ethnographic interviews with my nine respondents and from participant observation with one respondent in particular (a commercial aeroplane pilot), who took me to an aviation base to fly on a small aeroplane, and also aboard a simulated aeroplane used for training pilots.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information:
Uncontrolled Keywords: Information and Communication Technology (ICT); ICT in the workplace; workplace tasks; experts; know-how; Heidegger, Martin, 1889-1976; ethnographic research methods
Subjects: 300 Social sciences
Department: Guildhall School of Business and Law
Depositing User: Chiara Repetto
Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2022 10:54
Last Modified: 22 Apr 2022 10:54


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