Journal of Business Ethics 22 (1):15 - 25 (1999)

Philip Brey
University of Twente
This essay considers the impact of digital networks in organizations on worker autonomy. Worker autonomy, the control that workers have over their own work situation, is claimed in this essay to be a key determinant for the quality of work, as well as an important moral goal. Digital networks pose significant threats to worker autonomy as well as opportunities for its enhancement. In this essay, the notion of worker autonomy is analyzed and evaluated for its importance and moral relevance. It is then considered how digital networks both threaten worker autonomy and offer opportunities for its enhancement. Three major opportunities (enhanced communicative powers, increased informedness, teleworking) and threats (electronic monitoring, task prestructuring, and dependency creation) are discussed and analyzed. Finally, the dynamics that determine the impact on worker autonomy of the introduction of a digital network in organizations are investigated. A particular model for analyzing these dynamics and their impacts, Bryan Pfaffenberger's model of a technological drama. It will be illustrated how this model illuminates these dynamics by analyzing them as a dialectic of strategies of technological regularization by design constituencies and technological adjustment by impact constituencies. It will also be assessed what role network design has in this process.
Keywords digital networks  IT in organizations  technological dramas  worker autonomy
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Reprint years 2004
DOI 10.1023/A:1006199816737
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References found in this work BETA

Do Artifacts Have Politics?Langdon Winner - 1980 - Daedalus 109 (1):121--136.
Autonomy and Self-Respect.Thomas E. Hill - 1991 - Cambridge University Press.
Technological Dramas.Bryan Pfaffenberger - 1992 - Science, Technology and Human Values 17 (3):282-312.

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Citations of this work BETA

Disclosive Computer Ethics.Philip Brey - 2000 - Acm Sigcas Computers and Society 30 (4):10-16.
The Technological Construction of Social Power.Philip Brey - 2008 - Social Epistemology 22 (1):71 – 95.
Privacy Expectations at Work—What is Reasonable and Why?Elin Palm - 2009 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 12 (2):201-215.
The “Black Box” at Work.Ifeoma Ajunwa - 2020 - Big Data and Society 7 (2).
Evaluating the Social and Cultural Implications of the Internet.Philip Brey - 2006 - Acm Sigcas Computers and Society 36 (3):41-48.

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