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Gina Neff, March 28, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 3:00pm to 4:15pm
301 College Ave Seminar Room

Please join us for the Information Science Colloquium with guest, Gina Neff, Associate Professor, Department of Communication at the University of Washington. She studies the contemporary economics of media production and the political economy of communication by examining the relationship between work and technology in both high-tech and media industries. Her book Venture Labor: Work and the Burden of Risk in Innovative Industries (MIT 2012) examines the risk and uncertainties borne by New York City’s new media pioneers during the first internet boom. She also co-edited Surviving the New Economy (Paradigm 2007). With Carrie Sturts Dossick, she runs the Project on Communication Technology and Organizational Practices, a research group studying the roles of communication technology in the innovation of complex building design and construction. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, and she is currently at work on a three-year project funded by Intel studying the impact of social media and consumer health technologies on the organization of primary care.

She has a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University, where she remains an external faculty affiliate of the Center on Organizational Innovation. Since 2012 she has been a fellow at Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy and a visiting scholar at NYU’s Media, Culture and Communication department. She has held appointments at UC San Diego, UCLA, and Stanford University. In addition to academic outlets, her research and writing have been featured in The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Fortune, The American Prospect, and The Nation.

Title: Information at Work: Developing Heuristics to Anticipate When Technology Fails

Abstract: Why do most architects and engineers refuse to use the new 3D modeling software that was designed to revolutionize their industries? Why are health care providers so reluctant to take the data generated by their patients using new consumer-grade electronics? While new technologies have the potential to change fundamentally how people work, the effects on workers, organizations, and labor markets are often unforeseen, making the success of technology adoption unpredictable.

My talk addresses this gap by comparing the results from long-term studies of technology adoption in two domains. The first is a four-year, NSF-funded study of the adoption and evolution of 3D modeling software in the design and construction of commercial buildings. We followed 5 teams through the construction of 3 major buildings over the course of 4 years, and interviewed over 140 people about their software practices. We studied why new data streams failed to bridge critical gaps among companies collaborating on projects. The second project is a three-year, Intel-funded study of the emergence of consumer-facing health and wellness information technologies, where we focus on the doctors, nurses, technology designers and users who collectively are redrawing the lines between clinical and consumer data. Comparing these domains, I develop a flexible heuristic for evaluating the emerging data ecologies from new technologies, which allows scholars, technology designers, and practitioners to anticipate how and why new technologies can fail within organizations and industries.

A reception will be held immediately after.