What 'Talking About Machines' Tells Us

Paul Duguid, "What 'Talking About Machines' Tells Us", Organization Studies, 2006 27(12): 1794-1804


Orr's work falls on one side of a marked divide separating rule-based theories from practice-focused research. From within the tradition of workplace studies (which show themselves intermittently susceptible to rule-based assumptions), Orr argues that his predecessors failed to see the sort of improvisation and bricolage central to his analysis, for want of looking. I claim, by contrast, that it was more for want of seeing. Early workplace studies could barely conceive of workplace autonomy or improvisation as anything but counterproductive. By attacking the theoretical demarcation between mental and manual labour implicit in this presupposition, Orr's analysis presents both management and theorists with the surprisingly uncomfortable challenge of the knowledgeable worker. A brief analysis of the EUREKA project's support of workplace learning suggests how Orr's work challenged and still challenges more complacent views of knowledge in organization and 'knowledge management'.


Last updated:

September 20, 2016