- During the 1960s and 1970s, Scandinavia had a political culture that favoured workplace democracy, exemplified by union-backed governments. Unlike other Western industrial countries, labour and capital did not have an adversarial history, but rather a cooperative one. Although maintaining an underlying Marxist philosophy that labour and capital are necessarily adversarial, at the time the unions and the employers were cooperating. This cooperation was perhaps induced by such laws as one passed in the late sixties that compelled unionization in all companies with more than 250 employees, and another passed x that stipulated one third of corporate boards should be comprised of union representatives.
Rational management and the socio-technical approach.
- During this time, rational management trends sought to improve productivity through the introduction of technology that rationalized and deskilled work, thus weakening labour. This reorganization of labour occasionally led to lower productivity and higher interpersonal conflict that inspired the socio-technical approach to devise methods of accounting for the structure of labour. As the primary motivation was alleviating negative reactions of labour to management decisions, some researchers Ehn, Kyng, 1987 saw the socio-technical approach as too manipulative. As some like Ehn, 1973 argued, the approach was even anti-democratic and particularly anti-union, which were unacceptable positions in Scandinavia at the time.
- In response to this, the Norwegian Iron and Metal Workers Union (NJMF) in co-operation with Kirsten Nygaard and the Norwegian Computing Center (Nygaard, Bergo, 1975) launched a research project from the union perspective. The chief goal was to build knowledge in the union about computers and technology as there was a fear that unions and workers would simply believe what management told them Ehn, Kyng, 1987. Key outcomes of the project were a union-oriented textbook on planning, control, and data processing systems, as well as a set of data agreements, including:
- Regulations about the acquisition of information.
- Election of "data shop stewards".
- Necessity to inform the shop stewards before decisions take effect.
- Necessity for explanations to be in clear language that non-specialists can understand.
- Originally these data agreements were made with the local union, but they spread until they reached the central agreement between the Norwegian Employers Federation and the Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions. See (Norwegian Employers Federation, Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions, 1975.
- This Norwegian project went on to inspire the Swedish DEMOS project (1975-1979) and the Danish DUE project (1976-1980). In the case of the DEMOS project, they settled on a negotiated model for involvement in management-driven projects Ehn, Kyng, 1987, which ended up essentially institutionalizing the conflict between management and labour Bjerknes, Bratteteig, 1995.
- These projects had common outcomes Ehn, Kyng, 1987. For one, they all concluded that the introduction of information systems resulted in less union influence on planning and control and increased supervision by management. However, they also discovered that a traditional negotiation model was insufficient. Negotiation could only partially influence the introduction of technology, training, and organization of work. Without power and resources, workers had few opportunities to develop skills or control their own work flow. Furthermore, existing technology was not geared towards workers' objectives, limiting the options.
- UTOPIA (1981-1984) -- experimented with techniques to draw employees into the design of their own work.
- Florence project (1984-1987)
All of these projects had some common principles Bjerknes, Bratteteig, 1995:
- A Marxist view of an unresolvable struggle between capital vs. labour.
- Researchers have a duty to support those with less resources and power.
- Only through a worker's collective (trade unions) can workplace democracy be created.
- As a consequence of their union backing, interventions focused on organized labour and production.
Since then, Scandinavia has unravelled its trade union laws lessening opportunities for similar interventions. The harmonious and cooperative spirit between labour and capital has gone away. Bjerknes, Bratteteig, 1995 suggest the collect resource approach will have to adapt to work in hostile and coercive environments.
Meanwhile, in the 1990s, the ideas have taken flight as participatory design in America. Ehn, Badham, 2002 have argued.
Quote of one part of the data agreements:
- Through the shop stewards the management must keep the employees orientated about matters which lie within the area of the agreement, in such a way that the shop stewards can put forward their points of view as early as possible, and before the management puts its decisions into effect. The orientation must be given in a well-arranged form and in a language that can be understood by non-specialists. It is a condition that the representatives of the employees have the opportunity to make themselves acquainted with general questions concerning the influence of computer-based systems on matters that are of importance to the employees. The representatives must have access to all documentation about software and hardware within the area of the agreement. (Norwegian Employers Federation and Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions, as qtd. in Ehn, Badham, 2002, p. 4)
The Collective Resource approach to design explicitly aims at ‘democracy and skill’ (Ehn & Kyng 1987, p. 56) for the workers, using the collective—the trade union—as a strategy to achieve this. (plagiarized text)
- Bansler, 1989
- Bansler, J. (1989). Systems development research in Scandinavia: Three theoretical schools. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 1, 3-20.
- Bjerknes, Bratteteig, 1995
- Bjerknes, G., & Bratteteig, T. (1995). User participation and democracy: A discussion of Scandinavian research on system development. Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems, 7(1), 73-98.
- Ehn, 1973
- Ehn, P. (1973). Bidrag till ett kritiskt social perspektiv pâ datorbaserade informationssystem. Stockholm: TRITA-IBADB-1020.
- Ehn, Badham, 2002
- Ehn, P., & Badham, R. (2002, 23-25 June). Participatory design and the collective designer. In T. Binder, J. Gregory, & I.Wagner (Eds.), PDC 02 Proceedings of the Participatory Design Conference (pp. 1-10).
- Ehn, Kyng, 1987
- Ehn, P., & Kyng, M. (1987). The collective resource approach to system design. In G. Bjerknes, P. Ehn, & M. Kyng (Eds.), Computers and Democracy--a Scandinavian Challenge (pp. 17-57). Avebury: Aldershot.
- Norwegian Employers Federation, Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions, 1975
- "Through the shop stewards the management must keep the employees orientated about matters which lie within the area of the agreement, in such a way that the shop stewards can put forward their points of view as early as possible, and before the management puts its decisions into effect. The orientation must be given in a well-arranged form and in a language that can be understood by non-specialists."
- Nygaard, Bergo, 1975
- Nygaard, K., & Bergo, O. (1975). The trade unions -- new users of research. Personnel Review, 4(2).
9:58 pm November 20, 2006