Culture, frustrators and productivity in employee-computer interaction in the workplace

Date of Completion

January 2001


Anthropology, Cultural




This dissertation examines socio-cultural changes that result from innovations in technology. I specifically explore employee-computer interaction in an office setting of a university in the northeast United States. I identify and explain the cultural solutions employees apply in their interaction with computers as they seek to be more productive (successfully complete tasks in a timely and efficient manner). I find that computing in the office is based on a shared cultural model that is determined by the frustrators (events that hinder productivity in computing) experienced by employees, and their responses to those frustrators. ^ During a two-year period of participant-observation, I used a combination of informal and structured interviews to identify the frustrators that employee-informants encountered in their daily work, and how they responded to them. I identified 31 frustrators and 105 responses to the frustrators. Principal components analyses revealed a shared cultural model of the frustrators that hindered productivity and the responses used to address the frustrators. Frustrators and responses to frustrators of the shared cultural model are determined by several elements that include, employee relationships to specific operating systems, relationships with the system administrator, and the effects of environmental properties. Finally, I discuss the future of personal computing in the workplace and its socio-cultural implications for the world at large. ^