Shoshana Zuboff is the Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School (retired). One of the first tenured women at the Harvard Business School, she earned her Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard University and her B.A. in philosophy from the University of Chicago.
In 2006, strategy+business named Professor Zuboff among the eleven most original business thinkers in the world. She was featured in 2004 as a “Creative Mind” in strategy+business, described as “a maverick management guru…one of the sharpest most unorthodox thinkers today.” Professor Zuboff’s work has been showcased on CNBC, Reuters International, and the Today Show as well as in Fortune, Inc., Business Week, U.S. News & World Report, CIO, The New York Times, The Financial Times, and many other news outlets. Bostonia Magazine voted her one of the “Five Smartest People in Boston”. She has been heard on over 200 radio shows, including NPR’s Marketplace, TechNation, Sound Money, Morning Edition, BBC, and the BBC World Service.
Professor Zuboff has published dozens of articles, essays, book reviews, and cases on the subject of information technology in the workplace, as well as on the history and future of work and management, and the relationship between adult development and career. Her scholarly monograph “Work in the United States in the Twentieth Century,” appears in the Encyclopedia of the United States in the Twentieth Century (1996). Her lectures on “The Information Society” are featured in the Smithsonian’s permanent exhibition on “The Information Age”. She has served on editorial boards including the Harvard Business Review, the American Prospect, and Organization, and the boards of The Natural Resources Council of Maine, and The Heartwood Regional Theater Company. She has been awarded research grants from the National Institute of Mental Health.
Professor Zuboff lectures, leads seminars, and consults to businesses and governments around the world. She has delivered major invited addresses at Cambridge University, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, The London School of Economics, The European Information Systems Society, The Royal Society of Arts , The British Computer Society, The Smithsonian, The American Society for Training and Development, The National Education Association, The Finnish Academy of Sciences, The American Management Association, The CIA, and many others.
Computer-Mediated Work 
The concept of computer-mediated work was first introduced by Shoshana Zuboff in a 1981 MIT Working Paper, “Psychological and Organizational Implications of Computer-Mediated Work”, elaborated in a 1982 article, “New Worlds of Computer-Mediated Work”, and brought to full expression in the 1988 book In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power. Her early observations of “computer-mediated” work captured a new and rapidly growing phenomenon at that time: the experience of accomplishing a work task through the medium of a computer interface. In 1980 it was estimated that about 10% of the US workforce interacted with a computer display during their daily tasks. By 1984 that number had risen to 24% and by 1989 to 37%.
According to Zuboff, the history of work is also a history of its gradual abstraction into activities less dependent on the body and materials, more on the mind and understanding and communication. The computer-mediation of work is, in historical terms, the most recent substantial and irreversible shift from the embedded and analogical to the abstract and conceptual. Today the experience of a “virtual reality” is so widespread that it is habitual, thus making its qualities more difficult to appreciate. But this shift was initially encountered as profoundly disorienting and disturbing. Computer-mediation substitutes a symbolic medium for a physical one. It requires the manipulation of symbolic electronically presented data—an experience that has gradually overshadowed, and frequently eliminated, earlier working conditions that required physical activity with things and people. During the first wave of the transition from traditional work contexts to computer-mediated work, most people expressed a sense of frustration that the objects of their work had become invisible and intangible. Zuboff referred to this as “the abstraction of work”, and it proved to be a ubiquitous and enduring feature of computer-mediated work.
In the Age of the Smart Machine 
Author of the celebrated classic In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power (1988). This book won instant critical acclaim in both the academic and trade press—including the front page review in the New York Times Book Review—and is widely considered the pathbreaking study of information technology in the workplace. Of particular interest, this book introduced the concept of Informating, the process that translates activities, events and objects into information. By doing so, these activities become visible to the organization at all levels. As a result, Informating has an empowering influence, even as it paves the way for increased surveillance and control.
The Research 
Zuboff’s research consisted of in-depth multi-year studies of office, factory, professional, executive, and craft workplaces all characterized by a recent shift from traditional to computer-mediated task environments. The research demonstrated the tripartite nature of the relationship between information technology and work: 1) technology is not neutral, but embodies intrinsic characteristics that enable new human experiences and foreclose others, 2) within these new “horizons of the possible” individuals and groups construct meaning and make choices, further shaping the situation, and 3) the interplay of intrinsic qualities and human choices is further shaped by social, political, and economic interests that inscribe the situation with their own intended and unintended opportunities and limitations.
Professor Zuboff has been called “the true prophet of the information age”. Her much celebrated classic In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power (1988) won instant critical acclaim in both the academic and trade press—including the front page of the New York Times Book Review—and has long been considered the classic study of information technology in the workplace.
According to London School of Economics Professor Jannis Kallinikos’s analysis in “Smart Machines", written for the book’s twenty year anniversary, In the Age of the Smart Machine is “a profound study of the work implications associated with the extensive involvement of information technology in organizations. The book rapidly gained recognition across a wide spectrum of social science disciplines, including management and organization studies, information systems, social psychology, and sociology, and has been debated and quoted extensively. Twenty years may seem an awfully long time in this age of speed and rapid technological change. But, the Smart Machine, as perhaps every great work, holds out remarkably. The central themes of the book are equally if not more relevant today. Key insights the author develops concerning the nature of information and its relation to reality can be brought to bear on the analysis of phenomena such as the emergence and diffusion of the Internet that were not yet manifest at the time she conducted her study. Indeed, later and significant works on the social and organizational implications of information technology draw in one way or another on the legacy the Smart Machine has left…
The distinctive flavor of the book and its enduring significance are inextricably bound up with the masterly ways Zuboff managed to navigate between the potent but tidy worlds of theory and the inspiring yet messy reality of the workplace. Her work represents long-standing evidence of the fact that theory and concepts if skillfully used may sharpen observation, disclosing aspects of reality that might otherwise have escaped attention...
Written in superb prose, the Smart Machine deserves to be described as a landmark contribution to the cross- disciplinary field of the history and social psychology of work. While a book about information and its significance in restructuring and redefining the patterns and meaning of work, the Smart Machine is much more than a treatise on this subject. Out of the pages of this remarkable book emerge with evocative force the history of work as the bodily struggle to master the resistant materiality of the world through skill but also exertion and toil; the mixed blessings of technology and the forms through which technology liberates, enables, and enslaves at the same time; the stratified character of the workplace and the social struggles that have underlain its formation and its persisting role as an institutional pillar of modern societies; the history of administration and the different social connotations white- and blue-collar work came to embody; the developments of managerial methods and techniques and the relentless discipline they impose in the factory and the office; and, finally, the allure of technology in general and information technology in particular to construct a more fulfilling workplace and the rather disappointing outcome in which automation, driven by the dominant elites and their will to control, erodes and undoes the promise of a transparent and multivalent workplace in which information could have played an enlightening role...
It would be reasonable to conjecture that a book written in the pre-Internet age might well be outdated and no longer relevant. This holds undeniably true for many issues, ideas, or debates that took place during the 1970s and 1980s. However, the case of the Smart Machine is rather different. The central theme of the book concerning the hot issue of whether information technology is or will be used as a means to automation and control or as a way to construct new, less hierarchical, and more rewarding forms of collective engagement and an enlightened workplace is equally, if not more, relevant today.[8,9] The widely diffused fear of the Orwellian big brother is just an indicator of this, as is the debate of how personal data produced from our online habits and Internet site trajectories will be used. Another highly crucial issue evolves around copyright and the efforts of the culture industry to control and shape the growth of the Internet and the patterns of exchanging ideas and culture.[11,12] To some degree, time has supported Zuboff’s rather gloomy predictions of the appropriation of the promise of information technology by powerful groups and its concomitant use in ways that, by and large, accommodate the interests of these groups. It is thus more than urgent to revisit that issue...
Another central and highly interesting theme of the book evolves around the relationship of information to reality in general and work reality in particular. The production of information is never an innocent description, a literal, point-by-point mapping of a pre-existing world. The comprehensive rendition of work states and processes to information constructs new realities in the workplace, lifts up factors or processes that have gone unnoticed, raises new problems and opportunities, and defines priorities and relevancies that were not there prior to computerization. By the same token, comprehensive computerization samples and assembles reality in a variety of ways and thus shapes the forms of perceiving and acting upon it. The central and timely character of these issues provides evidence of the persistent relevance of the Smart Machine. One could indeed go as far as to claim that in some respects the book is even more relevant and timely today than it was at the time of its publication.”
Informating and the Abstraction of Work 
Of particular interest, In the Age of the Smart Machine introduced the concept of “Informating”, the process Zuboff described as unique to information technology that translates activities, objects, and events into information. Zuboff characterizes computer-mediated work as distinguished from earlier generations of mechanization and automation designed to deskill jobs and substitute for human labor, because information technology itself is characterized by a unique duality. It can be applied to automate operations according to a logic that hardly differs from that of the nineteenth-century machine system--replace the human body with a technology that enables the same processes to be performed with more continuity and control. But information technology simultaneously generates information about the underlying productive and administrative processes through which an organization accomplishes its work. It provides a deeper level of transparency to activities that had been either partially or completely opaque. It can automate tasks, but also translates its action into information. In this way it symbolically renders events, objects, and processes so that they become visible, knowable, and shareable in a new way. Zuboff referred to this unique capacity as “informating.” As a result of the informating process, work processes become more abstract. Computer-mediated work radically extends organizational codification resulting in a comprehensive “textualization” of the work environment that creates what Zuboff calls “the electronic text.” As information systems theorist Jannis Kallinikos describes it, “A continuously accruing electronic text installs itself at the center stage of work and organizational life.”
The Electronic Text 
According to Kallinikos, “The problems, issues, and opportunities associated with the growing involvement of computer-based records and operations in organizations emerge forcefully in Chapter 5 of the Smart Machine, entitled “Mastering the Electronic Text,” one of the most penetrating and evocative pieces ever written in the century-long history of the administrative sciences. The entry offers the conclusions of the first of the two parts that comprise the book, dealing with the history of work, and the role of technology and knowledge in constructing the modern industrial workplace. With force and almost cunning insight into what is yet to come, Zuboff describes what may well be considered the predicament of this age, that is, the construction of reality out of the cognitive forms the technologies of computing avail. The varieties of technological information that computer technology generates construct an expansive electronic text, which is accruing every single moment by the potent recording and storage capacities of computer technology and its inability, as it were, to forget.”
The Division of Learning 
Zuboff concluded that the essence of computer-mediated work consisted in a blurring of the age-old demarcation between what is called “work” and what is called “learning”, suggesting that the focus of authority systems would shift from a “division of labor” to a “division of learning.” Zuboff’s work foresaw a challenge to the concentrated hierarchies of the industrial era. A full exploitation of information technology’s unique potential would require new distributed and collaborative working arrangements and social relations inimical to the old demands of time, place, physical discipline, and bodily presence. She wrote, “The informated workplace, which may no longer be a ‘place’ at all, is an arena through which information circulates, information to which intellective effort is applied. The quality, rather than the quantity, of effort will be the source from which added value is derived...A new division of learning requires another vocabulary—one of colleagues and co-learners, of exploration, experimentation, and innovation. Jobs are comprehensive, tasks are abstractions that depend upon insights and synthesis, and power is a roving force that comes to rest as dictated by function and need.”
Source of Many Widely Diffused Concepts 
In the Age of the Smart Machine is the source of many concepts that have become widely integrated into the understanding of information technologies and their consequences. These include the findings that information technology related change is biased toward higher skill levels; that high levels of information technology can pave the way for more fluid, social, distributed, and less hierarchical work arrangements; the concept of the “information panopticon”; the duality of information technology as an informating and an automating technology; the abstraction of work; computer-mediated work; information as a challenge to authority; the need for upgraded intellective skills in the informated workplace; and the fact that individuals and groups create the meaning of the information they use —to name but a few. According to Finnish scholars Hanna Timonen and Kaija-Stiina Paloheimo’s 2008 analysis  of the emergence and diffusion of the concept of knowledge work, In the Age of the Smart Machine is one of three late twentieth century books, including Peter Drucker’s In the Age of Discontinuity and Daniel Bell’s The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, that are responsible for the diffusion of the concept of “knowledge work.”
In 1993, Professor Zuboff founded the executive education program “ODYSSEY: School for the Second Half of Life” at the Harvard Business School. The program addressed the issues of transformation and career renewal at midlife. During twelve years of her teaching and leadership, ODYSSEY became known as the premier program of its kind in the world. Zuboff’s strategies and thoughts surrounding Odyssey were profiled in a Fast Company article and her short essay, “The New New Adulthood".
The Support Economy 
According to her account, by the mid-nineties Zuboff had begun to question the vision of the progressive corporation espoused in most management literature. Observing the tendency of firms to utilize information technologies primarily for the limited purposes of automation, cost savings, and control, she began to explore new ways that the technology’s informating power might find its full expression. This led to time out from teaching and publishing for a period of study and reflection and began a decade-long intellectual journey from which she concluded that today's business models based on the frameworks of concentration and control associated with twentieth century “managerial capitalism” had reached the limits of their adaptive range. Once the engines of wealth creation, they had turned into its impediments. The society of the twenty-first century requires a new approach to commerce based on a new "distributed capitalism."
These insights led to Zuboff's most recent book, The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism. She co-authored the book with her husband, former Chief Executive Jim Maxmin, using his practical experience to ground many of her new theoretical formulations. The Support Economy was published by Viking Penguin in 2002.
According to The Conference Board, The Support Economy is “in part a history and critique of capitalism, an analysis of corporate function and organization, and a visionary statement of a new economic order. It is that vision that lifts the book from the pack, that will make it controversial, and that may, 50 years hence, be regarded as seminal". As one of the first books of the last decade to challenge the reigning practices of western capitalism, The Support Economy anticipated many of the dynamics associated with the 2008-2009 financial meltdown. It chronicled the institutionalization of zero-sum adversarial conflicts between consumers and businesses that was a key factor in the failure of the sub-prime mortgage industry.
The book follows the shift from the era of the mass to the era of the individual. The argument reestablishes the evolution of business as an expression of the evolution of society, and specifically the evolution of consumption. Fundamentally new logics of consumption express the development of society. Each new logic calls forth different approaches to capitalism and wealth creation. By the end of the twentieth century societies, particularly, but not exclusively, in the West, had produced a new experience of individuality. This was the result of both the diminished role of traditional identity sources (kinship, region, race, gender) and the sharp rise in education and in the general complexity of social experience. The book poses the question, "what is the new form of capitalism best suited to meet new individualized needs?" The question is heightened by the information technology revolution, which has helped to drive individuality and empower end consumers with vast amounts of new information, in many cases eliminating the old information asymmetries upon which "caveat emptor" had always been based. The informating process, once confined to the workplace, had overflowed into the marketplace with, according to Zuboff and Maxmin, even more dramatic consequences for the evolution of capitalism.
The Support Economydescribes individual identity as characterized by both the objective requirement and the psychological experience of self-determination. As such, psychological self-determination has become the basis for a fundamental shift in the underlying structure of consumption from the mass to the individual. Zuboff argues that this shift initiates a transformation in the very nature of economic value. Today’s consumers have moved beyond mass produced goods and services to instead seek individualized relationships of advocacy and support that enable control over their lives and meaningful channels for voice, connection, and influence. The purpose of commerce becomes enabling individuals to live their lives as they choose, realizing the value propositions that arise from their unique perspectives in “individual space”. Zuboff argues that the chasm that has come to separate new people and old organizations is filled with frustration, pain, and mistrust, but that it has also laid the foundation for the next wave of wealth creation on a global scale as new principles of distributed capitalism combine with new distributed technologies to meet these new demands. Her hypothesis is that whereas managerial prerogatives could suppress the impact of an informated workplace, the informated marketplace poses a more formidable challenge to managerial hegemony—one that is difficult, if not impossible, to suppress.
New Concepts and Diffusion 
The Support Economy introduced many new concepts to the management and social science lexicon including: distributed capitalism and distributed value; federated support networks; relationship economics; deep support; infrastructure convergence; collaborative coordination; relationship value vs. transaction value; organization space vs. individual space (I-space); the individuation of consumption; organizational narcissism; enterprise logic; value creation vs. value realization.
The book was selected by strategy+business as one of the top ten business books of 2003 and ranked number one in the “Values” category. BusinessWeek named it the “number one idea” in its special issue on “Twenty Five Ideas for a Changing World”. Inc. magazine described The Support Economy as “the new new thing” in its special anniversary issue on entrepreneurship. The book has also been featured in many magazines and newspapers including the Economist, Fast Company, the Financial Times, the Times of London, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post and Across the Board (The Conference Board) as well as in major publications in Germany, Italy, India, China, Brazil, Croatia, Japan, Canada, and South Korea. While influential in the US, in general the book appears to have had its greatest impact outside the US, where, particularly before the economic crisis, there was a greater openness to fundamentally new thinking.
Support economy principles have been the source of significant experimentation in the education sector, particularly outside the US. The innovation work in the UK’s Specialist Schools and Adademies Trust built on support economy principles, as has the work of educational theorist and practitioner Brian Caldwell. It has also been influential in the marketing field. Zuboff has also written about innovations in elder care.
Recent Work 
In addition to her academic work, Zuboff and Maxmin brought their ideas to many commercial and public/private ventures in the US and UK, particularly in social housing, health care, education, and elder care. Zuboff became a popular business columnist. Most of her columns developed and disseminated new concepts from The Support Economy. From 2003 to 2005, Zuboff shared her ideas in her popular monthly column “Evolving”, in the magazine Fast Company. From 2007 through 2009 she was a featured columnist for BusinessWeek.com.
In 2009, shortly after her retirement from the Harvard Business School, Zuboff was completing the sequel to The Support Economy along with a book on the ODYSSEY program, when she was struck by lightning in her home in Maine, which then burned to the ground destroying her work along with the entire structure and contents of the family home. Aspects of this experience are described in her Huffington Post essay, “When Global Warming Ate My Life” . In that essay she also introduced the concept of "the error of predictability.".
A new publication in 2010, “Creating Value in the Age of Distributed Capitalism,” appears in the McKinsey Quarterly. This article uses accessible examples to further develop the concepts of distributed capitalism, the institutional bypass, and the federated support network. It clarifies and moves beyond some of her concepts in The Support Economy. It uses an evolutionary metaphor to introduce the contrast between innovation and mutation and describes the new " IRBRS genome" of distributed capitalism based on the functions of inverting practices from organization space to individual space; rescuing assets from legacy systems/institutions; bypassing sclerotic institutional boundaries; reconfiguring assets around individuals; and providing tools and platforms for ongoing support. It describes the characteristics of successful mutations under distributed capitalism. It provides a compelling example of achieving high quality self determining elder care at a small percentage of the cost of the traditional concentrated (and all too frequently adversarial) model.
- Zuboff, Shoshana. "Psychological and Organizational Implications of Computer-Mediated Work." Sloan/MIT Working Paper, Center For Information Systems Research 1224-81 (1981). Web.
- Zuboff, Shoshana. "New Worlds of Computer-Mediated Work." Harvard Business Review Sept-Oct (1982): 142-51. http://hbr.org/product/new-worlds-of-computer-mediated-work/an/82513-PDF-ENG.
- Zuboff, Shoshana. In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power. New York: Basic, 1988. Print.
- Zammuto, Raymond F., Terri L. Griggith, Ann Majchrzak, Deborah Dougherty, and Samer Faraj. "Information Technology and the Changing Fabric of Organization." Organization Science September–October 18.5 (2007): 749-62. Print.
- Leonardi, Paul M., and Stephen R. Barley. "What's Under Construction Here?" The Academy of Management Annals 4.1 (2010): 1-51. http://www.stanford.edu/group/wto/cgi-bin/uploads/barley_leonardi_2010.pdf.
- Avgerou, Chrisanthi, Claudio Ciborra, and Frank Land. “Introduction.” The Social Study of Information and Communication Technology: Innovation, Actors and Contexts. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Print.
- Burton-Jones, Andrew. "What Have We Learned From the Smart Machine?" Working Paper. University of Queensland. June 13, 2012.
- Kallinikos, Jannis (2010) “Smart Machines”, Encyclopedia of Software Engineering, 1: 1, 1097-1103. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1081/E-ESE-120044162.
- Kallinikos, Jannis. “Farewell to Constructivism: Technology adn Context-Embedded Action.” in Avgerou, Chrisanthi, Claudio Ciborra, and Frank Land. The Social Study of Information and Communication Technology: Innovation, Actors and Contexts. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Print.
- Timonene, Hanna and Kaija-Stina Paloheimo (2008), “The Emergence and Diffusion of the Concept of Knowledge Work”, The Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp. 177-190. https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:pe7_GtmrciwJ:www.ejkm.com/issue/download.html?idArticle%3D153+THe+Emergence+and+Diffusion+of+the+Concept+of+Knowledge+Work&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESiVujzJ8sNUvGFTcg02fzl6_CmkdhUfHvmhi_cPVhvV00u6ZJNMNhSYTbfzrn-T-uSj1oDbSW-AReclL7MmVDUTFhhKYm6lUfGeYwgcoULld5DmKQrg2xY4uGtcCCKxkGvdcA6v&sig=AHIEtbTATmkPPKMgY2_1x7qU14tPFpZecQ.
- Malhotra, Yogesh (2004), “Desperately Seeking Self-Determination: Key to the New Enterprise Logic of Customer Relationships”, Proceedings of the Americas Conference on Information Systems, New York, August.