Joan Greenbaum

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Joan Greenbaum
Joan Greenbaum.jpg
Joan Greenbaum at the NYSUT Health and Safety Conference in 2013
Born (1942-10-07) October 7, 1942 (age 78)
Bronx, NY, United States
Alma materUnion Graduate College,
Penn State
Scientific career
Fieldsparticipatory design, labor studies, political economy, environmental psychology, automation
InstitutionsCity University of New York

Joan Greenbaum (born October 7, 1942 in Bronx, NY) is professor emerita at the CUNY Graduate Center and LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York. Her academic work focuses on participatory design of technology information systems,[1][2] technology and workplace organization,[3] and gender and technology.[4][5] Greenbaum is also a trade unionist who serves on the board of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the union that represents more than 27,000 faculty and staff at the City University of New York (CUNY) and the CUNY Research Foundation. She served as co-coordinator of Environmental Health and Safety committee, co-founder of PSC'S Environmental Health and Safety Watchdogs, and Chapter Chairperson of her local representing 650 people. She was given the Unsung Hero Award at the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Health and Safety Conference in 2013 and is currently the editor of the PSC Retirees monthly publication called 'Turning the Page' which won a General Excellence Award from the PSC in 2017.


Greenbaum worked as a computer programmer in the 1960s when few women worked in computer systems.[5] She programmed one of the first computers, the IBM 650, in binary code as an undergraduate. She worked as programmer, project manager at IBM and as a consultant between 1967-1973.[6] as well as working with Computer People for Peace, and early example of tech workers acting on the military and social implications of technology ahead of time (which she discusses in an interview in the January 2019 issue of Logic magazine's "Mainframe, Interrupted"[7]). These experiences as well as her work with the Union for Radical Political Economy (URPE) later informed her academic research and teaching, which included several institutions in New York City, Norway, and Denmark.

  • Professor, CUNY Graduate Center, Environmental Psychology program (1997-2015); Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Certificate program (2001-2011), and the Masters of Liberal Studies (2013-2015).
  • Professor, Computer Information Systems Department, LaGuardia Community College (1973-2007)
  • Visiting Associate Professor, Economics Department, Barnard College, Columbia University (1983–93)
  • Guest Associate Professor, Computer Science Department, Aarhus University (1986–88 and 1991–92)
  • Guest Professor, Informatics Department, University of Oslo (1995–96)
  • Guest Professor, Department of Information and Media Studies, Aarhus University (2007)

Her work has also included curriculum design, consulting, labor union advising, principal research investigation, workshop design and facilitation, applied and theoretical research field work and producing and co-hosting a radio program.

  • Curriculum/Technical Advisor for the Working Women Education Fund of the National Association of Working Women (1982-1985)
  • Producer and Co-Anchor for Econonews, a bi-weekly musical-comedy radio program about economic affairs that aired from 1983-1985 on WBAI (Pacifica)
  • Director for U.S. Research Projects for the International Computer Occupations Network, funded by the British Social Science Research Foundation, and the European Economic Community (1983-1988)
  • Principal Research Investigator for the New York Case Study of Automation of Clerical Work, Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress (1983-1985)
  • Co-Director for the Study of Roles in Systems Development Work, funded by the Danish Social Science Research Council (1986-1987).
  • Consultant/Principal Co-Research coordinator for the Participatory Design Project for the Association of Computing Machinery (1991-1993)
  • Technical Advisor for Siberian Coal Miners Union (AFL-CIO), Siberia, Russia (1993)
  • Consultant for the Union Research Centre on Office Technology, Melbourne, Australia (1997)
  • Co-Principal Research Investigator for the National Council on Employment Policy's study of high performance workplaces, conducted with the Institute for Labor and Research, New York City (1994-1995)
  • Co-Director Workplace Environmental Health and Safety, Professional Staff Congress (AFT) (1999-2013)


She is the author of three books, including In the Name of Efficiency (Temple University Press, 1979); Design at Work (Erlbaum Press, 1991), which she co-authored with Morten Kyng; and Windows on the Workplace (1995, Monthly Review Press). In the Name of Efficiency is considered a core text in the field of labor studies,[8][9] while Design at Work, her most cited piece of work,[10] remains one of the central publications in the field of information systems design and organizational change[11][12]. Windows on the Workplace captures stories of organizations and the people who work for them, focusing on the history of office technology in the 50 years prior to publication.[13] The 2004 second edition[14] was updated to include the use of the internet in offices. Of her work, John Bellamy Foster wrote, "Joan Greenbaum, who has conducted extensive research into high technology and the division of labor in office work...argues that "deskilling," though an important and fundamental strategy," often only lays "the groundwork for other devices in management's bag of tricks"[15]

  • Greenbaum, Joan (1979). In the Name of Efficiency: Management Theory and Shopfloor Practice in Data Processing Work. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. ISBN 978-0-87722-151-7.
  • Greenbaum, Joan; Kyng, Morten, eds. (1991). Design at Work: Cooperative Design of Computer Systems. Hillsdale, N. J.: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates. ISBN 978-0-8058-0612-0.
  • —— (1995 & 2004). Windows on the Workplace: Computers, Jobs, and the Organization of Office Work in the Late Twentieth Century. New York: Cornerstone Books, Monthly Review Press. ISBN 978-0-85345-901-9. Check date values in: |year= (help) and updated in 2004 ISBN 1-58367-113-7

Selected articles[edit]

  • "Constructing Time in New Media Systems", with Dagny Stuedahl, in Proceedings of the Participatory Design Conference, Computer People for Social Responsibility, Palo Alto, Ca, Nov. 2000.
  • "Return to the Garden of Eden? Learning, Working, and Living”, with Fischer, Gerhard & Frieder Nake, The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 9(4), Fall 2000, pp505–513.
  • "Its about Time: Deadlines and Workpractices in New Media", with Dagny Stuedahl, International Communication Systems Journal, Fall 2001.
  • “Got Air”, with David Kotelchuck, Working USA, Fall 2003, Vol. 7, No. 2. reprinted in “Got Air: Indoor air quality in US offices”, with David Kotelchuck, in Vernon Mogensen, ed., Worker Safety Under Siege: Labor, Capital and the Politics of Workplace Safety (M.E. Sharpe, 2005).
  • “Appropriating digital environments: (Re) constructing the physical through the digital”, in ReSearching a Digital Bauhaus, T. Binder, L. Malbom (eds). Springer Verlag, 2008.
  • “Participatory problem - solving through interactive environments”, research paper Participatory Design Conference, Oct. 2008 Proceedings, ACM.
  • “Doubt is their product”, book review, Review of Radical Political Economy, Fall 2009.
  • "Situations and interactions: Digital cafe squatting and participatory design", Participipatory Design Conference, Dec. 2010, ACM.
  • "The Political Economy of Mobile Technologies and Everyday Life", Keynote address, International Labour Process Conference, Stockholm, March 2012, Swedish council for Working Life and social Research.
  • "Participation, the camel and the elephant of design", with Daria Loi, CoDesign, International Journal of Cocreation in Design and the Arts. Vol. 8, No 2-3 Sept 2012, Taylor & Francis.
  • "Heritage: Having a Say", Chap. 2 with Finn Kensing, in The Handbook of Participatory Design, Keld Bodker, Jesper Simonsen, Toni Robertson, eds., Routledge 2012.


Greenbaum's academic work has been influential among scholars in the technology and design fields, specifically those working on participatory design of computer systems,[16][17] which involves the active involvement of all stakeholders (e.g. employees, partners, customers, citizens, end users) in the design process to help ensure the result meets their needs and is usable. She was particularly active alongside scholars in Scandinavia, where the concept of cooperative design took root and who developed strategies and techniques for workers to influence the design and use of computer applications at the workplace. Also in the area of participatory design, Greenbaum's work has been applied to studies of museums and cultural heritage institutions. Dagny Stuedahl, a professor in media design who has written about participatory design methods in museums in Norway, has been influenced by Greenbaum's focus on the organizational context for participation and involvement in processes that is central for the innovations in heritage institutions.[18][19]


Greenbaum has an undergraduate degree in economics from Penn State (1963) and a PhD in political economy from Union Graduate College (now the Clarkson University Capital Region Campus) (1977) with coursework at the New School for Social Research and a scholarship from the Institute for Policy Studies.



  1. ^ Simonsen, edited by Jesper; Robertson, Toni (2012). Routledge international handbook of participatory design. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415720212.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Greenbaum, Joan; Kyng, Morten, eds. (1991). Design at Work: Cooperative Design of Computer Systems. Hillsdale, N. J.: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates. ISBN 978-0-8058-0612-0.
  3. ^ Greenbaum, Joan (1995). Windows on the Workplace: Computers, Jobs, and the Organization of Office Work in the Late Twentieth Century. New York: Cornerstone Books, Monthly Review Press. ISBN 978-0-85345-901-9.
  4. ^ Greenbaum, Joan (June 1990). "The head and the heart: using gender analysis to study the social construction of computer systems". ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society. 20 (2): 9–17. doi:10.1145/95554.95558. S2CID 17834218.
  5. ^ a b Martin, Frances Grundy with John Grundy ; cartoons by Angela (1996). Women and computers. Exeter: Intellect. ISBN 978-1871516364.
  6. ^ Lynd 1997, p. 88.
  7. ^ "Mainframe, Interrupted: Joan Greenbaum on the Early Days of Tech Worker Organizing". Logic Magazine. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  8. ^ Hopper, Trevor; Powell, Andrew (September 1985). "Making Sense of Research into the Organizational and Social Aspects of Management Accounting: A Review of ITS Underlying Assumptions [1]". Journal of Management Studies. 22 (5): 429–465. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6486.1985.tb00007.x. ISSN 0022-2380.
  9. ^ Asaro, Peter M. (October 2000). "Transforming society by transforming technology: the science and politics of participatory design". Accounting, Management and Information Technologies. 10 (4): 257–290. doi:10.1016/s0959-8022(00)00004-7. ISSN 0959-8022.
  10. ^ "Joan Greenbaum - Google Scholar Citations". Retrieved 2018-06-12.
  11. ^ Hugh., Beyer (1998). Contextual design : defining customer-centered systems. Holtzblatt, Karen. San Francisco, Calif.: Morgan Kaufmann. ISBN 9780080503042. OCLC 785780355.
  12. ^ Grudin, Jonathan (1994-01-02). "Groupware and social dynamics: eight challenges for developers". Communications of the ACM. 37 (1): 92–105. doi:10.1145/175222.175230. ISSN 0001-0782. S2CID 10939046.
  13. ^ Kensing, Finn; Blomberg, Jeanette (September 1998). "Participatory Design: Issues and Concerns". Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW). 7 (3–4): 167–185. doi:10.1023/a:1008689307411. ISSN 0925-9724. S2CID 207654710.
  14. ^ Greenbaum, Joan (2004) [First published 1995]. Windows on the Workplace: Computers, Jobs, and the Organization of Office Work (2nd ed.). New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 978-1-58367-113-9.
  15. ^ Foster, John Bellamy (1 November 1994). "Labor and Monopoly Capital Twenty Years After: An Introduction". Monthly Review. 46 (6): 1. doi:10.14452/MR-046-06-1994-10_1.
  16. ^ Participatory design : principles and practices. Schuler, Douglas., Namioka, Aki. Hillsdale, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates. 1993. ISBN 978-0805809510. OCLC 26723039.CS1 maint: others (link)
  17. ^ Simonsen, Jesper; Robertson, Toni (2012-10-12). Routledge International Handbook of Participatory Design. Routledge. ISBN 9781136266256.
  18. ^ Stuedahl, Dagny; Smørdal, Ole (2015). "Matters of becoming, experimental zones for making museums public with social media". CoDesign. International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts. 11 (3–4): 193–207. doi:10.1080/15710882.2015.1081245. S2CID 146456506.
  19. ^ Mörtberg, Christina; Bratteteig, Tone; Wagner, Ina; Stuedahl, Dagny; Morrison, Andrew (2010), "Methods That Matter in Digital Design Research", Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Springer London, pp. 105–144, doi:10.1007/978-1-84996-223-0_4, ISBN 9781849962223