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All the FactsA History of Information in the United States since 1870$
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James W. Cortada

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190460679

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190460679.001.0001

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Information and the Modern Knowledge Worker, 1945–1998

Information and the Modern Knowledge Worker, 1945–1998

(p.326) Chapter 8 Information and the Modern Knowledge Worker, 1945–1998
All the Facts

James W. Cortada

Oxford University Press

No Americans experienced more changes in how they lived, worked, and used information than employees, particularly those known as knowledge workers. Their new world of information and their use of computing are described, using case studies of blue-collar workers, automotive mechanics, factory workers, plumbers, nurses, professionals, doctors, engineers, IBM salesmen, and software programmers. It demonstrates that a wide range of jobs and professions all experienced substantial increases in the volume and diversity of information required with which to do their work. This increased volume of information, and dependence upon it, was driven by technological changes in the tasks one performed, and that kept evolving over time, requiring dependence on new bodies of information. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the birth of digital literacy. Digital literacy—the ability to use computers, such as PCs at work—continued a long-standing evolution in what constituted literacy. In the 1700s it meant the ability to read, by the 1930s, it meant also performing basic mathematical functions, and by the 1990s operating PCs and widely used software tools. Today the ability of using smart phones constitutes the latest form of digital literacy. Many of the tools used in one era or another were shared across professions. The same applied to information as it diffused across professions, such as medical knowledge moving from doctors to nurses, then increasingly to patients. Each group created information ecosystems in support of their use of facts.

Keywords:   knowledge worker, computer, information ecosystem, blue-collar work, professionals and information, digital literacy, information

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