The Office: The impact of the digital revolution on the office practices of early career academics
This thesis is fundamentally about the digital revolution and its impact on the office practices of new academics. It explored the degree to which a group of early career academics were being influenced by ‘new ways of working’—a practice that is currently driving change in many organisations globally. The office activities of five millennial academics were monitored over a six-month period using digital still images to investigate space/place, continuous camera observations to investigate physical behaviour and computer usage logs to investigate visual behaviour. While the findings show the importance of the computer to daily work practice, and a degree of work practices extending beyond the office, the data revealed that the concept of the office, office practices and computer usage were more akin to traditional ways of working. This was a position reinforced by participants who, aware of the pace of technology and change, harboured a feeling of being left-behind. The focus on activity and the use of sensor-based data offered an opportunity to explore ‘new ways’ of undertaking higher education research. Rather than following the traditional perception-based research model, this study adopted activity as the unit of analysis. Digital sensors were employed to capture significant volumes of naturally occurring continuous data. The use of such methods in educational research is new, and for this reason, a central element of this thesis is the development of a preliminary blueprint for a new methodology focused on ‘precision research’. Finally, rather than academics being the drivers of change, it is argued that as a learning organisation, the university is responsible for addressing academic and professional progress in times of turbulent change, and that it is the institution that is best positioned to plan for and drive positive change. Universities that overlook or disregard these progressive, technological practices are unlikely to yield valuable knowledge or relevant knowledge workers. Like so many large commercial organisations already, universities too could be left-behind.
Advisor: Spronken-Smith, Rachel; Daniel, Ben
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Higher Education Development Centre
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: academic development; early careeer academics; digital revolution; New ways of working
Research Type: Thesis