I want a self-driving office, not an office driving me.
In both the case of the car and the office, the growing use of sensors in the environment (or the promise, or threat, of them) seems to be moving in the direction of the authoritarian. If I am distracted in the car, a system designed by a central authority according to its behavioral criteria will intervene and correct my own behavior. At the office, if I am working under my potential because I am not in the stream of information that the company thinks I should have, a system that perceives “structural holes” in the work environment might assign me a different seat when I arrive in the morning.
These transitions from user-as-author of his actions to authority-as-author seem odd to me, and counter-trending. While I am looking forward to the delights of the self-driving car, it is not to surrender choice to command-central. It is to increase the choices I have to “design” the environment that I want for travel without having the distractions of traffic and having to do the work of the steering wheel and brake.
In much of the technology I choose, I select apps that bring information to me rather than having to go seek it. I think it is rare that I “cruise” to a web site or blog anymore to find out what is new there, because my apps bring me what is new as soon as it is posted there. I have selected “authorities” that I subscribe to, and use sufficient other tools to assure that I am in a serendipitous stream of accidental information exposure to the random and unknown, as well.
So when it comes to the office, I am not sure the concepts proposed with sociometrics are right. When the central authority chooses where I should sit in the morning, it is selecting to advance opportunity with a probably very narrow set of criteria. If, however, I have access to a much richer data set and social selection in the office, I may be able to find and offer data, information and knowledge more quickly, effectively, and serendipitously. Sociometrics determining where I sit seems like a new age assembly line concept and may be as limiting. When I, however, can pick up on a digital vibe in the office and plug into it, I may be much more satisfied, more engaged, and more creative.
As in my car or on my smart phone, I want to use my cognitive potential in more effective and efficient ways than being distracted by having to do the work of the office’s physical, management, and IT infrastructure. Or to have my work shaped by it.