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New Directions Lecture Series: Beth Bechky

Thursday, April 20, 2017 -
12:15pm to 1:15pm
Packard 101

Beth Bechky

Jacob B. Melnick Term Professor of Management and Organizations at the Stern School of Business and a professor of Sociology (by courtesy)
New York University

 

Sponsored by: Management Science & Engineering

Contact:  Lissa Zelaya

 

 

 

Abstract

When technology challenges knowledge work: The case of forensic science

In the last few years we have been repeatedly warned that with the advent of the Second Machine Age, digital technologies are going to put many of us out of work. What appears most worrisome to the people who pen such warnings is that knowledge workers (i.e. themselves) are now at risk of replacement by AI or other technologies. However, these technologies are likely to change as many jobs as they displace. Therefore, it is equally important to examine the pressures that knowledge workers encounter when they face technological change and understand how it changes their work.

In this talk, Dr. Bechky will present findings from her 18-month ethnographic study of a crime laboratory. She will explore what happened when DNA profiling was held up as the “gold standard” of forensic evidence, resulting in scientific, public and legal scrutiny of other forensic science communities. Specifically, she shows how being compared to the standards and practices associated with DNA evidence challenged the working techniques and the values of firearms examiners, toxicologists, and narcotics analysts. Their responses were also filtered through social structures such as professional associations and court proceedings. These aspects of the occupational and organizational ecosystem – technique, values and social structures – influenced how forensic scientists negotiated the impact of technological change.

Biography

Beth Bechky is the Jacob B. Melnick Term Professor of Management and Organizations at the Stern School of Business and a professor of Sociology (by courtesy) at New York University. Her research on the dynamics of work at organizational and occupational boundaries has appeared in journals such as Administrative Science Quarterly, American Journal of Sociology, Academy of Management Journal and Organization Science. She is a former senior editor at Organization Science and editor of Qualitative Organizational Research. Prior to joining NYU she held professorial positions at the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.


NEW DIRECTIONS SPEAKERS AND VIDEOS OF THEIR TALKS can be viewed in the New Directions Series page.