How We Work

Technology can make completing tasks in the modern workplace both easier and more complicated. Automation boosts productivity but at the potential cost of dividing attention and increasing stress. Real-time mobile communications collapse vast distances yet may undermine employee accountability. Through the lens of informatics, these effects become clear, giving rise to remarkable technologies that put work in a whole new light.

A bridge to better understanding

For most of human history, the concept of “work” was tied to a specific geographic location. Today, doctors diagnose and operate on patients from afar, software development teams are spread around the world and complex financial networks manage investment portfolios from hubs on every continent. These long-distance arrangements present numerous hurdles to efficient and effective collaboration, and they require the development of novel technologies and new ways of getting a job done. The Department of Informatics provides a unique perspective on the entire spectrum of issues and opportunities that arise from working together, apart. The Collaboration Success Wizard being developed by the Hana Lab showcases one such opportunity. Using data collected from hundreds of collaborative projects, the Wizard offers an online diagnostic survey that probes factors known to strengthen or weaken collaborations. Based on the input provided by project participants at all levels, the Wizard prepares personal and project-level reports highlighting key areas of concern — vital information for any organization straddling far-flung operations.

Taming the information jungle

Business grows more data driven — and information dependent – every day. Amazon profiles its users to provide personalized service. Facebook sits atop a trove of information worth billions of dollars in advertising. The provision of health care relies entirely on the ability of databases to organize electronic medical records. Maximizing the use of this information necessitates that businesses achieve a delicate balance between the pursuit of profit and the protection of consumer privacy as mandated by a growing body of international laws. The power of technology leaves room for both, and the Department of Informatics helps us understand how. Collaborating with companies like Samsung, Ericsson and Disney, department researchers are designing solutions that allow sites to cater personalization methods to different jurisdictions and user preferences — while also helping users make sound privacy decisions. The potential boon to business is enormous: People who can control a website’s personalization method disclose more data about themselves and make considerably more purchases.