The Structuring of Early Computer Use in Life Insurance

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Insurance companies were amongst one of the first industries to have the opportunity to use computers when they first became available for commercial use around the 1950s. The article will examine the patterns of early computer buyers from this time frame and their use of the computers in hopes it will provide a detailed understanding of the process by which these industries choose and used computers in the 1950s. The author focuses her explanations around Anthony Giddens' structuration theory, which is known as a meta-theory or perspective on human action. JoAnne Yates, author of The Structuring of Early Computer Use in Life Insurance demonstrates in her article how early computer choice and use in life insurance was structured by pre-computer technology. Gidden describes structuration theory as, “[t]he structural properties of social systems exist only in so far as forms of social conduct are reproduced chronically across time and space” (Yates 1999, 5). This statement is referring to the patterns of social arrangements in society that ultimately determine the actions of other individuals. These patterns of social arrangements only exist because they are continued to be acted out. Gidden notes that our actions and social structures have a repetitive relationship that influences our future actions; he called this relationship “duality of structure” (Yates 1999, 6). Gidden emphasizes that structures “both enable and constrain us, but do not determine, human action” (Yates 1999, 6). This proposed claim shows that we can predict human behavior, but nothing can ultimately determine the behavior. Structuration will help to explain individual’s interactions with technology, specifically the computer with insurance companie... ... middle of paper ... ...because of the threat that it posed on their jobs. By using Gidden’s structuration theory to assess technology, specifically computers, it allows for a better understanding of predictable behaviors of individuals about technology choices. The overall dominant choice of insurance companies in this time frame was to use computers of all types to speed up existing insurance applications (Yates 1999, 21). The insurance companies’ behavior to use computers for their existing applications when the opportunity became available was expected through structuration theory. Technology before the computer era structured the easy computer technology adaption in the 1950s. Works Cited Yates, JoAnne. “The Structuring of Early Computer Use in Life Insurance.” Journal of Design History, Vol. 12, (1999): pp. 5-24. Accessed March 28, 2014. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1316225

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