Shoshana Zuboff joined the Harvard Business School faculty in 1981. One of the first tenured women at the school, she was the Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration. In 2014 and 2015 she was a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. Her career has been devoted to the study of the rise of the digital, its individual, organizational, and social consequences, and its relationship to the history and future of capitalism. She also founded and led the executive education program, Odyssey: School for the Second Half of Life.
New work includes Master or Slave? The Fight for the Soul of Our Information Civilization, to be published by Public Affairs in the U.S. and Eichborn in Germany in November 2017. Master or Slave integrates Zuboff’s lifelong themes: the historical emergence of psychological individuality, the conditions for human development, the digital revolution, and the evolution of capitalism. It begins with the oldest questions: master or slave? home or exile? It explores the emerging forms of networked capitalism and their implications for information civilization.
Shoshana Zuboff’s latest research article, “Big Other: Surveillance Capitalism and the Prospects of an Information Civilization,” appears in the March 2015 special issue of the Journal of Information Technology. Her recent contributions to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung include “The Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism,” March 2016; “Disruption’s Tragic Flaw,” February 2015; “The Digital Declaration,” September 2014; “The Digital Economy: Human Factors,” July 2014; “Dark Google,” April 2014; “The New Weapons of Mass Detection,” February 2014; “Obama, Merkel, and the Bridge to an Information Civilization,” January 2014; and “Be the Friction: Our Response to the New Lords of the Ring,” June 2013. Other recent work includes a short essay,“For Doubt,” in the international art magazine Frieze’s special issue on quantification and surveillance. A 2012 essay, “When Global Warming Ate My Life,” was written for 350.org’s Connect-the Dots campaign and published in the Huffington Post, April 2012. It links her experience of destructive lightening to global warming. Another article, “Creating Value in the Age of Distributed Capitalism,” appears in the McKinsey Quarterly, September 2010.
Zuboff’s recent work on distributed capitalism builds on her book, The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism (Penguin, 2002), co-authored with Jim Maxmin. Long before the economic crisis of 2007-2008, this far-reaching multi-disciplinary effort integrated history, sociology, management, and economics to explain why today’s business models have reached the limits of their adaptive range: “People have changed more than the commercial organizations upon which they depend…In the chasm that now separates individuals and organizations lie the keys to a new economic order with vast potential for wealth creation and individual fulfillment. The marketplace of a support economy and the associated possibilities of a new distributed capitalism are emerging from the outrage, disappointments, frustrations, and all too frequent humiliations to which today’s new individuals are subjected at the hands of the old organizations.”
The Support Economy has been praised and translated around the world. It was selected by strategy+business as one of the top ten business books of 2003 and ranked number one in the “Values” category. BusinessWeek named it the “number one idea” in its special issue on “Twenty Five Ideas for a Changing World”. Inc.magazine described The Support Economy as “the new new thing” in its special anniversary issue on entrepreneurship. The book has also been featured in dozens of other magazines and newspapers including The Economist, Fast Company, The Financial Times, The Times of London, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and Across the Board (The Conference Board) as well as in major publications in Germany, Italy, India, China, Brazil, Finland, Croatia, Japan, Canada, and South Korea.
In 2006, strategy+business named Shoshana among the eleven most original business thinkers in the world. She was featured in 2004 as a “Creative Mind” in strategy+business, described as “a maverick management guru…one of the sharpest most unorthodox thinkers today.” From 2003 to 2005, she shared her ideas on the future of business and society in her popular monthly column “Evolving”, in the magazine Fast Company. From 2007 through 2009 she was a featured columnist for BusinessWeek.com. Her work has been showcased on CNBC, Reuters International, and the Today Show as well as in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, BrandEins, Fortune, Inc., Business Week, U.S. News & World Report, CIO, The New York Times, The Financial Times, and many other news outlets. She has been heard on over 200 radio shows, including top coverage on NPR’s Marketplace, TechNation, Sound Money, Morning Edition, BBC, and the BBC World Service.
Author of the celebrated classic In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power (1988), Shoshana has been called “the true prophet of the information age”. In the Age of the Smart Machine won instant critical acclaim in both the academic and trade press—including the front page review in the New York Times Book Review– and has long been considered the definitive study of information technology in the workplace.
In the Age of the Smart Machine is the source of many concepts that have become widely integrated into the understanding of information technologies and their consequences. These include the abstraction of work associated with information technology and its related skill demands; that information technology can pave the way for more fluid distributed work arrangements; the concept of the “information panopticon”; the duality of information technology as an informating and an automating technology; computer-mediated action; information as a challenge to command/control; the social construction of technology; the collaborative patterns of information work–to name but a few.
A new scholarly article by Andrew Burton-Jones reviews the continuing impact of In the Age of the Smart Machine on IT-oriented scholarship. He describes the book as “the most cited and celebrated in the whole of the IS field…”. According to Finnish scholars Hanna Timonen and Kaija-Stiina Paloheimo’s 2008 analysis of the emergence and diffusion of the concept of knowledge work, In the Age of the Smart Machine is one of three late twentieth century books, including Peter Drucker’s In the Age of Discontinuity and Daniel Bell’s The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, that are responsible for the diffusion of the concept of “knowledge work.”
According to London School of Economics Professor Jannis Kallinikos’s analysis in “Smart Machines,” written on the occasion of the book’s twentieth anniversary for The Encyclopedia of Software Engineering, In the Age of the Smart Machine is “a profound study of the work implications associated with the extensive involvement of information technology in organizations. The book rapidly gained recognition across a wide spectrum of social science disciplines, including management and organization studies, information systems, social psychology, and sociology, and has been debated and quoted extensively. Twenty years may seem an awfully long time in this age of speed and rapid technological change. But, the Smart Machine, as perhaps every great work, holds out remarkably…One could indeed go as far as to claim that in some respects the book is even more relevant and timely today than it was at the time of its publication.”
In 1993, Shoshana founded the executive education program “ODYSSEY: School for the Second Half of Life” at the Harvard Business School. The program addressed the issues of transformation and career renewal at midlife and beyond. During twelve years of her teaching and leadership, ODYSSEY became known as the best program of its kind in the world.
Shoshana has published dozens of articles, essays, book reviews, and cases on the changing nature of capitalism, information technology in the workplace, and the history and future of work and management. Her scholarly monograph “Work in the United States in the Twentieth Century,” appears in the Encyclopedia of the United States in the Twentieth Century (1996). Her lectures on “The Information Society” are featured in the Smithsonian’s permanent exhibition on “The Information Age”. She has served on editorial boards including The Harvard Business Review, The American Prospect, and Organization. She serves on the boards of the Legatum Center at MIT, The Natural Resources Council of Maine, and The Heartwood Regional Theater Company. She has been awarded research grants from the National Institute of Mental Health.