Is it The Soul of a New/Lost Machine?

Is it The Soul of a New/Lost Machine?

Lebene Richmond Soga (Henley Business School, University of Reading, Reading, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/IJANTTI.2016040102


This paper is a throwback to The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder (Kidder, 1981b). Bruno Latour (1987), upon examining Tracy Kidder's story, observes that the heroic tale of engineers who worked on Eagle, a 32-bit minicomputer, was actually inspired by a machine! Over the years, however, this Latourian viewpoint seems to have been ignored. This paper thus examines how Kidder's story was received over the past three decades by the academic and non-academic communities. It exposes how various reviews of the story reinforce one's assumptions about how one approaches narratives about technology. A total of 228 reviews/analyses/commentaries about the story were analysed in a qualitative undertaking that also led the enquiry into a detailed analyses of the story's historico-cultural agency. The findings indicate that non-academic reviews focused largely on heroism, whereas in the academy, the story was approached in light of the prevailing academic discourses in management theory per any given decade of the book's journey; the story then became The Soul of a Lost Machine!
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Homo Sapiens And Homo Fabulans

Humans ‘are born, bred, live and die within a great sea of stories’ (Szabo, 2013, p. 6) and this fundamental human need demands that they assess, first, what stories they feed on, and second, how they feed on them. This is because narratives intricately weave our weltanschauung which then forms basis for individual and collective action. Schiffrin, De Fina, & Nylund (2010) for instance argue that ‘narratives are fundamental to our lives. We dream, plan, complain, endorse, entertain, teach, learn, and reminisce by telling stories. They provide hopes, enhance or mitigate disappointments, challenge or support moral order, and test out theories of the world at both personal and communal levels’ (p.1). Additionally, it is important an examination is made of how stories are related to by Homo sapiens because their very nature as social animals make stories part of the thread that holds their communities together and in some cases, gives them a social identity. On the flip side, individualism suggests that ‘basic narratives’, as Czarniawska (1998) argues, ‘can carry a load of ambiguity and therefore leave openings for negotiation of meaning’ (Czarniawska, 1998, p. 3), the advantage being a weakening of any hegemony of the narrative (Boje, 2001) where a one-voiced omniscient narrator is behind every line.

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