Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series in Economics and Institutions of Innovation,
Royal Institute of Technology, CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies

No 52: Designing Democracy: The UTOPIA-project and the Role of Labour Movement in Technological Change, 1981—1986

Per Lundin ()
Additional contact information
Per Lundin: CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies, Royal Institute of Technology, Postal: CESIS - Centre of Excellence for Science and Innovation Studies, Royal Institute of Technology, SE-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: The paper describes and analyses a Scandinavian research project on trade union based development of, and training in, computer technology and work organization, especially text and image processing in the graphic industries, that was named UTOPIA and carried out between 1981 and 1986. UTOPIA gave rise to the so called Scandinavian School of System Development (Den skandinaviska skolan) where the users participation in system development have become a key element. The role of labour movement in technological change is highlighted and it is underlined that there are different incentives for technological change. Corporations developing technology usually pursued increased efficiency in production, while the labour movement and UTOPIA aimed at other goals such as translating social values regarding job skills, quality of work, and quality of products into new computer hardware and software for the graphic industries. It is argued that the UTOPIA-project may be seen as an attempt to establish an innovation system in computer system development where these kind of different values were pursued. The innovation system consisted of industry, research institutes, trade unions, and universities, and was characterized by strong labour interests.

Keywords: History; history of computers; history of technology; industrial democracy; innovation systems; management; technological change; trade unions

JEL-codes: J50; N00; N73; O14; O30

10 pages, March 28, 2006

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