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The multi-dimensional space of the futures of work

Erran Carmel (Kogod School of Business, American University, Washington, District of Columbia, USA)
Steve Sawyer (School of Information Studies, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, USA)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 17 January 2022

Issue publication date: 13 January 2023




The authors present nine dimensions to provide structure for the many Futures of Work (FoW). This is done to advance a more sociotechnical and nuanced approach to the FoW, which is too-often articulated as singular and unidimensional. Futurists emphasize they do not predict the future, but rather, build a number of possible futures – in plural – often in the form of scenarios constructed based on key dimensions. Such scenarios help decision-makers consider alternative actions by providing structured frames for careful analyses. It is useful that the dimensions be dichotomous. Here, the authors focus specifically on the futures of knowledge work.


Building from a sustained review of the FoW literature, from a variety of disciplines, this study derives the nine dimensions.


The nine FoW dimensions are: Locus of Place, Locus of Decision-making, Structure of Work, Technologies’ Roles, Work–Life, Worker Expectations, Leadership Model, Firm’s Value Creation and Labor Market Structure. Use of the dimensions is illustrated by constructing sample scenarios.


While FoW is multi-dimensional, most FoW writing has focused on one or two dimensions, often highlighting positive or negative possibilities. Empirical papers, by their nature, are focused on just one dimension that is supported by data. However, future-oriented policy reports tend are more often multi-faceted analyses and serve here as the model for what we present.



This work is supported in part by funding from the National Science Foundation (via Grants 1665386, 2121624 and 2121638). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Carmel, E. and Sawyer, S. (2023), "The multi-dimensional space of the futures of work", Information Technology & People, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 1-20.



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