New Technology, Work and Employment

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  • Work, ICT and travel in multinational corporations: the synthetic work mobility situation

    Theorising the relationships between information communication technology (ICT), travel and work continues to preoccupy researchers interested in multinational corporations (MNCs). One motivation is the desire to understand ways of reducing demand for and the negative consequences of business travel. Existing studies offer, however, little in the way of theoretical explanation of why situations that require travel arise in the first instance and how they might be avoided. To address this shortcoming, this paper analyses two case study engineering consultancy MNCs to develop a novel sociomaterial perspective on the role of travel and ICTs. It introduces the concept of the synthetic work mobility situation which highlights the way ICT and travel exert agency that constitutes ways of working and the organisational form of MNCs. The concept also recasts questions about ways of reducing demand for travel as questions about ways of reconstituting the sociomaterial organisation of the MNC.

  • Challenging male dominance through the substantive representation of women: the case of an online women’s mentoring platform

    This article analyses the design of an online mentoring platform—for women by women—in a high‐technology, male‐dominated UK industry: aviation and aerospace. Based on interviews with professionals and managers, we analyse the journey of the women involved and contribute to the understanding of the role of women (individually and collectively) in challenging gendered norms in a male‐dominated industry through the theoretical lenses of ‘critical actors’ and ‘critical mass’. We combine these concepts, usually seen as mutually exclusive, to explain the success of the online platform. We show how a small number of self‐selected critical actors represented, listened and responded to the needs of the women in their industry, thus achieving the substantive representation of women. We also argue that while critical actors were key to its inception, the mentoring platform now needs a critical mass of women to ensure its success.

  • ‘Don't take a poo!': Worker misbehaviour in on‐demand ride‐hail carpooling

    Workers actively negotiate contradictions between discourses of flexibility and entrepreneurialism and actually existing conditions of risk and precarity endemic to online self‐employed work. This article examines how ride‐hail drivers counter‐branded UberPool—a carpool ride‐hail service—as ‘UberPoo’. While marketed as a solution to congestion, UberPool created risky and coercive working conditions for ride‐hail drivers. Our analysis is from a study on ride‐hail driver experiences of health and safety risks in a large Canadian city. We engage the concept of organisational misbehaviour to explore how drivers mocked and avoided carpool rides despite the threat of penalties. We characterise misbehaviour as a struggle over lack of control and lack of autonomy in self‐employed work, providing evidence that despite their structural powerlessness, some ride‐hail drivers do set limits around the work they are willing to accept. Algorithmic management and ambiguously classified ride‐hail work are thus subject to some degree of subversion.

  • Dynamic exploits: calculative asymmetries in the on‐demand economy

    On‐demand service firms secure market power by cultivating and operationalising calculative asymmetries between the platform and labour. In this article, I analyse dynamic (or ‘surge’) pricing as an exemplary calculative technique. I show how the asymmetrical application of price‐setting allows firms to leverage control at the aggregate level while maintaining the façade of autonomy at the individual level, thereby legitimising workers’ classification as independent contractors but solving the coordination problems that the classification introduces. The article complements and extends previous critical research into the platform or ‘on‐demand’ service economy by analysing how management scientists model and simulate on‐demand marketplaces. I consider management science to be a calculative technique for optimising operational efficiency. A critical review of management science provides novel insights into platforms’ efforts to monopolise calculative agency at the expense of other market participants. The article concludes by considering implications for broader critiques of platform labour management.

  • Issue Information
  • Wobblies of the World: a global history of the IWW
  • Austerity and working‐class resistance: survival, disruption and creation in hard times. Edited by Adam Fishwick and Heather Connolly (eds) (2018), London, New York: Rowman & Littlefield International, 225 pages, £27.95
  • Making gigs work: digital platforms, job quality and worker motivations

    Technology has driven new organisations of work and employment relationships, rendering changes that would have been unimaginable just a decade ago. The rise of digital platforms has not only enabled new forms of work activity but also transformed the way workers find new opportunities. This development, referred to as gig work, is distinct from traditional employment in that it is mediated through online platforms. While we can somewhat objectively designate traditional job characteristics as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, designating gig work itself as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ overlooks the fact that workers are inclined to evaluate the quality of their jobs according to their own individual needs, priorities, backgrounds and other circumstances—even if those jobs are objectively the same. Unlike previous scholarship on gig work, which has viewed job quality largely from a platform‐focused perspective, this article takes a worker‐centric approach and provides a typology of gig workers. The typology demarcates how gig work is used and indicates key attributes that differentiate how workers approach such jobs. Moreover, the typology reveals heterogeneity in gig workers’ motivations, characteristics and intentions. Consequently, platforms with ‘bad’ job quality characteristics can still offer work that some workers will see as ‘good’ and vice versa.

  • Technologies in caregiving: professionals’ strategies for engaging with new technology

    This article explores the adoption of new technology in organisations that provide senior citizen care. Inspired by Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory, we study how technology reduces complexity by identifying client needs and ensuring predictability in service delivery. However, how technologies are adopted in practice is not determined by technology since it is also structured by care‐workers' continuous decision‐making. Against this backdrop, we explore how technologies alter the conditions for decision‐making in two settings of elderly care, and we describe how care workers seek to adapt technologies to their practical needs as well as conception of care ethics. Developing a systems theory approach, the article eschews a priori assumptions of technological constraint on care‐workers’ professional autonomy, offering a more open‐ended exploration of diversified strategies for coping with new technology. Our case studies show that employees develop diversified strategies for technology adoption, including both non‐usage, heated resistance, excessive embrace, and creative adaption.

  • Women’s work: how mothers manage flexible working in careers and family life.

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