Deadline extended: Call for papers to a special issue of NTWE journal
New Technology, Work and Employment Journal invites submissions for an upcoming special issue entitled “The 'new' social relations of digital technology and the future of work", with a deadline of 30th November 2020. More information on the content of the call and submission details below.
The ‘new’ social relations of digital technology and the future of work
There is increasing interest in the effects of digital technology on work, although opinion has been sharply divided over just how transformational digitalisation will prove. Utopian visions see in digital technologies the potential for post capitalist futures, with more liberating options for the meaning of work (e.g. Bastani, 2019; Mason, 2015), while dystopian visions predict a bleaker future, where robots and automated processes led to mass casualization, surveillance or even human irrelevance (e.g. Ford, 2015). In contrast, much academic analysis has tended to tread a more cautious path, noting that digital technologies are most likely to impact on the nature and quality of work rather than replacing it per se (e.g. Thompson and Briken, 2017; Spencer, 2018). Nevertheless, the future is difficult to predict, and the likely effects of different dimensions of digitalisation are still to be fully understood. The scope of the impact of digital technologies, the number of contrasting pronouncements about what they mean for the future, and the volume of new evidence that is emerging, all present researchers with significant empirical and theoretical challenges in understanding its impact on the world of work, and differentiating between radical and incremental change.
Technology is not, of course, just a factor to be input into production processes, free from the wider dynamics that surround the world of work. How technologies develop, the forms they take and their manner of implementation (or not) into specific workplaces are all shaped by wider capitalist social relations. It is thus essential to maintain a sharp focus on the agency of employers, state actors, workers and representative bodies in analysing digital technology. As Baldry (2011) notes , in an era of weakened trade unions, the introduction of new technology often coincides with the introduction of new management methods and new forms of work organisation. Moreover, different forms of capital- from venture capital, state capital, to more “impatient” forms of financialised capital- have different imperatives and orientations which alter their relationship with technological development. Likewise, workers are rarely powerless in the face of managerially-imposed technology and their collective agency also guides its implementation.
New technologies of work thus arrive enmeshed in managerial systems and are shaped by different, often conflicting, imperatives. These coinciding dynamics have to be disentangled if we are to fully grasp the specific impact of technology. The aim of this special issue is to put social relations back at the heart of our analysis, at a moment when mainstream discourse on digital technologies at work is in danger of being dominated by determinist and managerialist claims (or fantasies) about the transformative or disruptive capacities of these technologies.
New Technology, Work and Employment has a long-standing record of critiquing attempts to sever technology from social forces, repeatedly emphasising the social relations in which technological change is embedded (Howcroft and Taylor, 2014). The aim of this special issue is to put social relations back at the heart of our understanding of digital technologies by asking: how does the agency of actors within the labour-capital relationship drive, reshape, and even limit, the development and dissemination of new technologies? In this question, we hope to develop accounts of the impact of digital technology on work that avoids the incipient dangers of technological determinism, and which go beyond the persistent but overly dichotomised debate between technological utopias and dystopias.
More information can be found here.