A Constructive-Critical Approach to the Changing Workplace and its Technologies
European Society for Socially Embedded Technologies (EUSSET)
Implementation of technical systems into work practices can result in shifting the balance of power in terms of what is visible and what is hidden (Suchman 1994; Star & Strauss 1999) and in fundamentally changing the nature of work itself (Bannon 1994). Sometimes these changes can have unpredictable and even adverse effects on the stakeholders involved (Clement & Wagner 1995). ECSCW as a venue has not shied away from pointing out that there is politics to sociomaterial processes we observe and study (Bannon & Bødker 1997; Bjørn and Balka 2007). As work computerization begins to involve the digitization of work practices, however, more thorny political questions emerge. The workplace changes when the spheres of private life and work are blurred as sensors are attached to the employee in the workplace for tracking movement (Gorm & Shklovski 2016; Møller et al. 2017), when the workplace as a fixed physical location is dissolved as in the case of turning homes into “pop-up co-working places” (Rossitto et al. 2017), in the “sharing economy” (Zade & O’Neil 2016), in online labor platforms such as Amazon Mechanical Turk (Irani and Silberman 2013), or when workplace data-collection is management- rather than worker-centric resulting in employee exploitation (Dombrowski 2017). The challenge for CSCW research is to study the changing workplace and affect the nature of collaborative work with the aim of improving the design of computational systems, while attending to and perhaps improving the conditions for work.