war & peace
This page looks at work, employment and industrial relations
in digital environments.
It covers -
Barry Jones' 1999 address
on The Information Revolution in Australia: Its Impact
On Politics, the Economy & Society and his Sleepers,
Wake! Technology & the Future of Work (Melbourne:
Oxford Uni Press 1998) and Jennifer Alexander's The
Mantra of Efficiency: From Waterwheel to Social Control
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Uni Press 2008) offer local
perspectives for considering work, labour and the big
end of town in the age of connectivity. On the Front
Line: Organization of Work in the Information Economy
(Ithaca: Cornell Uni Press 1999) by Stephen Frenkel, Marek
Korczynski & May Tam, The Disposable American:
Layoffs and Their Consequences (New York: Vintage
2007) by Louis Uchitelle, The Battle for the Soul
of Capitalism (New Haven: Yale Uni Press 2007) by
John Bogle and The Making of a Cybertariat: Virtual
Work in a Real World (London: Merlin Press 2003)
by Ursula Huws are less upbeat.
The UK Department of Trade & Industry report
on Converging Technologies: The Consequences For the
New Knowledge-Driven Economy, Amy Sue Bix's Inventing
Ourselves Out of Jobs? America's Debate over Technological
Unemployment, 1929-1981 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
Uni Press 2000) and Robert Thomas's What Machines Can't
Do: Politics and Technology in the Industrial Enterprise
(Berkeley: Uni of California Press 1994) are other starting
Further to the left is Herbert Schiller's Information
& The Crisis Economy (New York: Oxford Uni Press
1986) and Information Inequality: The Deepening Social
Crisis In America (London: Routledge 1996), Jeff Faux'
The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite
Lost Our Future — and What It Will Take to Win It
Back (New York: Wiley 2006), Shoshana Zuboff's In
the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work &
Power (New York: Basic Books 1988).
Chris Carlsson's deliciously silly Nowtopia: How Pirate
Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists, and Vacant-lot Gardeners
are Inventing the Future Today (Oakland: AK Press
2008) announces that 'nowtopians' - yet another vanguard
of the revolution - are working outside of the capitalist
economy to create
A social revolt against being reduced to 'mere workers',
to being trapped in the objectified and commodified
status of labor power.
Rules for a New Economy: Employment and Opportunity in
Post-Industrial America (Ithaca: Cornell University
Press 1998) by Stephen Herzenberg & Howard Wial highlights
the changing nature of the workforce, noting that while
there were fewer than 5,000 computer programmers in the
US in 1960, there were over 1.3 million by 1998, with
managerial and professional jobs increasing from 22% in
1979 to 29% of total employment in 1995. It is complemented
by the sobering Granny @ Work: Aging and New Technology
on the Job in America (London: Routledge 2003) from
Teleworking, despite pontification by cybertheorists,
has proved to be neither as personally liberating or as
attractive to managers as originally conceived.
'Techno-commuting' has not led to the death of the city,
as Joel Kotkin's The New Geography: How the Digital
Revolution is Reshaping the American Landscape (New
York: Random 2000) and Digital Geography: The Remaking
of City & Countryside in the New Economy (PDF)
demonstrate. It has not necessarily led to a revival of
the Bush, despite hype from NOIE and other new economy
boosters. One reason is that the technology enabling transfer
of data processing from Sydney to a regional area in New
South Wales also enables transfer to Bangalore or Fujian
where workers may be more skilled, cheaper and docile.
Some of the more ambitious claims made for telecentres
are thus misplaced.
In 2007 the UK Chartered Institute of Personnel &
Development sniffed that teleworking "is far from
as widespread as popularly perceived", noting that
62% of UK teleworkers were self-employed (often in manual
trades rather than as 'symbolic analysts') and only 4%
of employees were teleworkers.
greatest concentration of teleworkers is found in construction
(23 per cent) followed by agriculture (16 per cent)
and business, finance and insurance (15 per cent). A
typical teleworker is more likely to be a mature male,
white-van-driving, self-employed, jobbing plumber or
bricklayer than ... a techno-savvy post-modern-style
worker who looks to have just stepped off the set of
In January 2001 the US Department of Labor released a
on Telework & the New Workplace for the 21st Century,
with studies by social scientists, economists and technologists.
There is another perspective in The Virtual Workplace
(Hershey: Idea 1998) edited by Magid Igbaria and Martin
Carnoy's Sustaining the New Economy: Work, Family &
Community in the Information Age (Cambridge: Harvard
Uni Press 2000).
Discrimination and the 'family friendly workplace' is
discussed in 'Family-friendly Work Practices and the Law'
by Belinda Smith & Joellen Riley in 26 Sydney
Law Review (2004) 395-426; 'Part-time work and indirect
discrimination' by Rosemary Hunter in 21 Alternative
Law Journal (1996) 220-222; 'Working part time: Reflections
on "practicing" the work-family juggling act'
by Beth Gaze in 1(2) Queensland University of Technology
Law Journal (2001).
technologies and tools
The literature on digital technology's transformation
of the workplace and work processes is immense.
For collaborative activity there is a useful introduction
in Proceedings of the 6th European Conference on Computer
Supported Cooperative Work (Dordrecht: Kluwer 1999)
edited by Susanne Bodker & Kjeld Schmidt, Studies
in Computer Supported Cooperative Work (Amsterdam:
North-Holland 1991) by Steven Benford and Computer-Supported
Co-Operative Work (Chichester: Wiley 1999) edited
by Michel Beaudouin-Lafont.
visions and realities
Nate Bolt contributed a modish essay
on The Binary Proletariat to First Monday.
Noah Kennedy's The Industrialisation of Intelligence
(London: Unwin 1989), James Cortada's Rise of the Knowledge
Worker (Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann 1998), White-Collar
Sweatshop (New York: Norton 2001) by Jill Fraser and
The Electronic Sweatshop (New York: Simon &
Schuster 1988) by Barbara Garson are arguably better value.
Net Slaves - True Tales of Working the Web by Bill
Lessard & Steve Baldwin (New York: McGraw-Hill 2000)
is breathless - and relentlessly anecdotal - but looks
at the systems administrators, technicians and others
in the underside of the Information Economy. Its
site is archived here.
Lessard & Baldwin provided a sequel in NetSlaves
2.0: Tales of 'Surviving' the Great Tech Gold Rush
(New York: Allworth 2003).
Andrew Ross's more mordant Real Love: In Pursuit of
Cultural Justice (New York: NY Uni Press 1998) features
'Jobs in Cyberspace', a critique that can be read in conjunction
with Chris Benner's Work in the New Economy: Flexible
Labor Markets in Silicon Valley (Oxford: Blackwell
2002). Audrey Collin & Richard Young edited the provocative
collection The Future of Career (Cambridge: Cambridge
Uni Press 2000) exploring occupational training, unemployment,
pre-employment training and the nature of work.
There is a pungent critique of the techno-libertarians
in Paulina Borsook's Cyberselfish:
A Critical Romp Through the Terribly Libertarian Culture
of High Tech (New York: PublicAffairs 1999) and Langdon
Winner's 'Silicon Valley Mystery House' in Variations
on a Theme Park: The New American City & the End of
Public Space (New York: Noonday 1992) edited by Michael
For 'McWork' - much of the job creation hailed by economists
in Washington, Canberra and London in fact relates to
poorly-rewarded and insecure service work - see Barbara
Ehrenreich's Nickel & Dimed: On (Not) Getting
By in America (New York: Holt 2001) and Elisabeth
Wynhausen's Dirt Cheap - Life at the wrong end of
the job market (South Yarra: Macmillan 2005).
Points of entry to the literature on age discrimination
include 'Too Many Candles on the Birthday Cake: Age Discrimination,
Work and the Law' by Patricia Easteal, Channy Cheung &
Susan Priest in 7(1) Queensland University of Technology
Law Journal (2007) 93-107; 'Age Discrimination in
Law and Practice' by Sol Encel in 3 Elder Law Review
(2004) 1-14 and Discrimination Law and Practice
(Leichhardt: Federation Press 2004) by Chris Ronalds and
unions and activism
Until recently there was surprisingly little writing about
unions and labour activism in the digital environment.
Online studies include Roger Darlington's 2001 paper
The Creation of the E-Union: The Use of ICT by British
Trade Unions, Eric Lee's 2000 paper
How the Internet is Changing Unions, Stephen
Ward & Wainer Lusoli's 2003 Dinosaurs in Cyberspace?
British Trade Unions & the Internet (PDF)
and John Hogan & Margaret Grieco's paper
Trade unions on line: technology, transparency and
bargaining power. Hogan's 2003 bibliography
and Anne-Marie Greene's e-Collectivism site
are of interest.
James Glee's The New Work Order: Behind the Language
of the New Capitalism (Boulder: Westview 1997) and
Michael Perelman's Class Warfare in the Information
Age (New York: St Martins 1998) are provocative or
rather silly studies, depending on your bias. Lorraine
Giordano's Beyond Taylorism: Computerization &
the New Industrial Relations (New York: St Martins
1992) and Ching Kwan Lee's Against the Law: Labor
Protests in China's Rustbelt and Sunbelt (Berkeley:
Uni of California Press 2007) are suggestive. We found
Eric Lee's The Labour Movement & the Internet:
The New Internationalism (London: Pluto Press 1997)
Peter Waterman's paper
on Labour@Cyberspace is another academic exercise
from Cybersociology magazine. There is a perspective in
Jonathan Cohn's TNR article
on Amazon.com & the New
Economy. Steve Walker's 2001 To Picket Just Click
It! Social netwar and industrial conflict in a global
is an homage to netwar theorists such as Arquilla &
The Reputation Management page
in the Marketing guide on this site looks at 'attack'
sites and corporate 'sucks' domains.
discipline, discrimination and nastiness
Writing about workplace censorship features here,
along with discussion of social
network-related dismissals (eg being 'busted' for
content on Facebook and MySpace) and blog-related
Bullying in the digital workplace is discussed here.
Age, gendered and other discrimination in employment is
What of job search in the information economy, where -
of the binary proletariat are urged to "pound your
keyboard, not the pavement"
jobs are short-term, even casual
is substantial churn, particularly among 'McJobs'?
online recruitment industry and internet job search services
are explored in a supplementary
profile elsewhere on this site. Insights about IT bodyshopping
are provided in Gurus, Hired Guns, and Warm Bodies:
Itinerant Experts in a Knowledge Economy (Princeton:
Princeton Uni Press 2004) by Stephen Barley & Gideon
Kunda and Headhunters: Matchmaking in the Labor Market
(Ithaca: Cornell Uni Press 2003) by William Finlay &
agents, employees, entrepreneurs
In the interim a discussion of the 'busking'
model is provided elsewhere on this site. Crowdsourcing
is discussed here.
next page (play)