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Session Overview
RN19_02a_P: Digitalization and New Technologies
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Roman Abramov, National research university Higher School of Economics
Location: PC.5.28
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: C, Level: 5.

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The emergence of data science: A micro-level explanation of professional status formation

Philipp Brandt

University of Mannheim, Germany

This paper explains the formation of data science, the community of nerds, experts, hackers and engineers at the center of the technological transformation around large-scale data processing. It uncovers the underlying social dynamics through extensive field observations that span three years of data science’s infancy in New York City. The first study observing occupational formation directly, it contributes to a micro-level understanding of professional emergence that complements Abbott’s seminal argument of boundary conflicts. It (i) retraces how this area of expert work emerges in the eyes of those who define its foundation, purpose, and relevance, and (ii) offers theoretical innovations for understanding their efforts systematically. The social mechanism explaining data science’s salience unfolds through local action, wherein data nerds retain larger significance and status from arcane solutions to concrete problems. This account scrutinizes how their fleeting connections suffice to leverage established technological, academic and economic resources in order to define a distinct identity. Amid paying keen attention to concrete relationships with clients, scientists and peers, data nerds are pragmatists. They articulate larger problems in terms of intermediary goals, considering available data and quantitative techniques, and rigorous evaluation of their utility. This focus on concrete observations lets nerds collectively sidestep deeper frameworks that typically dominate quantitative and technical expertise. The current lack of a conceptual perspective capturing these micro-level dynamics has limited the literature’s understanding of modern technological changes and undermined its ability to help devise work arrangements that reconcile new opportunities with public and private perils they entail.

Globalization in IT profession: new prospects or pains of professionalization?

Irina Antoshchuk

European University at Saint-Petersburg, Russian Federation

Information technology (IT) is characterized as an immature or failed profession as it has been largely unsuccessful in its efforts to professionalize in different national contexts. Still, IT industry has been rapidly developing as well as becoming increasingly globalized for the last few decades. Multinational corporations with hundred thousand employees across the world, spread of offshoring and global software work, high level of spatial mobility of IT specialists signify profound changes in IT professional practices. But while substantial attention is paid to globalization in IT industry, little is known about globalization processes in IT profession. Does it represent a new phase in IT professionalization? Is there an IT transnational professional project? Does it strengthen IT position and its control over the market? The paper addresses these questions analyzing International IT Professional Practice programme (IP3) and European Framework for IT Profession as prominent initiatives to advance IT professionalism on an international and supranational level. Based on works of Larson (1979), Fourcade (2006), Faulconbridge and Muzio (2011), the paper argues that both initiatives are hardly capable of solving organizational and ideological tasks of professionalization. Efforts to establish meta-framework for qualification and ethical standards remain limited as both IP3 and EUCIP strive to embrace national specificities and incorporate intraprofessional diversity. Therefore they rather contribute to the creation of vision of IT professionalism, uniting different stakeholders and stimulating discussion in the professional community, than help IT attain full professional status.

Digital infrastructures configuring social work

Elizabeth Martinell Barfoed, Teres Hjärpe

Lund University, Sweden

In Sweden, as in other European countries, digitizing social services is on the agenda. Digitalization is embraced by national authorities with buzz words like “quality”, ”control” and ”efficiency”, as a means of offering better services for the user. In Sweden, this aim can largely be regarded as a top-down endeavor. Digitalization and standardization are two sides of the same coin, with the former being a prerequisite for the latter. On the one hand, standardization is regarded as means to professionalize social work, on the other hand social workers are turned into accountants, reporting “hard facts”, i.e. figures and statistics to the national authorities. Comprehensive manuals and guidelines play a vital role as digital infrastructures; making the social workers “do the same” and report "facts" in a systematic way. The manuals build upon complex classification systems, carefully crafted and produced by international research networks. Once translated (and sometimes mildly changed according to contextual considerations) the Swedish social workers are offered short in-service training by the national authorities in how to use the manuals. The starting-point in this paper is a rhetorical analysis of the language used in these manuals. The focus of analysis is how the social worker and the client are constructed, and how social work as a professional practice is presented.

Social Work images in Russian mass media and educational literature: cultural resource of professional status

Elena Iarskaia-Smirnova1, Valentina Yarskaya2, Rostislav Kononenko1

1National Research University Higher School of Econ, Russian Federation; 2Saratov State Technical University, Saratov, Russia

In this paper the public representations of social work in mass media and educational literature throughout the period 1992-2015 are analyzed as one of the cultural resources of professional status; the main barriers for enabling resources of the professional status of social workers are discovered and analytically described. It was found out that in the printed media social work is most often presented as a part of state policy and public social services for the population. The depiction of the format and nature of these services vary in the publications within the studied period following social policy reforms and development of professional status of social work. Several concepts and modalities of descriptions of social work were singled out in the media discourse. The symbolic classifications of social work clients and actors of change are found in the selected educational editions. The content analysis results were contextualized in the broader context of social work training in today’s Russia. It is shown that the discussions of social inequality are implicitly built into the discourse of textbooks and professional periodicals but the marginal status of the profession is not reflected upon. The low economic resources, limited power and low prestige of the profession are silenced. The results show that social work is developing in a context where global and local forces intersect, the paternalistic and liberal values compete, socialist and pre-socialist legacies meet liberal policies and conservative orienteers and form a new complex agenda for the development of the profession.

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