Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN17_09b: Digitalization in and of the Work and Employment
Friday, 23/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Peter Kerckhofs, Eurofound
Location: UP.1.219
University of Manchester Building: University Place, First Floor Oxford Road

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Factors Of Social Control Over Automation

Ágnes Horváth

Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary

The main question of my research is centered around the introductions of robots as labor force. What influences the success of this process, how can society collaborate or interfere with it. What is the role of politics, education, capital and civil society in determining the speed and the extent of automation in economy? When talking about labor force and the future of work, it’s inevitable to discuss Marxism and its use in analyzing digital economies. The literature by Ursula Huws, Nick Dyer-Witheford, and Daniel Bell give foundation for further analysis, but the theoretical framework of Marxism is too narrow to explain the complexity of the phenomena of robots winning over humans in the labor market. This is the reason why I would like to involve Transition Management and the Wilson Quad in my research. Doing so, I will be able to give a general overview of the part different social actors play in this technological change. It is a new and continuously evolving field of research and I strongly believe that my research can contribute to it by emphasizing the importance of building frameworks that can handle the complex networks of not just one society, but global economy. We can hardly find any segment of the economy that isn’t influenced by global trends may it be innovations of technologies or ideas.

How does Digitalisation Challenge Medium-sized Enterprises and Change Work Life?

Marliese Weissmann

Sociological Resarch Institute (SOFI) Göttingen, Germany

In the ongoing European public and scholarly debates on work, digitalisation appears as an important trend that will radically transform work life. However, the question arises, in what ways growing technology affects labour and enterprises. The paper proposed addresses the changes and challenges of digitalisation in medium-sized enterprises by focussing on collaborative digital tools in team and project work. It draws on data from CollaboTeam, an ongoing research project in Goettingen that is exploring ways of working with collaborative applications in three medium-sized German enterprises (special machine engineering, IT consulting, software development) following a longitudinal mixed methods approach.

The contribution highlights continuous, also conflicting, adaptation processes due to, e.g., technology changes, employees’ usage or costumer requests. Given the multitude of used applications, all enterprises try to structure their digital infrastructure by finding a “digital workplace” that offers a digital front-end integrating communication as well as knowledge applications. Furthermore, the paper describes new forms of software-supported collaborative work and changes of roles and responsibilities, e.g., to support the sharing of knowledge or the collaboration in project teams. These areas of inquiry provide insights how support systems stabilize new forms of collaboration.

The Implication Of Digital Social Networks On Organizational Gaps: The Case Of An Israeli Colleges Faculty Strike

Gadi Nissim

Ruppin Academic Center, Israel

The paper asks how social network technologies (in this case – WhatsApp) may bridge over organizational and community gaps during an organizational crisis. I use the case of the recent Israeli colleges' faculty strike to explore the dynamics that took place through the faculty corresponding among themselves and with their workers' committee representatives.

The findings suggest that WhatsApp groups have become the strikers' main communication platform. A first group was formed to distribute information and to coordinate protest activities. It soon expanded and have become an important arena in which faculty could share their experience, seek emotional support, discuss the managements' moves and the appropriate response, demonizing the management and ridiculing it. Consequently, the faculty that is scattered in four separated schools and that was atomized by dedication to their carries – has turned into a united community that developed direct relations and nurtured strong affinity in very short time. The WhatsApp group also facilitated direct communication between the workers' committee's leadership and the rank and file. Yet, at the same time, by generating bottom-up pressure, it hazarded the possibility of calm decision-making and the workers' committee autonomy in leading the crisis. WhatsApp groups, therefore, enhance patterns of direct democracy while they inhibit representational democracy.

The research is based on my dual position as an observer and as workers' committee's activist. Data include observations of variety of scenes as well as analysis of digital social networks.

The Impact on the Job Quality of Loan Officers of Mobile Digital Technologies introduced into Microfinance Institutions in Emerging Economies.

Juliana Siwale1, Nidhi Bisht2, Clive Trusson3

1Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom; 2Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, India; 3Loughborough University, United Kingdom

Recent developments in information and communication technologies have enabled work tasks previously performed at an office base to be performed remotely. This has disrupted established ways of working and afforded managers greater control over mobile workers (Vartianen, et al., 2007; Trusson, 2018). While the study of the disruptive power of digital transformation has gained traction (Boes et al., 2017), the geographical context in which such disruption occurs remains under-researched.

Microfinance operates across international contexts, providing financial services to clients who are typically on low incomes. Research in this domain often draws attention to its importance for economic development in emerging economies including those of the Indian sub-continent and Africa (e.g. Siwale, 2016). An important role in microfinance is the loan officer who interfaces with individual clients as the representative of their employing microfinance institutions (MFIs).

Over recent years mobile digital technologies (MDTs) have emerged to transform the work of the MFI loan officer. This study draws on interviews with loan officers and their supervisors to explore the question of ‘how do MDTs impact on the job quality of MFI loan officers?’ This is addressed by reference to the findings from two case studies: of an Indian MFI that had introduced mobile technologies in recent times and a Zambian MFI at an earlier, nascent stage of implementing mobile technologies. It is found that the managerial surveillance functionality of MDTs diminishes the job quality of loan officers by facilitating workload intensification and undermining autonomy in how they conduct their field work.

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