Quantified Workers in Precarity Conference and two book launches

Friday 13 October 2017. Sign up for a ticket on Eventbrite

Final event for Dr Moore’s British Academy/Leverhulme project ‘Agility, Work and the Quantified Self’. Funded by BA/Leverhulme and Conference of Socialist Economists

For more information please email: Dr Phoebe Moore p.moore@mdx.ac.uk and Christiana Rose c.rose@ mdx.ac.uk.  Hosted by Social Policy Research Centre, School of Law, Middlesex University

Dr Moore and co-editors Prof Martin Upchurch and Xanthe Whittaker will be launching the book Humans and machines at work: monitoring, surveillance and automation in contemporary capitalism (Palgrave Macmillan, Dynamics of Virtual Work series) and Moore will be launching her monograph The Quantified Self at Work, in Precarity: Work, Technology and What Counts (Routledge, Advances in Sociology).

Like earlier forms of capitalism which taught workers to act like machines, the current wave of digitalised work, which includes tracking technologies, automation and surveillance, means that we work with and alongside machines and have even started to think like computers and to compete against them. Machines largely self-manage, do not complain, do not call in sick and do not make mistakes, but humans do all of these things.

Quantification, datafication and platformisation of work via new technologies introduce unprecedented possibilities for stress and a range of symptoms emerging from psychosocial violence (also tracked).

The precarity of the modern worker is central to understanding the quantified self at work.

Precarity is the purest form of alienation where the worker loses all personal association with the labour she performs. She is dispossessed and location-less in her working life and all value is extracted from her in every aspect of life. Because precarious workers are constantly chasing the next ‘gig’, spatial and temporal consistency in life is largely out of reach.

Capital encourages universal communication and machinic devices appear to facilitate this communication within precarious conditions: but only in quantified terms. Thus, anything that cannot be quantified and profiled is rendered incommunicable – meaning it is marked and marginalised, disqualified as human capital, denied privilege, and precarious (Moore and Robinson 2015). Workers are compelled to squeeze every drop of labour-power from our bodies, including work that is seen, or work that has always been measured in Taylorist regimes; and increasingly, work that is unseen, such as attitudes, sentiments, affective and emotional labour.

What are the impacts of technological change and precarity on workers? What are we doing about it?

Some Project Findings:

Measuring and Tracking Affective and Emotional Labour.

For Moore’s Work, Agility and the Quantified Self British Academy/Leverhulme funded project, working alongside a company in the Netherlands, Dr Moore interviewed; and the project team including Dr Lukasz Piwek carried out surveys with; 30 workers who were given FitBits, RescueTime and daily lifelogging emails, where results were aggregated on personalised and shared dashboards, over the course on one year, during a period of corporate merger.

The company sought to improve employees’ health and productivity, a project that the company called The Quantified Workplace. Moore did not set up the project, nor consult on it, but worked as lead social scientist alongisde the project. While findings showed increased self-awareness and subjective productivity toward the beginning of the project, these tendencies decreased by the end of the project. Findings demonstrate that workers began to take note of affective and emotional labour in ways they had not previously done and an increased sense of autonomy, desire for coaching and support. Interestingly, workers’ sensitivity to privacy increased (email Moore for further information). For the BA/Leverhulme funded project, Dr Moore also carried out field work in car factories and technology centres. Her next project will look at the risks of psycho-social violence and harassment in digitalised working environments.

Note: On 29th August, Claudia Hammond will be speaking about the Quantified Workplace project and interviewed Dr Moore about this project for the documentary ‘Every Step We Take’, on Radio 4 at 9 pm.

Keynote Speakers

Dr Phoebe Moore The Quantified Self at Work, in Precarity

Prof Rosalind Gill The Quantified Selves of Academia

Prof Martin Upchurch Is a Robot after your Job?

Plenary Panels and Book Launch Roundtable

Dr Ruth Cain Measuring Mental Health: The ‘Recovery Imperative’ and the New welfare-to-work

Dr John Danaher Freedom and Domination in Quantified Work

Dr Kylie Jarrett Valuing ’Er Indoors: Quantification, domestic work and digital labour

Dr Stevphen Shukaitis Knows No Weekend: Class Composition & the Psychological Contract of Cultural Work in Precarious Times

Dr Christopher Till Precarious Work and the Energy Crisis in Semiocapitalism

Prof Sian Moore? Dr Mayo Fuster Morell?

Book Roundtable: Penny Andrews, Dr Julie Yujie Chen, Dr Alessandro Gandini, Dr Winifred Poster, Prof Martin Upchurch, Xanthe Whittaker

This event marks the end of Principle Investigator Dr Phoebe Moore’s BA/Leverhulme project ‘Agility, Work and the Quantified Self’. Project co-investigators will discuss some of the outcomes from the project with Moore: Dr Ian Roper and Dr Lukasz Piwek

Books Launched:

Quantified Self in Precarity: Work, Technology and What Counts by Phoebe Moore (Routledge Advances in Sociology)

Humans and machines at work: monitoring, surveillance and automation in contemporary capitalism edited by Phoebe Moore, Martin Upchurch, Xanthe Whittaker (Palgrave Dynamics of Virtual Work)


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