Wednesday, November 7, 2012

ICTs and Work: the United States at the Origin of the Dissemination of Digital Capitalism

(via e-mail)

Call for Submissions

Interdisciplinary Conference HDEA – TCS

ICTs and Work: the United States at the Origin of the Dissemination of Digital Capitalism

Université Paris Sorbonne, 29-30 May 2013

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have revolutionized work practices: the acquisition, processing and storage of data thanks to hardware, software, and networks have changed the face of work in offices and factories. Their impact has been felt beyond the walls of traditional companies’ spaces, resulting in the modification of time and space constraints at work and in the constant blurring of the frontier between private and work life. The impact of ICT is often viewed in Manichean terms: some exalt the benefits of new technologies in terms of gains in interactivity, autonomy and creativity for employees, including atypical employees such as “independent contractors”, while others warn against increased stress due to constant demands, real-time control of working activities and surveillance of workplace interactions.

While pros and cons of the use of ICT at work are widely debated, there is markedly less interrogation of what has made its existence and dissemination possible. The global dimension of professional uses of ICTs makes them look universal and, so to speak, ahistorical. Yet these uses have a precise origin: individuals have elaborated, reoriented, and disseminated these new techniques in specific places and at identifiable moments. Some of these practices refer directly to US cultural practices and ideologies. Moreover, the growing adoption of ICTs goes hand in hand with deep changes in labor markets such as flexibility, cost-cutting, casualization of work and deregulation, which ICTs have contributed to amplify, a phenomenon largely originating in the US. Further, the United States has continued to play a major role in the development, the dissemination and the control of ICTs, while the extension of the mediasphere has been accompanied by a corresponding extension of the anglosphere.

It is therefore indispensible to re-territorialize the issue of ICTs. What have been, historically, the economic and sociological bases for the development and dissemination into the work sphere of those technologies, which carry with them the “new spirit of capitalism” (Boltanski and Chiappello 1999), or “digital capitalism” (Schiller 1999), but also that of freeware and digital commons such as Wikipedia. How did they interact, in synergy and conflict, with other social facts? The globalization of practices also raises the issue of interculturality, as various cultures become involved in a process of appropriation and modification of the globalized US culture, which ICTs have been so influential in diffusing.

We encourage contributions that engage with the role of the United States in the development of ICT at work, including:

- Entrepreneurial rhetoric and the deployment of ICTs.
- The relationship between ICTs and neoliberal deregulation and delocalization.
- Vectors of dissemination: management manuals, trade shows, public policies, media, awareness raising campaigns, seminars, industry rivalry (eg. Apple vs. Microsoft), model rivalry (eg. proprietary vs. free software).
- Pre-existing modes of flattened and networked organizations and soft control in the US (advertising agencies and research projects are an example) and their interaction with the development of ICTs-related modes of work organization.
- Emergence of new professional types such as the hacker and their set of values of expert autonomy, sharing and transparent exchange that contradict the values of capitalism but echo US cultural entrepreneurial values of self-reliance, DIY and distrust of institutions.
- ICTs and masculine domination: the impact of technical changes on gender roles at work.
- The role of consumers: from consumerism to prosumerism.
- The governance of networks (including regulation through legal licences) and the US legal tradition.

Please send submissions to and and include your name and affiliation.

Abstracts for papers should be 250 words.

Abstract submission date: December 15, 2012.

Applicants will be advised by January 15, 2013.