Theme 3 – Technology and the workplace

Welcome to our THIRD theme!

In this theme, we will explore the relationship between technology and the workplace, as well as how it has evolved over time, paying particular attention to power and control. 

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Here’s what you have to do for Theme 3:

visual representation of the to do list explained below

Don’t forget to prepare your Week 7 seminar (1h) and to join in on the 2nd Q&A session!

Let’s dive in!

First, play this ‘guessing game’ 

Can you guess which technological innovations and visions of ‘the workplace’ correspond to each industrial revolution? Click on the question marks to reveal the answers. 

Once you’ve verified all your guess, open the ‘Theme 3 activity” Mural and for each example of workplace, add comments to explain: 

    • how control of the worker is enforced, and the role technology plays in it
    • who is included and excluded in this type of workplace – what role does technology / design of the workplace play here? 

More instructions can be found on the Mural. As usual, if answers have already been added by a groupmate, comment instead on their answers, stating whether you agree or disagree and why.

Then, watch the following two recorded powerpoints

Your first powerpoint on automation and power looks back at the first industrial revolutions and how the birth of management in Ford factories conceived of the worker’s body in specific relations to technology.

Technology and the workplace throughout the ages

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In the second video, we jump to the present to explore new forms of control on the worker through new technologies (artefacts and knowledge), as well as problematising the concept of ‘body hacking’.

New tools of disciplinary power

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check your understanding of these theories by completing this quiz.

Read this theme’s annotated key reading by Bloomfield and Dale (2015).

Redefining ‘normal’ and ‘extreme’ through human enhancement technologies

During and after the reading, identify the key examples used by Bloomfield and Dale.

Thinking beyond the article: what other forms of (self)’control’ of the body have emerged over time to maximise performance? What future forms might you imagine? For example, what forms of control have emerged as people moved to home-working during the Covid-19 pandemic?

You can use examples from science-fiction to help you think beyond the examples already used.

Go back to your group Theme 3 mural and add these new examples. Use the comment feature to explain your choice. If a group mate has already placed the example you located, add instead a comment explaining whether you agree or not, and why.

Try to engage as much as possible with the content explored since the beginning of the module: at this stage, it is key for you to start making links between the themes and build up on your knowledge to produce more complex arguments. 

Finally, write a 500 word paragraph with the following prompt:

Watch the following short clip from Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936)

(non-youtube alternative)

Critically examine the relationship between technology, work and bodies portrayed in the clip. 

You may want to think about the following things:

    • How are workers bodies controlled in it? 
    • Where is agency located (in the machine? in people? somewhere else?)? 
    • What assumptions are made about the worker’s body in this “workplace”?

Support your arguments with references. See the link below for more details on the assessment, including criteria. 

Post your short essay here on Moodle by the end of Week 7. (You will assess each other’s essays in Weeks 8/9).

Confused about a concept, or wanting to engage? Drop a comment below! 

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