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    Coders, Creatives and the Commodification of Knowledge in a Digitalizing, Flexibilizing World (of Work)

    Moody, Josh (2022) Coders, Creatives and the Commodification of Knowledge in a Digitalizing, Flexibilizing World (of Work). PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    This thesis is a comparative case study of knowledge work in software and creative sectors in contemporary capitalism. It investigates how the commodification of knowledge has transformed relations of control, work-life boundaries and worker subjectivities in knowledge work. The thesis links these changes in the organisation of work to commodification through the analysis of four sociomaterial exigencies of knowledge work – indeterminacy, exclusivity, sociomaterial attachments, and objectification (through digitalization). Studies of work have been burgeoning over the last fifty years, and it is generally agreed by most disciplines and interested parties that the advanced capitalist societies of the world have been experiencing a significant transformation since at least the 1980’s. Despite the diverse range of causal explanations for these changes, there is convergence around some core developments, namely the increasing digitalization of society, the flexibilization of work and employment, the intensification of competitiveness, individualism and entrepreneurialism as organizing principles, the financialization of the global economy, and the importance of knowledge, information and creativity in the worlds of work. The high-technology Software and Cultural and Creative Industries have been the focus of global narratives and hyperbole since the 1990s and in many ways these activities (I use the term ‘activities’ to denote the industries and the work/labour within them) have been hailed as the archetypes and prototypes of the transformations underway. Therefore, they are ideal cases for a critical study of work at the forefront of capitalist transformations. Through extensive interviews with 44 workers and managers in a variety of firms in both sectors, the thesis provides important insights into how work is changing, what problems and opportunities present themselves, and what might be possible trajectories for the future of work. These case studies are analysed through a theoretical, conceptual and analytical framework, which I term a sociomaterialist critical realism. This framework allows me to unravel the knowledge work of software and creative workers as a necessarily sociomaterial practice. The thesis therefore takes the idea that ‘matter matters’ seriously, and this becomes the centre point around which the line of argument and chapters are built. By interviewing these workers about the practices of their labour, the organisation of their work and their experiences of it, I ‘isolate’ and ‘locate’ the sociomaterial threads that bind them to their labour, organisations, communities of practice, and the subject of their labour itself. In doing so, the analysis 4 effectively identifies and traces the entanglements of knowledge work and contributes to our understanding of how these are weaved together in contemporary work. The findings identify core exigencies (central characteristics that generate typical demands) of knowledge work and illustrates how these shape the nature of software and creative work by examining their implications for the contested terrains of control, the work-life boundary, and worker subjectivity. It is in these contested terrains of working life that I find that knowledge work is controlled through regulated autonomy, boundaries are necessarily blurred because of the permanent susceptibility to perennial labour, and that knowledge workers are sociomaterially required to perform as agile agents to effectively conduct their work and maintain their careers. As Kalleberg (2009:1) stated in his presidential address to the American Sociological Association, “work reveals much about the social order, how it is changing, and the kind of problems and issues people (and their governments) must address”. As social scientists, we often approach our studies of the world from a critical juncture of reality where the causal complexities of human societies converge, and social phenomena emerge. Similarly, I use the world of work as the vantage point from which I begin my journey into the analysis of socio- economic organization and its implications for the experiences of workers in contemporary capitalism. Despite the wider complexities of those core transformations taking place, empirical case studies of work and production which build upon global scholarship and account for political economic dynamics can reveal much about these changes, how they are experienced by workers on the ground, and the causal forces shaping work and economic futures. On a more fundamental level, this research and thesis are all about making connections: firstly, making connections between the different but adjacent fields of the sociology of work (SoW), labour process analysis (LPA), communication and media studies, organisation and management studies, and (socio)materialisms; second, making connections between the microsociological practices of labour, their sociomateriality and the organisational structures and economic processes within which they are embedded; and finally, making connections between new approaches and conceptual tools and existing terrains of struggle within the world of work.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Coders; Creatives; Commodification of Knowledge; Digitalizing; Flexibilizing; World; Work;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology
    Item ID: 16540
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2022 13:08
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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