Foxconning Science: The Globalization of Academic Publishing

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: Booth 41
Oral Presentation
Jeffrey SALLAZ , Sociology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
This paper presents ethnographic work done inside an outsourcing firm in the Philippines.  This firm is part of the emergent knowledge process outsourcing, or KPO, field.  It contracts with publishers wishing to outsource such work as copyediting, typesetting, authorial communications, and more.  Most major scientific publishers now contract with such firms.  I present evidence that the nature of these contracts encourages suppliers to adopt despotic tactics for organizing work.  Suppliers lack basic knowledge of the overall field of production (in this case, academic publishing), and so judge themselves against unknown competitors.   They compete on price, rather than quality, and so continually engage in various “low road” techniques of management.  Most notably: wage suppression, the “driving” of workers, and forced overtime.  I conclude the paper by discussing at length one incident that provides a prism into the entire labor regime: a unionization dispute that took place at this facility.  Global pressures induced worker resistance which was then channeled into a unionization campaign.  But ultimately managers were able to deflect this campaign by mobilizing local networks and traditions.  In this case, global and local forces collided to control the hidden workers in the new global production of science.