Bridging the Sociological Knowledge Gap between Technology and Work

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Bettina KRINGS, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
Antonio MONIZ, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, FCT-UNL, CICS.NOVA, Caparica, Portugal
Philipp FREY, ITAS-Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
The study of Frey & Osborne (2013) has motivated the ‘classical’ question of the relationship between automation processes and job losses. Besides the methodological critique of the study with regard to its specific design as well as to the comparability to other countries (Wolter et al. 2016, Pellizzari & Fichen 2013, EPTA 2016), its outstanding resonance in scientific and political communities seems remarkable. It shows that actual technological advance is mobilizing fears, doubts and hopes of future working conditions in highly industrialized societies (here: in industry). We argue, that although the debate on the future impact of automation is varied, there is relatively little conceptual knowledge about the impact of advanced technologies on working environments, working organization and working settings in different branches and sectors.

Following sociological theories of work, the focus of our analysis of technological changes lies on shifts of organizations as well as on the shifts of qualifications and skills. Due to the “second wave-mutation” (Zuboff 2010) of technological and socio-structural changes, however, the ubiquitous use of information-based technologies is providing a high variety of human-machine interactions (HMI) in all sectors and branches. Thus, HMI is rarely sketched empirically with respect to the shifts of work in concrete working environments like in administrative, caring, machine operation or managing work. Furthermore, the mutual relationship between technological progress (production forces) and socio-economic relations (modes of production) is rarely taken into account when analyzing the application of new information-based technologies.

Building on the fruitful debates sparked by Frey & Osborne, interdisciplinary knowledge about HMI is needed based on approaches of STS, case study research, job observation etc. Furthermore, we will argue that the implementation of the employees’ needs at the level of technology design is also is needed in order to bridge the gap between work and technologies.