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22 April 2020
New Technologies at Work: Situated Knowledge, Collaboration and Voice
This paper suggests using the idea of the ‘social self as a working self’ (Déjours 2018) to understand technologically driven changes at the workplace and their consequences for social and collective organisation of work. In combining three interrelated aspects of doing work – suffering, fulfilment, and socially facilitated norms and values – Déjours’ concept is useful in understanding the newly emerging relationship between humans and machines. One important aspect is the impact of new technologies – wearables, wristbands, assistive robots – on human knowledge and workers identity as well as the connected work collective. With the example of findings from Industry 4.0 projects in the German context I discuss how the integration of new technologies in existing work systems diminishes the role for workers’ situated knowledge. Given this is an important pillar for workers’ resistance, new technologies threaten the potential for collectivism and collaboration at work.