New social relations of digital technology and the future of work: Beyond technological determinism

Simon Joyce, Charles Umney, Xanthe Whittaker and Mark Stuart (2023), New Technology, Work and Employment

This introduction sets out the context for the Special Issue and offers an in-depth reflection on key themes addressed by our contributors. The Special Issue aims to place the social relations of production at the centre of debates about technology and the future of work, and create space for greater critical reflection on what it means to go ‘beyond technological determinism’. We identify ways in which aspects of technological determinism continue to influence debates on technology, the labour process and industrial relations, despite efforts to reject it. We argue that this influence is manifested in some persistent problems within the literature including overly rigid periodisations (such as ‘platform capitalism’), a narrow conceptual repertoire (which reifies notions like ‘algorithmic control’) and a constricted empirical focus. We elucidate the value of a social shaping of technology (SST) approach to overcome these challenges and provide a brief overview of the articles contained within the issue.

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