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Understanding peripheral work connectivity – power and contested spaces in digital workplaces

Loeschner, Isabell (2016) Understanding peripheral work connectivity – power and contested spaces in digital workplaces. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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We live in an increasingly digital world, fully equipped with smart mobile devices that allow us to connect to anyone, anytime. Such possibilities have wide reaching consequences particularly for the world of work. They challenge traditional boundaries between work and private life, fundamentally alter how we conduct work and have major implications on organizational power relations. And despite increasing scholarly interest in the phenomenon of connectivity, the study of connectivity particularly in relation to work, remains at a nascent state and the concept of connectivity under-conceptualized. In this thesis I set out to develop our understanding of connectivity further by theoretically advancing and empirically exploring exactly these issues in one large multinational organization – TechComp. To what extent does connectivity with work, work connectivity, and more precisely the connectivity with one’s work at the periphery of the workday, -week and – place, what I call peripheral work connectivity (PWC), exist at TechComp and what role does PWC play in relation to power negotiations? These are the questions I seek to answer, by means of a mixed methods case study, drawing on a large web-based survey (N=19,564), ethnographic work and in-depth interviews (N=87), all conducted between March 2014 and August 2015. These multiple sources of data have allowed me to gain a thorough understanding of the extent of PWC at TechComp, highlighting that PWC is much more wide-spread across a diverse mix of job roles than previous research that primarily focused on high status professionals has led us to believe. Moreover, I argue that peripheral work connectivity is more than a driver of changing norms of availability. Drawing on Foucault’s concept of disciplinary power, undergirded by a sociomaterial understanding of the world, I show that PWC is a platform where power relations become rendered visible and contested. Peripheral work connectivity thus becomes a space of possibility. At the same time though, I argue that PWC is also a disciplinary agent, a mechanism that leads TechComp employees to self-discipline in an attempt to meet others’ and their own expectations. Peripheral work connectivity is hence a platform and an agent, the reason for and an actor in power negotiations at TechComp.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Isabell C Loeschner
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Wajcman, Judy

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