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From the Führer to the Sextoy. Solidarity and subversion under the cybernetic regime.

Authors:
From the Führer to the Sextoy
Solidarity and subversion under the cybernetic regime
Simon Schaupp, International Labour Process Conference, March 23rd 2018
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 2
The problem: solidarity under the cybernetic regime?
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 3
The problem: solidarity under the cybernetic regime?
There goes the Führer!“
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 4
The problem: solidarity under the cybernetic regime?
There goes the Führer!“ ?
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 5
Methodology
Focussed ethnography (Knoblauch, 2005) in a medium-sized tech-company that won
several prices for its digitalization strategy
19 semi-structured interviews and group discussions with workers, work council
representatives, engineers and managers from companies that consider themselves as
part of the digitalized industry
Data collection oriented at the open format of the “comprehensive interview”
(Kaufmann, 2015).
Qualitative content analysis (Kuckartz, 2016), inductive code system.
Aim: researching cultures of solidarity“ (Fantasia, 1989) in everyday working life:
resistance in the making
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 6
Introduction of digital process control systems:
to automatically orchestrate a sequence of skills
to be executed together with some material”
developer
“the working steps pracitically emerge from the
demands of the customer” works council member
Management: Flexibility
The cybernetic regime: Management‘s perspective
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 7
Introduction of digital process control systems:
to automatically orchestrate a sequence of skills
to be executed together with some material”
developer
“the working steps pracitically emerge from the
demands of the customer” works council member
Management: Flexibility
Data-based self-optimization:
I track everything. So, I capture EVERYTHING.
When is the table moved up? How does he hold the
soldering iron? EVERYTHING.” But: “Don’t give the
data to me as [the worker’s] supervisor, but give him
the time that he needs [in comparison] to the one
that does best to the employee himself. Then he can
see for himself, where am I bad. And he can tune
himself.” manager, tech company
The cybernetic regime: Management‘s perspective
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 8
‘At that moment, when you are the producer of all of these data,
where you get the feeling, you are permanently monitored, be
it at work with indirect control or be it because you do sports: You
are always in permanent rivalry with others. […] Are we all
supposed to become professional athletes? For example with
this watch: Everybody has to run permanently and be the best
and so on and so forth. That creates an incredible burden for
the people. Already if you only see it at the workplace through
indirect control. There, the enemy is not the other company any
more but already within the workforce next door. Group against
group.’ worker, automobile industry
The cybernetic regime: Worker‘s perspective
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 9
‘At that moment, when you are the producer of all of these data,
where you get the feeling, you are permanently monitored, be
it at work with indirect control or be it because you do sports: You
are always in permanent rivalry with others. […] Are we all
supposed to become professional athletes? For example with
this watch: Everybody has to run permanently and be the best
and so on and so forth. That creates an incredible burden for
the people. Already if you only see it at the workplace through
indirect control. There, the enemy is not the other company any
more but already within the workforce next door. Group against
group.’ worker, automobile industry
“There are teams in which an internal war starts. Someone says,
I have already done it three times and now it’s your turn again.
Then maybe it is the son’s birthday and someone says, I don´t
want to. Then the others don’t have understanding for that.
However, there also teams in which the workers say: “okay, we
act against it collectively.” works council, IT-company
The cybernetic regime: Worker‘s perspective
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 10
Everyday-subversion: Ridiculing technology
The smart glove:
Bssbss. You know that from those Charlie Chaplin movies from before
(laughing). Bssbssssbsssss. You could make an awesome movie out of that!
Bsssbsss (shaking his whole body)”
The sex toy: “We make these jokes about the gloves […] let’s say, you
scratched yourself at… a place. […] Or, you know what I mean? (laughs) That
is even nicer, then women will only sit around with that thing all the time and
go: ooh shit (laughing loudly).”
“Maybe then they will continue with giving us electrical shocks! (laughing)”
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 11
Everyday-subversion: Ridiculing technology
Contested technological identities:
Autonomous transportation robot: “MIR” vs. “Fiffi
Digital shelve: “Christmas tree” or “disco”
The smart glove:
Bssbss. You know that from those Charlie Chaplin movies from before
(laughing). Bssbssssbsssss. You could make an awesome movie out of that!
Bsssbsss (shaking his whole body)”
The sex toy: “We make these jokes about the gloves […] let’s say, you
scratched yourself at… a place. […] Or, you know what I mean? (laughs) That
is even nicer, then women will only sit around with that thing all the time and
go: ooh shit (laughing loudly).”
“Maybe then they will continue with giving us electrical shocks! (laughing)”
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 12
Everyday-subversion: Ridiculing technology
“Visionary” (management) vs. “realistic” (workers) outlook on technology
Deflecting interpellations of self-optimization
Establishing a counter discourse:
tech as tool of domination or as merely dysfunctional
Solidarity: ridicule as group cohesion (Berger 2014)
Structural antagonism reflected in humour:
class solidarity (also present in managers humour)
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 13
Everyday resistance
Slowdown: “Then the one or the other smart employee thinks to himself: I outwit you,
system! I am smarter than you are. […] then I´ll just work a bit less. And then the
colleagues also try to do a bit less.”
Sabotage: “So they made a joke. They were just
hiding a washing machine. They did not put it
to its correct place [assigned by the software] but
put it somewhere else. The whole system went
crazy. The washing machine is there but nobody
finds it, even though it stands around right there.
They do things like that to protest and
incapacitate the system.”
Misuse: “there are some that misuse the system. I already realized that […] if the
assistance system says, it does not expect any error, then they just leave and take a
break. That already happened. That was not the intention.”
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 14
Effects of everyday resistance
Formal: “These are data created by the employee.
They are stored somewhere. Now [we need to
discuss] if they will be there permanently or not. We
say permanently, but the work council says no,
we cannot do that. Then we can only say, okay,
then we only introduce sixty percent [of the new
technologies].
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 15
Effects of everyday resistance
Informal:Management made “bad experiences”
with digital control systems for workers like data
glasses or smart gloves: “They regularly fail
because of the resistance of the workers. No
one wants to be controlled over many hours
by some glasses or gloves. That is why we
rather go for assistance systems now.”
Formal: “These are data created by the employee.
They are stored somewhere. Now [we need to
discuss] if they will be there permanently or not. We
say permanently, but the work council says no,
we cannot do that. Then we can only say, okay,
then we only introduce sixty percent [of the new
technologies].
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 16
Preliminary Conclusions
Cybernetic regime
characterized by surveillance and imperatives of self-optimization.
De-solidarizing effects
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 17
Preliminary Conclusions
Cybernetic regime
characterized by surveillance and imperatives of self-optimization.
De-solidarizing effects
But: “cultures of solidarity” in everyday life (example of ridiculing
technology)
pointing out antagonistic social organization of the workplace and deflecting
imperatives of self-optimization.
Relative structural powerlessness concurs with critical lucidity anchored in
everyday interaction (Boltanski 2013)
Cultures of solidarity as basis for informal workplace resistance which can
have real organizational impact
Simon Schaupp Universität Basel 18
Preliminary Conclusions
Cybernetic regime
characterized by surveillance and imperatives of self-optimization.
De-solidarizing effects
But: “cultures of solidarity” in everyday life (example of ridiculing
technology)
pointing out antagonistic social organization of the workplace and deflecting
imperatives of self-optimization.
Relative structural powerlessness concurs with critical lucidity anchored in
everyday interaction (Boltanski 2013)
Cultures of solidarity as basis for informal workplace resistance which can
have real organizational impact
Organizational power under the cybernetic regime: power of associating:
Flexibility for whom?
Thank you!
Simon Schaupp
Universität Basel I Seminar für Soziologie
Email: simon.schaupp@unibas.ch
Boltanski L (2013) On Critique. A Sociology of Emancipation. Hoboken: Wiley.
Brinkmann U, Nachtwey O (2017) Postdemokratie und Industrial Citizenship.
Erosionsprozesse von Demokratie und Mitbestimmung. Weinheim: Beltz
Juventa.
Fantasia R (1989) Cultures of Solidarity. Consciousness, Action and
Contemporary American Workers. Berkeley: University of California.
Kaufmann JC (2015) Das verstehende Interview. Konstanz/Munich: UVK.
Knoblauch H (2005) Focused ethnography. In: Forum qualitative
sozialforschung/forum: qualitative social research 6(3).
Kuckartz U (2016) Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Methoden, Praxis,
Computerunterstützung. Weinheim, Basel: Beltz Juventa.
Schaupp S (2017) Digital self-evaluation and the cybernetic regime. A sketch
for a materialist apparatus analysis. TripleC 15(2): 872-886.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Das verstehende Interview
  • J C Kaufmann
 Kaufmann JC (2015) Das verstehende Interview. Konstanz/Munich: UVK.