Humans and machines at work: Monitoring, surveillance and automation in contemporary capitalism

Speed up, feared by trade unions in the early twentieth century when faced with scientific management, has become an issue of both time and space as workers’ every movements and activities are tracked and surveilled and the algorithmic boss unveiled. Workers’ local resistance and national and international unions responses reflect the ubiquity of work’s digitalisation. Precarious gig economy workers ride bikes and drive taxis in cities across the world from China to Britain; domestic workers’ timekeeping and movements are documented; call centre workers in India experience invasive tracking but creative forms of worker subversion are evident; warehouse workers discover that hidden data has been used for layoffs; academic researchers see their labour obscured by a ‘data foam’ that does not benefit us; and journalists suffer the algorithmic curse. These cases are couched in historical accounts of identity and selfhood experiments seen in the Hawthorne experiments and the lineage of automation.

Moore, P., Upchurch, M. and Whittaker, X. (2017), Humans and machines at work: Monitoring, surveillance and automation in contemporary capitalism, (eds.) Moore, P., Upchurch, M. and Whittaker, X. in Humans and Machines at Work, series Dynamics of Virtual Work, Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.


  • Research publication
  • Other
  • Yes
  • no specific sector focus
  • privacy and data protection, autonomy and control, representation, industrial relations, social dialogue
  • English
  • Palgrave Macmillan (Publisher)
  • Qualitative research
  • 2017
  • Subscription
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