Like earlier forms of capitalism which taught workers to act like machines, the current wave of digitalised work, which includes tracking technologies, automation and surveillance, means that we work with and alongside machines and have even started to think like computers and to compete against them. Machines largely self-manage, do not complain, do not call in sick and do not make mistakes, but humans do all of these things.
Quantification, datafication and platformisation of work via new technologies introduce unprecedented possibilities for stress and a range of symptoms emerging from psychosocial violence (which management would also like to track).
The precarity of the modern worker is central to understanding the quantified self at work.
Precarity is the purest form of alienation where the worker loses all personal association with the labour she performs. She is dispossessed and location-less in her working life and all value is extracted from her in every aspect of life. Because precarious workers are constantly chasing the next ‘gig’, spatial and temporal consistency in life is largely out of reach.
Capital encourages universal communication and machinic devices appear to facilitate this communication within precarious conditions: but only in quantified terms. Thus, anything that cannot be quantified and profiled is rendered incommunicable – meaning it is marked and marginalized, disqualified as human capital, denied privilege, and precarious (Moore and Robinson 2015). Workers are compelled to squeeze every drop of labour-power from our bodies, including work that is seen, or work that has always been measured in Taylorist regimes; and increasingly, work that is unseen, such as attitudes, sentiments, affective and emotional labour.
What are the impacts of technological change and precarity on workers? What are we doing about it?
Dr Phoebe Moore ‘The Quantified Self at Work, in Precarity’
Prof Rosalind Gill ‘The Quantified Selves of Academia’
Prof Martin Upchurch ‘Is a Robot after your Job?’