China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

4 - Rethinking Innovation: An Organizational Perspective on Shenzhen IT and Its Programming Laborers

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Maple, Lower Ground Floor

Programming labor has long been, as Elisa Oreglia has mentioned, one of the “invisible human infrastructures” in both technological narratives and academic debates. Through empirical analysis at the intersection of governments, R&D policies, Information Technology (IT) corporations and their IT workers, this article explores how organizational factors have influenced the practices of male and female programmers, leaving workers in precarious conditions. Shenzhen, the commercial hub of South China, has developed an IT organizational pattern that is distinct from either the AnnaLee Saxenian Silicon Valley model or Manual Castells’ Finland model. The most salient characteristic of the Shenzhen model is a coexistence of both networked and hierarchical relations among IT firms. Under intense competition between private IT companies to cut costs, junior and mid-level programming workers confront employment instability, deskilled work, and reduced promotional chances and fringe benefits. Big firms invest in human resources to retain programming teams in-house for long-term strategic purposes, thereby expanding further their market share. By interviewing programming workers and managers, and working part-time on the office floor as a researcher in a small company, this article provides an alternative approach to understanding the social relations between innovation and programmers. 

Sophie Ping Sun

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China

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4 - Rethinking Innovation: An Organizational Perspective on Shenzhen IT and Its Programming Laborers



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