Society for the Anthropology of Work
General Anthropology Division
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: This panel discusses how new technologies, in their development and usage, transform labor arrangement of individuals and households, in terms of the renegotiation between the “production” and “reproduction” labor.
Ever since the industrial revolution, there has long been an apparent boundary between the “production” and “reproduction” realms of labor. The former, with the example of formal jobs, is usually seen as fixed, workplace, technically oriented, collective and male-dominated, while the latter, with the example of daily chores, is usually seen as the everyday, private, caring- and maintenance-oriented, individual and female-dominated. While earlier scholars have challenged this separation, the dialectics between the two realms are still understudied.
Recent socioeconomic changes impose new challenges for individuals and families in terms of labor arrangement. For individuals, capitalist globalization transforms employment, turning “working class” to “caring class” (Graeber 2018); For families, demands for care labor increase due to the shortage of support from the public sector. Among these changes, new technologies, especially the emerging ones including ICTs, algorithm and AI, by imposing new tasks and functions to individuals and families, tend to transform the boundaries between “production” and “reproduction” realms of labor, both in their development and usage.
New technologies may alter the time arrangement of “production” and “reproduction” labor: For women facing both jobs and family duties, ICTs help transfer their time arrangement; They may change the spatial arrangement of “production” and “reproduction” labor: With online crowdsourcing platforms, large-scale manufacturing and content generation are finished by home-based “gig workers”; They may transform the content and skill of “production” and “reproduction”, even during their development: In inventing and developing new technological and business models, emotional and communicative labor of tech entrepreneurs become even more important than creative and technical labor; They may transform the organization of “production” and “reproduction” labor: With e-commerce and delivery platforms, individual housewifery works such as shopping and cooking are outsourced to large groups of migrant workers… All these recent changes indicate the need for a new understanding of how labor is taken by individuals and families and what kinds of working lives are forming in different societies.
Upon this situation, what is the agency of individuals and families in terms of the renegotiation between the “production” and “reproduction” realms of work? How do their understandings and valuations of different work change because of new technological inputs? How do they negotiate their time spent on various kinds of labors with new technologies? How do they deal with spatial displacement or “conflict” in their works caused by new technologies? How do they make sense of new contents of work created by the development and usage of new technologies and the corresponding new skill requirements? How do power dynamic and group dynamic change among groups of workers, family members and new technologies?
The panel includes papers that address problems related but not limited to the aforementioned problems. Empirical focuses of papers are from various realms of work, geographical areas and sociocultural contexts.