Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Media Studies

Supervisor(s)

Dr. Nick Dyer-Witheford

Abstract

In this monograph thesis, I explore how at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, the prospects for telework, rather than following a straightforward and inexorably rising trajectory, became strangely complex and conflicted. This project explores the reasons for the apparently contradictory and certainly confusing state of telework. It is about these contradictions, and more specifically about who benefits from telework arrangements, and under what conditions these arrangements are deployed.

The study adopts a mixture of qualitative methodologies, including political economic analysis, reviews of popular press articles, and in-depth interviews. The political economic analysis explores the costs and benefits of remote work, specifically how workers and employers are affected financially. We may have to reconsider whether flexible work arrangements will be the norm in work environments of the future, because of capital’s inability to manage the work process effectively and its loss of the benefits of spontaneous interaction between co-workers.

In the chapter devoted to the popular press, I analyze news stories that discussed Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s 2013 decision to end telework. This is the first discourse analysis of telework coverage in the popular press. I argue that Mayer was subjected to unfair coverage in the press, which was largely based on her role as a woman and mother.

Finally, I conducted a series of in-depth interviews with teleworkers, with unique arrangements and diverse professions. The insistence by tech company giants like Google that worker interaction is vital to creative labor is supported by my interviews with teleworkers, who contend that the biggest disadvantage to working from home is reduced social interaction with their coworkers.

The thread that ties all three of these methodological approaches together is the critique of the conventional assumption that telework is an unqualifiedly positive arrangement for workers, and an inevitable staple of future work environments. My research exposes the problems with this assumption. Overlooking the disadvantages that telework actually presents for workers, and also the very different disadvantages it can pose for capital, has also caused an overstatement of the importance of telework in Post-Fordist labour environments.


Share

COinS