Technology, Affordances and Occupational Identity Amongst Older Telecommunications Engineers: From Living Machines to Black-Boxes

Robert Mackenzie, Abigail Marks, Kate Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This article explores the relationship between technology and occupational identity based on working-life biographical interviews with older telecommunications engineers. In the construction of their own working-life biographical narratives, participants attached great importance to the technology with which they worked. The article contends that workers’ relationship with technology can be more nuanced than either the sociology of technology literature or the sociology of work literature accommodates. Adopting the concept of affordances, it is argued that the physical nature of earlier electromechanical technology afforded engineers the opportunity to ‘fix’ things through the skilled application of tools and act as autonomous custodians of ‘living’ machines: factors that were inherent to their occupational identity. However, the change to digital technology denied the affordances to apply hands-on skill and undermined key elements of the engineering occupational identity. Rather than simply reflecting the nostalgic romanticizing of the past, the biographies captured deterioration in the material realities of work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)732-748
Number of pages17
JournalSociology
Volume51
Issue number4
Early online date15 Dec 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017

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