New technologies in professional work: ‘Tinkering’ as a means of developing professional identities

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Abstract

Currently new digital technologies are anticipated to enter all sectors of the labor market and transform work and professionalism. This development may be seen as a threat to professionalism (Susskind and Susskind 2015), but it may also provide new possibilities for renewing professionalism and improving working life. In this paper, we will address these possibilities. First, we discuss central contributions to understanding such possibilities drawn from the research traditions of ‘participatory design’, ‘employee driven innovation’ and ‘technological literacy’. Secondly, taking departure in key insights from this litera-ture, and in an STS-inspired understanding of ‘technology in use’ that emphasizes technology develop-ment as an ongoing process (Orlikowski 2007), the paper explores potentials for developing professional identity and meaning in work in relation to technology-use in the workplace. We present empirical exam-ples from a 4-year ethnographic research project on ‘welfare technologies’ in care work that represents different contexts – in terms of policies and ways of organizing – for developing professional identities. In policy discourses on the implementation of welfare technologies, professionals are often represented as reluctant and resistant users of new technologies. However, our empirical examples illustrate that pro-fessionals’ day-to-day articulation work of making welfare technologies function in daily practice, and of adapting use to specific situations and citizens – ‘tinkering’ (Mol, Moser, and Pols 2010) – contains new possibilities for development of professionalism and meaning in work. In some cases professionals were able to act ‘entrepreneurially’ with the new welfare technologies, developing both the quality and charac-ter of care services, as well as their own professional identities and experiences of meaning in work. We discuss to which extent new forms of professionalism and meaning in work develop within the scope of what Evetts (2011) has termed ’organizational professionalism’, as opposed to more traditional concep-tualizations of ’professional professionalism’. We conclude by discussing what kinds of organizational priorities and learning spaces may be required to support the development of professional identities and meaning in work in relation to the use of new (welfare) technologies in the workplace.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventNordic Working Life Conference: The changing nature of
Nordic working life. 2020
- Online
Duration: 28 Sep 202029 Sep 2020
Conference number: 10
https://www.politics-society.aau.dk/conferences/nwlc-20/

Conference

ConferenceNordic Working Life Conference: The changing nature of
Nordic working life. 2020
Number10
LocationOnline
Period28/09/202029/09/2020
OtherConference postponed from spring 2020 to September 2020. Held online.
Internet address

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