Join us for the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research Seminar Series 23/24 with Dr Barbara Ribeiro, Associate Professor at SKEMA Business School (Paris) and an Honorary Lecturer at The University of Manchester.
Register via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mioir-seminar-series-dr-barbara-ribeiro-tickets-740783361977
Balancing bytes and beakers: Skill change in the digitalisation of industrial science
Authors – Barbara Ribeiro, Andrew James and Abderrahim Nekkache.
This paper investigates skill change in industrial science in the context of digitalisation. We draw on a study conducted in a large UK firm to shed light on the transformations in the ‘texture of work’ of knowledge workers, exploring processes of deskilling and upskilling. While management scholars have increasingly focused on how professionals respond to emerging digital technologies (Faulconbridge et al. 2023), the processes of skill change remain less understood. In particular, we know little about how deskilling and upskilling intersect with divisions of labour, changes in task complexity, workers’ autonomy and organisational uncertainty. We engage with labour process theory (LPT), which is “broadly concerned with the transformation of labour power into profitable labour in the context of capitalist relations of production” (McDonald et al. 2020:875) to explore these elements of skill change. While LPT has long been a useful lens in examining labour in the context of technological change, it has faced criticism for being technologically deterministic. Consequently, recent scholarship aims to leverage LPT while renewing its explanatory mechanisms to accommodate more relational and constructivist analyses of the impact of technological change on labour (MacKenzie et al. 2015). Although recent labour process scholarship shows a growing interest in understanding the impacts of digitalisation, the focus has primarily been on digital platforms and gig economy workers (e.g. Gandini, 2019; Terry et al. 2022), sidelining the practices of specialised knowledge workers, such as scientists. This paper thus addresses an important lacuna, while it advances the deskilling-upskilling debate in management, organisational, and innovation studies.
Barbara Ribeiro is an Associate Professor at SKEMA Business School (Paris) and an Honorary Lecturer at The University of Manchester. She obtained her PhD in Science and Technology Studies in 2014 with a thesis on the social impacts of biofuels. Before joining SKEMA, she worked for a decade in the UK, first at the Centre for Applied Bioethics at the University of Nottingham (2013-2016) and then at the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, AMBS, The University of Manchester (2016-2022). Barbara’s research focuses on the sociological aspects of science, technology and innovation, including the practice of responsible innovation. Her work has covered fields such as biotechnology, synthetic biology and, more recently, digital technologies and artificial intelligence. She also has an interest in the intersection between technology and politics and has investigated the cases of public health emergencies related to Zika and Covid-19 in Brazil. Barbara’s research has been published in journals such as Research Policy, Social Science and Medicine, and Technological Forecasting and Social Change. She is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Responsible Innovation.
The Manchester Institute of Innovation Research runs a series of regular seminars given by visiting speakers to Manchester. These seminars are open to anybody who is interested in science, technology and innovation policy and management.