Hopkins, Cate

Hopkins, Cate
Start date:
September 2018
Research Topic:
Workplace surveillance and resistance
Research Supervisor:
Dr Lina Dencik
Supervising school:
School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

My project is interested in the ways in which workplace surveillance shape and influence trade union organising, in both the public and the private sector.

Technologies in the workplace can have a dramatic impact on worker wellbeing, leading to overwork, loss of autonomy, the blurring of lines between life and work, and intensified expectations for performance. Digital technology has the capacity to track and monitor worker performance, reducing human experience to a set of numerical data that can in turn grade performance against a series of targets or expectations. That data can also be pieced together to create a profile from which a wide range of inferences and assumptions. When our digital lives become so highly contextualised to our own individual situations, our individual identities as gendered, racialised, embodied people enter into a power matrix.

The history of the trade union movement, in the UK and internationally, has been the history of resistance to the worst excesses of industrial capitalism. In terms of working people, those excesses have historically been largely visible and collectively shared, and current regulations surrounding health and safety at work or working time directives are the result of long struggle against worker exploitation.

My project is interested in finding out how trade unions are responding to the excesses of the datafied workplace. How visible and tangible are the exploitations that workers face and to what extent are they collectively shared?

But In the highly individualised contexts of technology and its intertwining relationship with the social world, how are trade union activists organising to foster the solidarity and collective action that the trade union movement needs to be successful? What are the challenges that they face? What are the current concerns and how can they as a collective movement rise to meet them?