Article

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

Citation

MacKenzie R, Marks A & Morgan K (2017) Technology, Affordances and Occupational Identity Amongst Older Telecommunications Engineers: From Living Machines to Black-Boxes. Sociology, 51 (4), pp. 732-748. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038515616352

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

Keywords
affordances; anthropomorphism; biographies; engineers; labour process; nostalgia; occupational identity; technology; telecommunications

Journal
Sociology: Volume 51, Issue 4

StatusPublished
FundersHeriot-Watt University
Publication date01/08/2017
Publication date online15/12/2015
Date accepted by journal08/09/2015
URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/28476
ISSN0038-0385
eISSN1469-8684