Call for Papers: Digital Work and Labor in the New Economy

Call for Papers to be published in Research in the Sociology of Work

Anne Kovalainen, University of Turku
Steven Vallas, Northeastern University

In recent years, digital technologies have enveloped virtually all forms of economic activity. Smart phones have carried the demand for labor into almost everyone’s pocket or purse. The platform economy has remade the structural contexts in which transport work, cleaning, and casual work as a whole are performed. Careers are now established or maintained (or derailed) via LinkedIn. And the job search process has rendered the paper resume a quaint relic from the past. All this signals a profound transformation in the very underpinnings of economic life. Yet sociological studies of work and technology in the digital age have seemed to lag far behind these accelerating trends. How has the digital revolution begun to blur the distinction between work and non-work? Why have high tech jobs remained such a heavily gendered and racialized terrain? What is the nature of the jobs that digital technology now demands, variously termed “immaterial labor” and “cognitive capitalism”? How much of the labor force is likely to be engulfed by the “gig economy” –and how might this sector be shaped to suit human needs? To pose these questions is to declare that systematic, critical research on digital work and labor is sorely needed, especially in an era when AI, robotization, and automatic guided vehicles are waiting in the wings.

This special issue of Research in the Sociology of Work welcomes papers that investigate or critically examine the linkages between work, economic institutions, and the digital revolution.  We especially welcome papers that address such issues as these (among an array of many other, kindred themes):

  • The role of culture in the design and use of digital technologies at work
  • How on-line technologies are recasting labor market institutions
  • The dynamics and unanticipated consequences of technological change
  • The work situations and cultures of workers in high technology settings
  • How technology alters control and surveillance over human labor
  • The nature of the “on-demand” economy
  • The relation between digital technologies and the global dispersion of work
  • The uses of information technology by social movement activists

Deadline for submission: January 15, 2018.

Guidelines for submission: Papers should run roughly 10-12k words, including references and tables. Submissions (or questions) should be sent electronically to the editors at More information about RSW can be found here.

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