CMST 1a03: Introduction to Communication
Alex Sévigny, PhD, APR, MCIPR (Winter Term, 2013)
ITC – B. Crow & G. Longford: “From the „Electronic Cottage‟
to the „Silicon Sweatshop‟: Social Implications of
Telemediated Work in Canada”
ITC – R. Hebdige “From Culture to Hegemony”
B. Crow & G. Longford
The work and workplaces of Canadians have changed over the last
A move from industry towards information.
This has been promoted by the emergence of new information
and communications technologies (ICTs).
Some theorists think that this is a source of strength and new
employment others talk of “the end of work”
There is a lack of adequate analysis of the influence of telemediated
work on such things as the availability of employment, skills and
income, job security and working conditions for many workers in
the “knowledge-based economy”.
For a minority of people, ICTs have been beneficial but they have
resulted in a polarization between highly-skilled, well-paid
knowledge workers and a large pool of semi and unskilled workers. Current public policy doesn’t address these issues
ICTs in the Canadian workplace
The internet, email, electronic data interchange and wireless
communication are widely used in business.
o 63% Internet
o 60% email
o 51% wireless comms
o 26% had websites
o 12% used an intranet
Private capital investments in ICTs grew by 20% per year in the
Public sector spending on ICTs grew from 3billion to 5billion.
Impact of ICTs on Work I: Demand, Security, Skills
Competition, organizational changes and human resource
strategies such as downsizing, delayering, outsourcing and
temporary employment have had a major impact on employment in
the last two decades.
This has led to deskilling. Robotized communications tools have
eliminated ten of thousands of service workers who used to work in
ICTs have also helped to accelerate the rate of transfer of jobs
outside of Canada. The employment rate in Canada has declined
very little. Hype would have it that ICTs spur economic growth, but this is a
Really ICTs displace workers and the jobs that these people get are
low-wage, temporary low-skill service jobs.
Canada has seen a quick rise in part-time, temporary and contract
Almost 50% of Canadian workers seem to be in this
ICTs have been very helpful to employers in surveilling
workers, providing detailed analyses of what the workers are
doing. This allows companies to “optimize” how many workers
This has led to underemployment and workers who are not
covered by pension plans or who receive few benefits.
Skilled in the new economy: Knowledge workers or
Canadian workers are quite highly skilled. But how do we define
Does word processing count as a skill if already 83% of computer
users report proficiency at it? The real skills associated with ICTs – engineering, computer
science and information technology degress -- can only be acquired
are select elite institutions such as universities.
So the two-tiered system prevails:
The upper class (information haves) can pursue lots more
freedom of movement and choice.
The underclass often engages in boring, repetitive, mind-
numbing work and are subject to hierarchy, subordination and
Impact of ICTs on work II: A gendered and racialized
division of labour
ICTs have been touted as a means to remove gender and race as a
barrier, offering attractive flexible working hours and the ability to
work from home.
Men and women both use computers, but men are much more
likely to be involved with “knowledge work”.
The polarization of incomes and the division of the workforce into
info haves and have-nots will accelerate the gendering and
racializing of the workforce. Inequality and Social Cohesion in the New Economy
University graduates in Canada 47% increase in employment,
There is a contraction of opportunities for vulnerable workers.
Non-standard work means less training and the responsibility is
placed on workers through the ideology of life-long learning
Governments need to create opportunities for access