Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.

Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.
Image by Cameron Lyall, GNU license Wikimedia

15 June 2011

Postindustrial Dundee Explored

I thought it might be useful for my own thinking about postindustrialization if I could articulate some of what we have learned about the history of Dundee so far with respect to some definitions of the term. Dr. Whatley mentioned today three things that really explained for me what Dundee’s relationship with the postindustrial is. First, he referenced that the re-establishment of the RRS Discovery served as a symbolic development for the city, as when the ship was brought back to Dundee, residents understood it as a reclamation of some of their uncertain history. Second, Dr. Whatley mentioned that new industries in Dundee – the ones that the city as was most excited about and the ones that served to bring the most interesting careers forth – are those from the medical profession, the university, and the gaming industry. Third, he referenced the fact that Dundee is still “dealing with” a large, largely uneducated workforce that is not prepared to take jobs in this new economy. He even made note of the large, identical council flats on the hill.

My own reference point for postindustrialization is In the Age of the Smart Machine by Susanna Zuboff, even though it is now a little dated. In the text, Zuboff argues that computers in the workplace make two different kinds of power moves. On one hand, they automate production, thereby taking over the jobs and actions that humans find less interesting or desirable, but on the other hand, they also “informate” workers, which is Zuboff’s term for how workers and machines are integrated together. Zuboff claims that information technologies not only produce material products, like jute or jam, but also in the act of producing these products also reproduce the logics through which they act. This “reflexive” component of communication technology helps push forth a “textualized” work process where workers communicate in ways that are not simply either manual labor or products or mental labor of the knowledge economy.

For Dundee, we can map some of these concepts onto the three concepts I mentioned above from Dr. Whatley’s talk. First, the RRS Discovery is symbolic, not only for the fact that it represents part of Dundee’s history, but that it also represents the potential for reclaiming part of Dundee’s history, the service economy that goes along with this recognition, and the kind of conceptual change that happens when a city realizes that it is not bound to the economic position it once was. Second, the new professions produce things, yes, but these jobs/careers are knowledge-based and communication-based labor where workers are using technology within the process of being “informated” (by information). Finally, the workers without the requisite skill sets needed to compete in these new economies are left on the outside looking in; it’s not just that they don’t have the knowledge to do some of the work, they also don’t have the understanding of their place within this new emerging economy. Their place in the new workforce of a postindustrial Dundee will be largely still *as if* they were in the industrial age – working on production lines or checkout lines, for others that do more of the “textualized” work of postindustrial society.

1 comment:

E. Reynoso said...

Nice post Pflugs. It's interesting thinking about these technological developments as being imbued with that reflexive property. I've been trying to think about that in terms of my thesis (border wall as tech, local populace helps build and fund it, but their mexican counterparts are meant to be kept out, etc.).

Keep 'em coming man.