Handbook of Employment and Society
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Handbook of Employment and Society

Working Space

Edited by Susan McGrath-Champ, Andrew Herod and Al Rainnie

This Handbook deepens and extends the engagement between research concerned with work and employment and labour geography. It links fundamental concepts concerning the politics of place that human geographers have developed in recent years with the world of work.
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Chapter 7: Tele-mediated Servants and Self-servants of the Global Economy: Labour in the Era of ICT-enabled E-commerce

Matthew Zook and Michael Samers


Matthew Zook and Michael Samers Introduction The relationship between labour and information and communication technologies (ICTs) has remained startlingly understudied by economic geographers,1 and beyond the large body of work on call centres, this dearth is equally prevalent across the social sciences more generally (Downey, 2001).2 Notable contributions by geographers and related thinkers on the role of technology, such as Brunn et al.’s (2004) edited collection Geography and Technology, Leinbach and Brunn’s (2001) Worlds of E-Commerce, Wheeler et al.’s (2000) Cities in the Telecommunications Age, and the otherwise comprehensive Cybercities Reader (Graham, 2004), say very little about this relationship. And while economists have for a long time tackled these connections, their analyses are often limited to sectoral studies whose geographies may be implied rather than explicit. It is in this sense, then, that our chapter explores the explicit relationship between labour and ICTs (or, more specifically, information and communication technology-enabled e-commerce – henceforth ICT-EC).3 We view the use of ICT-EC between firms (so-called B2B) or firms and consumers (B2C), as a key element in the transformation of work and labour relations, and it is ICT-enabled e-commerce that forms the core (though not exclusive domain) of our analysis.4 Our argument weaves a story that involves both the temporal and spatial dimensions of this relationship. A focus on its spatial dimensions is vital as a corrective to the dominance of the temporal or historical emphasis so dear to other – especially popular – analyses of the subject. Though we mainly draw on...

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