Promise, Application and Pitfalls
Edited by John Storm Pedersen and Adrian Wilkinson
Chapter 8: Cyborg bureaucracy: Frontline work in digitalized labor and welfare services
This chapter focuses on implications of digitalization of frontline work practices, drawing on empirical material from labour and welfare services. Using the concept ‘cyborg bureaucracy’, which enables an understanding of the integration of humans and technology in public services, the chapter explores response strategies of frontline workers as they reconcile demands of the digital infrastructure and the needs to provide adequate services to the citizens. Four response strategies are highlighted: ‘noise reduction’ (i.e., reducing the client contact that is perceived as distracting), ‘client upbringing’ (i.e., making the clients more prone to using digital systems), ‘leaving traces’ (i.e., increased awareness of the timelessness of digital communication), and ‘shadow systems’ (i.e., developing local systems parallel to the official systems). The authors argue that these strategies are central ways for frontline workers to respond to (new) digital pressure in their work, and that the strategies in different ways show how integration between the human and digital aspects of the services are not extraordinary events but take place in everyday settings of frontline work.
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