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Feminist Media Studies | 02.25.16

Digital surveillance in the hypermasculine workplace

Karen Levy

In this commentary, D&S fellow Karen Levy’s considers the gendered dimensions of shifting cultures of work in response to the growing demands of the technologized/mediated workplace. She also explores the impact of new digital surveillance technologies on constructions of masculinity in the male-dominated US long-haul trucking industry.

New workplace technologies are often met with resistance from workers, particularly to the degree that they challenge traditional workplace norms and practices. These conflicts may be all the more acute when a work culture is deeply and historically gendered. In this Commentary, I draw from one such context—long-haul trucking to consider the role a hypermasculine work culture plays in the reception of new digital monitoring technologies.

I base my analysis on ethnographic study of the United States long-haul trucking industry between 2011 and 2014. My research focused on the use of digital fleet management systems to achieve legal and organizational compliance. The research was multi-sited, taking me to eleven states in total, and to many sites of trucking-related work, including large and small firms, trucking conventions, regulatory meetings, inspection stations, and truck stops. Throughout the work, I spoke with and observed a wide variety of industry participants— truckers themselves, of course, but also fleet managers, technology vendors, trucking historians, insurance agents, lawyers, police officers, and many others.

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