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The CRC welcomes Judy Wajcman as guest researcher in Freiburg

The CRC welcomes Judy Wajcman as guest researcher in Freiburg

Prof. Dr. Judy Wajman (© Judy Wajcman)

Judy Wajcman is currently a guest researcher at the CRC 1015 and FRIAS. The following three questions and answers will give you information about her academic background and research interests.

Dear Professor Wajcman, Your latest monograph is entitled "Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism" (2015). How would you introduce yourself to a visitor rushing through the World Wide Web and clicking on our website?
I started academic life as an economic sociologist, so I was brought up on Marx and Fordism, and the role of the assembly line in setting the pace of work. While that established my interest in the way technology shapes and is shaped by power relations at work, it was reading E.P. Thompson’s essay on ‘Time, Work Discipline and Industrial Capitalism’ that started my fascination with the significance of clocks and the modern experience of temporality. As a feminist, I have always been concerned with whose time and work is valued, whose time is saved by the servicing of others, and who has time for themselves. In other words, making the argument that time sovereignty is an important dimesion of equality and social justice.

During your stay at the CRC 1015 and FRIAS you will deal with the optimization of time in the digital age. Which line leads from acceleration to optimization?
My early interest in working time and how technology mediates that led to my current research on theories about the impact of digital technologies on time poverty and the speeding up of everyday life. I was struck by how everywhere people feel that they are time pressed and generally assume that digital technologies, in themselves, are accelerating the pace of everyday life. So I firstly wanted to counter this technological determinism, and then to consider the roots of our cultural obsession with speed, efficiency and maximizing productivity. I am interested in how the quest to optimize time has come to signify the zeitgeist.

What role do phenomena of otium play in your research? Does the term open up new perspectives for your occupation with the topic of time from a sociological perspective?
I am hoping to learn more about otium here. But a core concern of mine has been the blurring of boundaries between work and the rest of life, the 24/7 connectivity of digitalization that makes if hard to designate ‘time off’ or leisure time. This is striking in how the logic of quantification and measurement has now extended from simply counting 10,000 steps to measuring the quality of sleep and one’s emotional state – all in the name of optimization. How do we escape this colonising logic of efficient time management? That’s what I’m thinking about!

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Judy Wajcman is the Anthony Giddens Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics, a visiting professor at the Oxford Internet Institute, and a Fellow of the Turing Institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. She has published widely in the fields of science and technology studies, gender theory, work and organizations. Her books include The Social Shaping of Technology, Feminism Confronts Technology, Managing Like a Man: Women and Men in Corporate Management, TechnoFeminism, The Politics of Working Life, The Sociology of Speed, and Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism, which was awarded the 2017 Ludwik Fleck book prize by the Society for the Social Studies of Science.