A Smart Place to Work? Big Data Systems, Labour, Control and Modern Retail Stores

14 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2018

See all articles by Leighton Evans

Leighton Evans

National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUI Maynooth) - National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA)

Rob Kitchin

National University of Ireland, Maynooth (Maynooth University) - NIRSA

Date Written: March 2018

Abstract

The modern retail store is a complex coded assemblage and data‐intensive environment, its operations and management mediated by a number of interlinked big data systems. This paper draws on an ethnography of a retail store in Ireland to examine how these systems modulate the functioning of the store and working practices of employees. It was found that retail work involves a continual movement between a governance regime of control reliant on big data systems which seek to regulate and harnesses formal labour and automation into enterprise planning, and a disciplinary regime that deals with the symbolic, interactive labour that workers perform and act as a reserve mode of governmentality if control fails. This continual movement is caused by new systems of control being open to vertical and horizontal fissures. While retail functions as a coded assemblage of control, systems are too brittle to sustain the governmentality desired.

Keywords: retail, control, discipline, code/space, labour, big data, automation.

Suggested Citation

Evans, Leighton and Kitchin, Rob, A Smart Place to Work? Big Data Systems, Labour, Control and Modern Retail Stores (March 2018). New Technology, Work and Employment, Vol. 33, Issue 1, pp. 44-57, 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3139079 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ntwe.12107

Leighton Evans (Contact Author)

National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUI Maynooth) - National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis (NIRSA) ( email )

Iontas Building
Maynooth, Kildare
Ireland

Rob Kitchin

National University of Ireland, Maynooth (Maynooth University) - NIRSA ( email )

2nd Floor
Iontas Building
Maynooth, County Kildare W23 F2H6
Ireland

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