Saturday, October 16, 2004

for 18 October

From last week, based on p. 158, pgh. 2 of Orr: How does the subjective concept of "productive" work relate to the concept of skill in an occupation, and how does the perception of relative "productivity" determine the status of the worker? Apply these questions to the women working as computers or human calculators described in the Light article and alluded to by Tympas.

Issue of fact: do we understand the history of how women came to replace men as clerical workers (for example, as personal secretaries) in the early twentieth century? What is the connection of computers to the traditional information worker roles of women as governesses, companions to wealthy matrons, school teachers, telephone operators (this is for Greg to answer), and librarians (traditional only from the inception of Dewey's Library program at Columbia in the late 1880s)?

Light brings forward plenty of evidence that the labor of the WACS on early digital computers was highly regimented in the development phase, then hidden deliberately when the invention was publicized after World War II. Based just on the article, do we know enough to assert that the reason for hiding the women was sexist absolutism, a desire to bury the fact of women's contribution to the computer so as not to disturb the social relations of 1946, or were there issues of control of information, trust, and maintenance of subordination that the sexism played into? Consider how the identity politics of the late 1960s to the present have factored into the legal gains made by workers from the Wagner Act of the late 1930s to the cost of living adjustment contracts of the 1960s.

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