Control in Information Technology Industry Work-spaces

In “Postscript on Control Societies” [1], Deleuze argues that the accumulation of information and the processing capabilities of digital computers has made possible a new form of exercising power. In this new method of control,  the patterns of behaviour created by masses is used to create individuated control. Though it is possible to implement such mechanisms without high tech systems (for example it is imaginable to implement floating exchange rate system without digital processing) but information processing systems are the most cost effective way of realizing them. Deleuze predicts a switch from disciplinary mechanisms into control systems even in the very examples of disciplinary systems such as school and work-space. It is ironic to see the forerunner industry which has embraced this transition away from disciplinary systems is information technology industry.

The Trial by Orson Welles (adapted from Franz Kafka’s novel) 1962

All the instances of discipline, such as cubicle and strict reporting, are removed from workspace. Even the hostility between the employees created by bonus mechanism, as described by Deleuze, has been turned into a very collaborative cooperation. It seems as if Deleuze predictions were wrong and new information industry has been able to create a very humane work environment, at least for its employees, to create control mechanism for those outside (including themselves out of work environment).

But if we look more closely we can see that the same exact employees have the record of working overtime and the same companies have been able to make the most profit out of employees work and distribute this profit very unfairly between the owners and employees.
Other than psychological reasons that has enabled such companies to have employees and society accept these facts without objecting to them by being more ‘humane’ I would argue that there are more advanced control systems, as described by Deleuze, implemented within such workspaces. One of them being the open source community working side by side with these companies and their mutual relations.

Open source community has been praised as the realization of the democratic and collaborative way of development: The altruism of members to share their achievements with others for the benefit of the entire community. Though I don’t think that wasn’t the intention and motivation behind the open source community but I believe the same networked community enables companies to implement continuous learning and assessment in the work environment more cost effectively.

The large scale of open source development has caused a huge proliferation in the possibilities of developing code that is way beyond the learning ability of individuals. If in the 80’s and early 90’s a software engineer had to update his knowledge every few years, now a programmer has to constantly learn new tools, libraries and programming languages every day and every hour to keep up with the industry. Creation of this amount of learning material would have not been possible without open source community. It is imaginable to think that providing study material for this continuous learning is crowed sourced to be provided by open source software development community (as it is the case with Wikipedia).
This constant learning has created an integrated school-factory environment with continuous learning and assessment without limit or end, as Deleuze predicted.

Moreover working on a open source source project in the work environment, as many employees do, creates a modularization of work into personal achievement. The employee receives the consequences of the success of the project more directly than the bonus mechanism and obviously it is more cost effective for the company. In this case the assessment is done not by the higher level managers but by the other members of community, distributively and continuously. If we add into account the huge number of developers working on small open source project in addition to large, well known and stable open source projects, it is not hard to realize that how the interest of the network of user community in using that specific project determines the failure or success of the project, and consequently fame and more opportunities for its contributors.

[1] Deleuze, Gilles. Negotiations, 1972-1990. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.pp. 177-182

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One Response to “Control in Information Technology Industry Work-spaces”

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