Accepted Paper:

From expert study to software: Cloud-based labour and expertise in a Norwegian-based digital service firm  

Author:

Christian Ritter (Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

Based on a long-term immersion in the working lives of consultants and software engineers, this paper critically examines how the arrival of cloud-based labour reshuffled expertise practices within a Norwegian-based digital service firm providing software to the global oil and gas industry.

Paper long abstract:

This paper critically examines how the arrival of cloud-based labour reshuffled expertise practices within a Norwegian-based firm providing software to the global oil and gas industry. Shedding light on a case of the digitization of expert knowledge, the investigation describes the internal practices of a small-scale firm, which shifted its focus from developing expert reports that assess the operational risks for oil and gas extracting firms to selling software packages performing similar analyses. The purpose of the extended case study is to trace the implementation process of the cloud infrastructure and the accompanying transformations of working life and migration. Committed to a holistic contextualisation, this study is based on participant observation at industry events, including conferences, workshops and trade shows, access to repositories on the developer platform GitHub during a three-month secondment in a digital service firm, and 30 expert interviews. The firm under investigation established a cloud-based distribution of digital services, connecting the taskscapes of software engineers, consultants and clients. The infrastructural changes within the firm had far-reaching consequences for the mobility and expertise of its employees. This investigation revealed that low-salaried, Ukrainian-based software engineers were hidden but crucial actors in the software development cycle, modifying the code through the outsourced cloud environments. Based on the evidence studied within a digital service firm, I suggest that the implementation of cloud technologies initiated new digital divisions of labour and significantly reduced the physical migration of software professionals in favour of transnationally connected taskscapes facilitating an accelerated circulation of data.

Panel P057
Digitisation, and the future of labour and migration