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Reading Group Oct 31 2007

The paper proposed is GROSSMAN, R. (1980) Women's Place in the Integrated Circuit. Radical America, 14, 29-49. The focus of this article is on manufacturing operations for the mass production of computer chips in the 1970's, chips produced for multinational corporations such as Intel, AMD, Motorola, National Semiconductor, Fairchild, Hewlett-Packard.

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Oct 31, 2007
from 12:30 PM to 01:30 PM


couches in Quinn

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Revealing dominance and the predominance of any group or subculture in the strata of organisations or industries must draw our attention and commentary.

This report presents and questions the working conditions of Asian women employed in the semi-conductor industry in the 1970s. A study in the ethnographic mode which reveals the hidden connections between computer chips and women. The descriptions of their workplaces are both stark and clear, employees exposed to hazardous environments and tough conditions, sight deteriorating after a handful of years doing microscopy work, fired or discarded when no longer of any use having spent their vision on the vision of the integrated circuit. At multiple levels the overt exploitation of female workers is systematically contrived; colonised and manipulated through images of femininity, fashion and identity (typically Western). Managers paternally (and cynically) manipulating their subjects by subverting notions of traditional family ties through managerial instruments, involving the workers in shifts which both entangle and distance these women from their culture. The simple transaction of work for reward does not come close to describing this dyssymetric arrangement. Minimalist economic reward generated complex inter-dependencies between the firm and the worker, the worker's extended family and the citizen's society. Even after four decades there are echoes and implications here for students of organisation and information systems. Recall the logic, software runs on computers, computers fabricated offshore, manufactured and assembled (largely) by women, perhaps the sisters, daughters and grand-daughters of the women Grossman met, in workplace settings and conditions that we must pray are fairer and better - but do we know?

The reading group meets on Wednesday October 31st at 12.30 in the couches at Quinn School (bring lunch with you). Copies of the paper from Allen Higgins's office or available on-line at the The Center for Digital Initiatives (CDI) at Brown University Library, Providence, RI (vol 14 no. 1, see link below).

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