Beyond the factory paradigm: Digital nomadism and the digital future(s) of knowledge work post-COVID-1921 December 2020
What are the potential futures of knowledge work, given its transformation into almost exclusively digital work during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis? Our ongoing research program on digital nomadism informs a Hegelian dialectical analysis and an envisioning of the future(s) of knowledge work. We contrast the Factory paradigm of work (thesis), exemplified by the “ideal type” of the 9-to-5 corporate worker, with the Hypermobility paradigm of work (antithesis), exemplified by the ideal type of the digital nomad. Reflecting on this contrast, we envision the possible digital futures of knowledge work as a continuous spectrum, ranging from a future based on the Digital Taylorism paradigm of work to a future based on the Worker Autonomy paradigm of work. These futures are discussed in terms of different approaches to organizing work, working with technology, delineating work/life boundaries, and provisioning the social safety net. IS researchers are uniquely positioned to perform research and inform decision-making in all these areas, and thus make a difference in determining whether the future we end up with more closely resembles Digital Taylorism or the Worker Autonomy vision.