Pleasure and Suffering at Work in the Technical Act: A Case Study From a Garment Factory in a Context of Technological Transformation

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Authors: Liliana CunhaDaniel SilvaSarah MaggioliAna Correia De BarrosCatarina CorreiaFernando RicaldoniSusana Amorim Brito

Abstract: Technological transformation is at the center of changes that affect the current forms of work organization in different sectors of activity [1]. However, its introduction is never standard. On the contrary, it depends on the dynamics of each sector, the company's history, and its territory. In contrast to a deterministic view that assumes a direct relationship between technology and productivity, and an indirect one when it comes to guaranteeing collective and individual well-being, the analysis conducted in the domain of work psychology and activity ergonomics has uncovered other risks, such as work intensification [2], and emerging impacts on health [3,4].The difference between technique and technology gains relevance in this perspective [5]. Commonly used in an undifferentiated way, these constructs are related to different operating modes. Working with technology involves the mobilization of technical skills, whereas technique implies the incorporation of experience, throughout a long learning process of managing work variability. The relationship with a technological artefact does not always allow work to be carried out in a way workers can recognize themselves. That is, when the new technical practices are not consistent with the workers’ know-how developed so far. This is one of the sources of suffering at work, but this also happens when the technical act is not recognized [6].Through a case study in the textile sector, the pleasure/suffering dynamic that permeates the human-machine relationship was explored based on the construction of mediators, allowing the access to workers' viewpoints on what they live at work.The sample consists of ten female operators from a garment factory in Portugal. A work analysis was developed, including observations, self-confrontation interviews supported with video recordings, and both semi-structured individual and collective interviews. For coding and thematic data analysis NVivo 12 software was used. Additionally, observational data was treated using Actograph® software. From the interviews, four main themes emerged: “Understanding the machine”, “A job well-done”, “Relationship with others”; and “Risks and impacts on health”. The relationship with the machine is, simultaneously, a protective factor (e.g., when this has an impact on the perception of a job well-done) and a source of suffering (e.g., when the worker has to perform the activity in a similar machine, which is not her “own”).From the observations, two contrasting situations are highlighted: the first concerns the work with automatic sewing, and the second, with a traditional sewing machine. These are illustrative examples of situations that involve the interaction with technology, in the first case, and a technical act, in the second one, which is only possible by the fact that this work is performed by experienced seamstresses. In a work context characterized by high productivity and quality demands, one of the health protective factors comes from the seamstresses’ operational leeway to manage the way they perform their work, and thus being recognized by others (colleagues and supervisors).In a context of technological transformation, the analysis of the human-machine relationship cannot be understood from an approach centered exclusively on technology’s potential. This relationship is built on a social dynamic and in the face of work organization configurations, which protects or weakens the preservation of health. Further investigation on this is being done as the team is developing an ecological momentary assessment device for self-report of well-being dimensions [7]. This way technology could constitute a mediator in the access to them.References[1] Eurofound (2018). Automation, digitisation and platforms: implications for work and employment. Publications Office of the European Union.[2] Cunha, L., Barros, C., Baylina, P., & Silva, D. (2021). Work intensification in road transport industry: an approach to new working scenarios with automated vehicles. Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation, 69(3), 847-857.[3] Barcellini, F. (2019). Industrie du futur: quelle place pour le travail et ses transformations. In E. Bourdu, M. Lallement, P. Veltz, & T. Weil (Dirs.), Le Travail en mouvement (pp. 136-147). Presses des Mines.[4] Bobillier Chaumon, M-E., & Clot, Y. (2016). Clinique de l’usage: Les artefacts technologiques comme développement de l’activité. Activites, 13.[5] Leroi-Gourhan, A. (1973). Évolution et techniques. Milieu et techniques. Albin Michel.[6] Dejours, C. (2006). O fator humano. Fundação Getulio Vargas.[7] Barros, A., Moutinho, R., Correia, C., Lemos, G., Resende, C., Ricaldoni, F., Cunha, L., Silva, D., Maggioli, S., Brito, S. (under review). Design and Evaluation of a Portable Device for Ecological Momentary Assessment with Workers in a Garment Factory. Paper to be presented on ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, New Orleans.

Keywords: Human-Machine Relationship, Technology, Technical Act, Operational Leeway, Health And Well-Being.

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe100998

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