Keeping Up: Web Design Skill and The Reinvented Worker
Nalini P. Kotamraju
My findings highlight how skill definition, rather than work conditions, affects new media work.
The flexible reinvented worker figures prominently in accounts of informationage work (Touraine 1971; Bell 1976; Zuboff 1988; Block 1990; Aronowitz and DiFazio 1994; Castells 1996; Rifkin 1996; Sennett 1998).
These accounts argue that new media workers, in particular, need to be flexible, to often readjust to new technology and to reskill constantly. While these arguments normally emphasize the role of changing work conditions, in this paper, I investigate the formation of skill in the new media industry.
Specifically, I ask how employers in the late 1990s framed a particular new media skill, web design, and how this skillset dealt with upgrades and changes. Using classified job advertisements, trade publications, informant interviews, and fieldwork, I document the articulation of web design skill and its boundaries.
My findings highlight how skill definition, rather than work conditions, affects new media work. I show that the web design skill-set: 1. emerged as a fluid, rather than narrow and technically defined, set of competencies; 2. thrived in a tension between art (design) and code (development); 3. utilized web technology itself to create professional institutions; and 4. required constant skill maintenance and upgrading, what I, echoing an informant, call 'keeping up'.
I conclude by suggesting that the definition of what constitutes a skill is essential to one of the greatest challenges of new media work: the phenomenon of re-skilling.
Information, Communication & Society, Volume 5, Number 1/January 01, 2002, pp. 1-26.
ещё одно модненькое словечко надо учить - рескиллинг. а когда в моде был просто скиллинг?