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  • The Politics of Industry: Digital Innovation and the Sociality of Manufacturing

Oakley, Peter, 2016, Conference or Workshop, The Politics of Industry: Digital Innovation and the Sociality of Manufacturing at Anthropology in London Day 2016, UCL Anthropology Department, London, 14th June 2016. (Unpublished)

Abstract or Description:

Anyone undertaking ethnographic fieldwork in industrial contexts quickly finds activities are framed by people in positions of influence in terms of economics and innovation. In conversations and interviews key and recurring themes are the need to stay viable in the sector through competitive pricing, keeping costs realistic and developing new, successful product lines. But how these aims are to be achieved is not obvious and are often the subject of disagreement amongst a company’s management. This leads to an ongoing situation of intra-institutional as well as inter-institutional politics, as individuals attempt to achieve commonly understood goals by promoting different programmes of action inside their company and through partnerships with suppliers, clients and other organisations. These programmes are built on personal perceptions of what the market is or could be, experience of current and past manufacturing and retailing practices, how it might be possible to make goods in the future, and the risks different choices entail.
This paper draws on material collected for the AHRC funded project: Extending the Potential of the Digitally Printed Ceramic Surface led by the Royal College of Art in partnership with Royal Crown Derby, Steelite, MZTT and Digital Ceramic Systems. Primarily a technical development project, it also includes an ethnographic element managed by the author, which is focusing on how the people in the industrial and academic partners perceive the digital technology being trialled and in what ways these perceptions affect their choices and actions.
The paper offers a series of case situations relating to the project. An analysis of these demonstrates the extent to which the notion of innovation is intricately entwined with, but at times contradicts, the manufacturing company as a social institution with profound links to the wider social fabric. It also considers how these tensions are, or at times are not, resolved in practice. In conclusion, it explores how these social politics are enmeshed with much wider social networks, including local government regions, nation-states and international political federations.

Official URL: https://www.soas.ac.uk/anthropology/events/anthrop...
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W700 Crafts
School or Centre: School of Material
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2016 13:52
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2016 12:12
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1852

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