Chapter 3: Working in virtual knowledge: Affective labor in scholarly collaboration

Smiljana Antonijević, Stefan Dormans, and Sally Wyatt

Scholarly work, especially in the humanities and social sciences, is often seen as solitary. The lone, creative individual, reading and writing while sitting on a chair and gazing out a window, is a powerful image even as it draws attention to the very unglamorous nature of such work. This image of routine, often rather lonely activity contrasts sharply with the much more exciting one of teams of scientists working together in a laboratory, collecting samples, analyzing data and sharing ideas. But the reality of scholarly work in the humanities and social sciences has always been otherwise. Scholars in these fields often work together, for example, to conduct multinational and/or longitudinal projects; to turn raw archival and other data into systematic, comprehensible, and usable database records; to comment on colleagues’ work; to write with others to produce fluent prose, and so on. Thus, scholars in the humanities and social sciences routinely engage in collaborative work, and in affective labor stemming from such collaboration, when engaged in the production and distribution of knowledge. The diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICTs) that has occurred over the past decades offers many possibilities for augmenting or disrupting such collaborative work, by shifting the boundaries between visible and invisible tasks, influencing the division of labor within teams, as well as by bringing to light various affective underpinnings of scholarly practice. In this chapter, we focus on such affective aspects of scholarly work, and we develop a conceptual framework for understanding the range of affective activities scholars undertake in the social sciences and humanities in order to collaborate. We focus particularly on affective activities that may be changed by the incorporation of digital technologies into everyday scholarly practices.



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