Building the Future? Software Workers’ Imaginaries of Technology

  • Helene Thaa University of Basel
  • Mirela Ivanova University of Basel
  • Felix Nickel
  • Friedericke Hardering FH Münster
  • Oliver Nachtwey University of Basel
Keywords: software workers, digital capitalism, imaginaries of technology, Spirit of Capitalism, use value of work


This article investigates an actor’s perspective on digital capitalism. We study software workers’ orientations towards their work by focusing on the social use value they attribute to it. The concept of use value allows us to examine the contradictions software workers might experience in digital capitalism. Drawing on the literature on the control of software workers and the New Spirit of Digital Capitalism, we identify hindrances to the workers’ claims of a social use value and explore the imaginaries of technology which might form the basis for a critique or legitimation of digital capitalism. We find that software workers hold strong claims of a societal use value towards their work. While their ethos of good technology forms a strong foundation to critique hindrances they perceive in creating useful technology, imaginaries of technology as an autonomous force might delegitimise the workers’ claims.

Author Biographies

Helene Thaa, University of Basel

Helene Thaa is a researcher and PhD candidate at the Institute for Sociology of the University of Basel.

Mirela Ivanova, University of Basel

Mirela Ivanova is a researcher and a PhD candidate at the Institute for Sociology of the University of Basel.

Felix Nickel

Felix Nickel is a trade unionist and former labour researcher at FH Münster. 

Friedericke Hardering, FH Münster

Friedericke Hardering is professor of the future of work and digitalisation at FH Münster.

Oliver Nachtwey, University of Basel

Oliver Nachtwey is professor of Sociology at the University of Basel.

Critical Perspectives on Digital Capitalism 2: Digital Labour and Class