Big Data
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Big Data

Promise, Application and Pitfalls

Edited by John Storm Pedersen and Adrian Wilkinson

Big data and 'the package' of the digital society is de-mystified in this important book. A group of international experts frame the debates around big data and analyse its impact in different sectors in practice. They also examine whether big data and the digital society can deliver on its promises.
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Chapter 8: Cyborg bureaucracy: Frontline work in digitalized labor and welfare services

Eric Breit, Cathrine Egeland and Ida Bring Løberg


This chapter focuses on implications of digitalization of frontline work practices, drawing on empirical material from labour and welfare services. Using the concept ‘cyborg bureaucracy’, which enables an understanding of the integration of humans and technology in public services, the chapter explores response strategies of frontline workers as they reconcile demands of the digital infrastructure and the needs to provide adequate services to the citizens. Four response strategies are highlighted: ‘noise reduction’ (i.e., reducing the client contact that is perceived as distracting), ‘client upbringing’ (i.e., making the clients more prone to using digital systems), ‘leaving traces’ (i.e., increased awareness of the timelessness of digital communication), and ‘shadow systems’ (i.e., developing local systems parallel to the official systems). The authors argue that these strategies are central ways for frontline workers to respond to (new) digital pressure in their work, and that the strategies in different ways show how integration between the human and digital aspects of the services are not extraordinary events but take place in everyday settings of frontline work.

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