Behind the digital curtain: a study of academic identities, liminalities and labour market adaptations for the ‘Uber-isation’ of HE

Collins, Hilary; Glover, Hayley and Myers, Fran (2020). Behind the digital curtain: a study of academic identities, liminalities and labour market adaptations for the ‘Uber-isation’ of HE. Teaching in Higher Education (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2019.1706163

Abstract

This paper explores sensemaking narratives from teaching academics undertaking identity work in the context of a rapidly expanding digital education sphere. It considers the implications for emotional labour and status of digitised higher education teaching academics from the imposition of a rejuvenated New Public Management. We discuss possible tainting from fractured and short-term contractual arrangements alongside growth in managerialism, metrics and accountability. This study combines photographic ethnography and interviews to gain insight into uncertainties, anxieties, identity legitimations and participant responses to imposed changes within digitally evolving workspaces. The paper explores teaching cultures within two higher education institutions, on different points of a digital continuum, finding discourses of alienation, liminality and validation. Resultant ‘sticky’ or resistant behaviours in rapid adaptations to digital teaching life were heard as we aimed to understand what itmeans to teach in a digitised, neoliberalcontext.

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