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Society for Social Studies of Science

Mullins Award 2015

Karen LevyThe Mullins Award committee is delighted to offer Karen Levy the 2015 Nicholas C. Mullins Award for her article “The Contexts of Control: Information, Power, and Truck Driving Work," published in The Information Society!

Levy’s study of truck driving work in the United States is an excellent account of technological monitoring and organization control. The paper provides deep insights into the ambivalent relationships among technology-enhanced organizational surveillance, labor, and individual agency in an empirical setting largely understudied in STS scholarship.  

The paper demonstrates this by abstracting electronic data about the location and activity of truckers and then re-socializing said data along specific axes of organizational control. Levy’s research exhibits an intricate process of redefining the social contexts within which the information operates. The article connects with traditional STS themes pertaining to questions of how knowledge is localized in particular social and cultural contexts, as well as the challenges associated with its successful propagation and implementation in other contexts.

abstractMethodologically, the author's thorough ethnographic work illuminates the three dimensions along which the process of abstracting and re-localizing data about truckers is carried out. The paper continues a strong tradition in STS of structuring research questions around deep, thorough ethnographic methods, supplemented in this case by interviews as well. Levy’s analysis of how the contrarian attitudes of trucker culture affect their views of electronic management systems is particularly informative.

The paper offers a detailed and well-constructed narrative about the ways information can be gathered and used by organizations to exhort social control over its employees. It meets a pressing need in today's world, in which preoccupations with surveillance and technologically-mediated forms of control have increasingly become objects of public concern.

Overall, with rich ethnographic description organized through strong theoretical interpretation, the article makes an important contribution to STS scholarship!  Congratulations to Karen Levy!

Bio

Karen Levy is a postdoctoral associate at New York University School of Law's Information Law Institute and NYU's Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, as well as a fellow at the Data and Society Research Institute. She researches how law and technology interact to regulate social life, with particular focus on legal, social, and organizational aspects of surveillance and monitoring.  She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Princeton University and a J.D. from Indiana University Maurer School of Law. Karen previously served as a law clerk in the United States Federal Courts.

Acceptance

I am very honored to receive the 2015 Nicholas C. Mullins Award for my paper "The Contexts of Control: Information, Power, and Truck Driving Work." The Award puts me in the humbling company of its previous recipients. I gratefully acknowledge the support of the National Science Foundation, Princeton University, Intel Labs, and the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, and the many members of the trucking community who generously shared their time and expertise.

Mullins committee members: Sulfikar Amir (Nanyang Technological U, Singapore), Abby Kinchy (Rensselaer, USA), Claire Waterton (Lancaster U, UK), and Samuel Tettner (Independent scholar).