17 November seminar: Cultures of Hyper-Productivity and the Quantification of Work


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Please join us for this online seminar hosted by the Deakin Science and Society Network (SSN). You can join the conversation on Twitter by following us at @SSNDeakin and using the hashtags #SSNseminar

Cultures of Hyper-Productivity and the Quantification of Work: A Visual History of Time Management Studies

This presentation examines the cultures of hyper-productivity and constant measurement that characterise contemporary experiences of work, tracing their history to the new practices and technologies of time management that emerged at the start of the twentieth century. It focuses on two visual case studies: the chronocyclegraphs produced by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth in the 1910s in the context of early industrial management, and the chronophotographs produced by the French physiologist Etienne-Jules Marey in the 1870s and 1880s. In these works, we see the convergence of two key cultural developments. The first is the use of new visual technologies to analyse and measure bodies in motion. The second is the rise of quantified approaches to work management that assumed productivity must and could always be increased. Attending to the images of the quantified working body that appear in the work of the Gilbreths and Marey reveals the cultural strategies by which hyper-productivity became embedded in contemporary managerial practices, and makes visible the sleight-of-hand by which quantification was established as the central practice in contemporary time management.


About the speaker:

Elizabeth Stephens is Associate Professor of Cultural Studies and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland. She is the author of three monographs: Normality: A Critical Genealogy (University of Chicago Press 2017), co-authored with Peter Cryle; Anatomy as Spectacle: Public Exhibitions of the Body from 1700 to the Present (Liverpool University Press 2011); and Queer Writing: Homoeroticism in Jean Genet’s Fiction (Palgrave 2009). Her Future Fellowship examines the history of collaboration between the arts and sciences as a site of shared experimentation and transdisciplinary knowledge production.

About the discussant:

Dr Alexandra Roginski is a historian, writer and research fellow based in the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship & Globalisation whose work focuses on practices of the body. She combines methods from social, cultural and ethnographic history to bring new perspectives to the history of science and the role of authority and professional boundaries. Her forthcoming book, Science and Power in the Nineteenth-Century Tasman World: Popular Phrenology in the Antipodes, examines the role of the science of head reading in the social fabric of Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, and will be published through the Cambridge University Press ‘Science in History’ Series. With a research interest in the rippling effects of historical science in the present, she has also worked in – and written about – the practice of repatriation of Indigenous Ancestral remains, work detailed in her first book, The Hanged Man and the Body Thief: Finding Lives in a Museum Mystery (Monash University Publishing, 2015), and in an ethnography published in The Routledge Companion to Repatriation: Return, Reconcile, Renew (2020).