Winifred R. Poster

Download Full EssaySound Bites, Sentiments, and Accents


Firms are increasingly relying upon the communicative labors of automated bots and electronically-mediated live workers as a means of connecting to their consumers.  In the process, they are digitizing sound.  One might presume these sounds are reflective of “objective” technologies, design, and business concerns, and thus socially neutral.  Yet I challenge this notion based on the case of global customer service call centers.  Through research on the ICT outsourcing industries of India and the Philippines, I show how such communications are embedded in socio-political groundings and tensions of ethnicity, citizenship, and geography.  Transnational dynamics stretch communicative labor across state borders (particularly business process outsourcing), and in turn, the sounds of service are nationalized as they are digitized.  Findings build theoretically on STS theories of labor automation and affect in the service economy, as well as post-colonial theories of technology and science.