Transitions in the technologies and practices of office work: Manchester's administrative industries (1960-2017)

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Sociology


In 2013, the service sector accounted for 79% of UK GDP, an increase from 46% in 1948 (ONS). This
sector - including what are here referred to as 'administrative industries' or 'office work' -
represents a key component of the UK's economy. In Manchester, employment in the service sector
doubled between 1961 and 2011, contributing to the claim that it is the first big industrial city to
have successfully reinvented itself after the decline of manufacturing (Kidd and Wyke 2016). This
PhD investigates the relation between innovations in office technology - from filing cabinets and fax
machines through to hard drives and email (Royal Society, 2009) - and changing competencies and
experiences of office work.

It makes use of the Museum of Science and Industry's (MSI) collection of office-related objects, and
of secondary sources together with interviews and focus groups to address the following high-level
research questions.
How have innovations in office technology affected the nature and location of office work
and vice versa?
How have the skills, competencies and experiences of office work changed (and stayed the
same) from one generation to the next?
How might the Museum of Science and Industry represent and conceptualise
transformations in the technologies and practices of office life?


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000665/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2043975 Studentship ES/P000665/1 01/10/2018 30/09/2021 Charlie Southerton