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The visible employee – Technological governance and control of the mobile workforce

Field technology is electronic systems or equipment designed to capture and communicate data on workers in the field so that employers can manage, document or inspect the behavior and job performance of the mobile workforce. In this article, we argue that the deployment of various types of field technology can be interpreted as the technological realization of popular reform programs that have been introduced in the public and the private sector over the last three decades, especially risk management and New Public Management. Further, we argue that the use of field technology implies that internal systems for governance and control migrate from the corporate to the individual level. We propose that one important effect of this migration is that the privacy (data protection) of the mobile workforce is diminished and that the power of managers is enhanced. Our discussions and conclusions are based on a qualitative study of the effects of various field technologies in 52 private companies and public organizations in Norway.