APROS/EGOS Symposium 02: Digitally Disrupted Spaces


Kristine Dery, University of Sydney, Australia
Clare Kelliher, Cranfield University, United Kingdom
Darl Kolb, University of Auckland, New Zealand
Susan McGrath-Champ, University of Sydney, Australia
Pascale Peters, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Graham Pickren, University of Georgia, USA

Digital disruption is a term used to describe deep changes to current organisational practices brought about by the digital revolution. “It is a neutral term; a description of what is happening” (Deloitte, 2012). This digital revolution began with the emergence of the Internet; it was further spurred by the proliferation of mobile technologies and is today taken deep into markets and organisations with the rise of social and cultural changes, such as the wide-spread adoption of social media both outside and inside of organisations. Digital disruption affects most organisations in a wide range of industries in a multitude of ways and challenges old paradigms, resulting in new ways of understanding work itself.

Digital innovations open up unprecedented possibilities: changing markets and economies, reinventing relationships between organisations, creating new ways of understanding relationships with customers and suppliers, and establishing new ways of thinking about our individual ways of doing work. The disruptions caused by these innovations are profound. It is not merely about speeding up communication, it is about fundamental changes to the very nature of production, consumption, competition and markets. “More profoundly, it is also driving a significant shift in the balance of power between organisations and individuals. The explosion in connectivity and the availability of information is putting today’s consumers, employees, citizens, patients and other individuals squarely in the drivers’ seat.” (Deloitte report, p6).

These paradigm shifts are particularly evident when we consider the disruption caused by mobile connectivity. The growth of smartphones is exponential with somewhere between 650-730  million devices sold globally in 2012 (a 40-45% increase on 2011),[2] and the average American consumer replacing their mobile phones approximately every 18 months [3]. Mobile technology has enabled new ways of working: increased mobility of workers and of work itself, increased flexibility around when and how work is performed, new understandings of what is work and non-work, and new ways to connect through a multiplicity of channels including social media. Engagement with these new technologies has resulted in practices that challenge our understanding of spaces and the traditional boundaries between work and non-work.

Digitally disrupted spaces refers to the way in which technologies, in particular mobile technologies, have redefined our way of understanding the nature of work and the increasingly permeable boundaries between work and non-work activities. Digital disruption is impacting many scales including, but not limited to, the scale of the individual (worker, manager), the scale of the organisation where old forms are acceding to new organisational forms, the scale of the nation as States grapple, for example, with provision of whole-nation broadband networks, and at supra-national scales through the figuring and reconfiguring of production chains through which digital devices are created, reused and recycled.  For some the disruption represents a nirvana where the workplace is individualised according to professional and personal needs, while for others the redefining of spaces has resulted in work seeping into all corners of life and is met with resentment and burnout. Our challenge is to understand more about what this disruption means, how we are redefining work space, how existing spaces and their expression through organisational forms act as enablers and constraints, and how we can better manage new ways of working to achieve effective outcomes for the organisation and the employees. This symposium brings together researchers who are approaching these challenges from many perspectives and hopes to invigorate the debates around these important issues.


Kristine Dery’s research interests are in understanding how people interact with technology to frame new ways of understanding work. Her main focus over the past few years has been on mobile connectivity and implications for organisations, and the strategic impact of human resource information systems. Her more recent work in Digitally Disrupted Spaces is informed by this research. She co-founded the University of Sydney research group on Digital Disruption.

Clare Kelliher is Professor of Work and Organisation at Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, UK.  Her principal research interests lie in the organisation of work and the management of the employment relationship.  Recent projects include a study of the Implementation of Flexible Working Practices and Employee Engagement in Multi-National Organisations.  She is the author of numerous papers and book chapters and has recently published two books.

Darl G. Kolb is Professor of Connectivity in the Graduate School of Management at the University of Auckland.  He is a pioneering theorist on socio-technical connectivity and has published articles on the metaphor and states of connectivity in Organization Studies and requisite connectivity in Organizational Dynamics. He is interested in connectivity’s impact on performance and well being, including recent work on smartphones (Organizational Dynamics, EJIS), hyper-connectivity and ‘digital disruption.’

Susan McGrath-Champ’s research strengths are in creative interdisciplinarity, particularly, development of the interface between concepts of space and place with work and employment, producing the Handbook of Employment and Society: Working Space, (with A. Rainnie and A. Herod, Edward Elgar, 2010, 2011) which defined this sub-field.  Recent deployment of this framework highlighted the role of labour in global production networks and discerned the companion concept of global destruction networks.

Pascale Peters’s research interests include work-life balance issues, flexible work arrangements and home-based telework. She also explores their relationships with welfare state regimes, labour market developments, organisational change, human resource management, managerial decision-making and gender relations.She has published in Leisure and Society, Time and Society, Information and Management and several Dutch sociological journals as well as national and international books on IT and work.

Graham Pickren is a geographer working on issues of environmental governance in the electronics recycling industry. His recent work is focused on efforts to implement ‘best practices’ across the complex supply-chain for e-waste.  Beyond an empirical focus on policy, Graham’s work focuses on the contradiction between a seemingly ‘virtual’ and placeless information economy and the realities of resource intensity and social uneveness that the study of e-waste reveals.

[1] Corresponding Author and Symposium Chair

[2] Figures quoted from a range of statistics reported in the Sydney Morning Herald , January 28 2013 “Smartphone sales exploded in 2012”

[3] Bilton, N. (2012) Disruptions: you know you can’t live without Apple’s latest glass rectangle.  Available at http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/disruptions-you-know-you-cant-live-without-apples-latest-glass-rectangle/?smid=fb-share; accessed 4 December 2012. The American figure is indicative as product replacement times vary spatially.

Posted On: June 8, 2014
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