Academic labour is often considered to be abstract and disembodied in the popular imagination, and its recent transformation by digital technologies might make this seem even more the case. But the advent of the digital also makes all with digits, physically standardising scholarly activity into the same few motions required to interact with a keyboard, mouse or screen. Academic work has a real, and for some, a lasting, corporeal impact.

Academic labour after repetitive strain injury (RSI) often demands establishing a radically different relationship to the digital, including operating a computer with speech in what is largely a silent, open plan work culture; (re)learning alternative methods of composition; and intellectually unwelcome and financially unsustainable rest breaks from what for many is a vocation in addition to a precarious livelihood.

How do we as scholars with RSI interact differently with or defer the digital in our labour, and what might it mean to have a ‘differigital’ working practice in a digital age? What present and possible forms might ‘differigital’ academic work take? And how might we use them to begin creating a more RSI-positive work environment in the academy?

This participant-driven meeting will be an opportunity to network with others affected by or interested in the causes, impacts and context of RSI, share research, political and personal insights and ways of working.

Attendees are encouraged, but not required, to arrive with a small stimulus to contribute to the discussion, which can take any form, but might include:

  • A verbal account of an experience or idea for change;
  • A 250 word abstract style summary of prospective, in progress, or published research relevant to the topic;
  • An artefact to introduce.

Those experiencing or researching RSI in HEIs are particularly invited to attend, in addition to – but not limited to – equality activists and campaigners; developers of assistive technologies; health and wellbeing practitioners; scholars in digital humanities, medical humanities, critical management studies and disability studies.

It is hoped that the event will be the catalyst for the formation of an alliance that will produce research, offer mutual support and provide advocacy for an extensive but underserved community.

Difference and Repetition: Academic Labour after RSI

Thursday 25th May 2017, 6-7:30 PM

Room 106, School of Arts

43-46 Gordon Square

Birkbeck, University of London


Convenors: Natalie Joelle (Birkbeck) and Chris Till (Leeds Beckett)

Optional RSVP via Eventbrite: