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Virtual migration

The programming of globalization

A. Aneesh

Duke University Press 2006, 208 s. ISBN 0822336812
Bogomtale fra forlaget.

Workers in India program software applications, transcribe medical dictation online, chase credit card debtors, and sell mobile phones, diet pills, and mortgages for companies based in other countries around the world. While their skills and labor migrate abroad, these workers remain Indian citizens, living and working in India. A. Aneesh calls this phenomenon “virtual migration,” and in this groundbreaking study he examines the emerging “transnational virtual space” where labor and vast quantities of code and data cross national boundaries, but the workers themselves do not. Through an analysis of the work of computer programmers in India working for the American software industry, Aneesh argues that the programming code connecting globally dispersed workers through data servers and computer screens is the key organizing structure behind the growing phenomenon of virtual migration. This “rule of code,” he contends, is a crucial and underexplored aspect of globalization.

Aneesh draws on the sociology of science, social theory, and research on migration to illuminate the practical and theoretical ramifications of virtual migration. He combines these insights with his extensive ethnographic research in offices in three locations in India—in Delhi, Gurgaon, and Noida—and one in New Jersey. Aneesh contrasts virtual migration with “body shopping,” the more familiar practice of physically bringing programmers from other countries to work on site, in this case, bringing them from India to New Jersey. A significant contribution to the social theory of globalization, Virtual Migration maps the expanding transnational space where globalization is enacted via computer programming code.

Virtual Migration is an exciting, innovative, and brilliant examination of how software flows replace people flows. It joins the urgent effort now under way in the social sciences to map a new field of inquiry.”—Saskia Sassen, coeditor of Digital Formations: IT and New Architectures in the Global Realm

Virtual Migration is a phenomenal book on a very important topic. A. Aneesh not only describes, explains, and interprets the phenomena of ‘body shopping’ and virtual migration in the global software industry, with especial emphasis on India and the United States; he also provides a series of suggestions to improve policymaking in these rapidly changing areas of the global economy.”—Mauro F. Guillén, Dr. Felix Zandman Professor in International Management, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

This is a brilliant and innovative intervention in the study of globalization that demonstrates how much the specific forms taken by global institutional arrangements and processes depend on the structure and design of computer code. Virtual Migration will be invaluable not only to students in science and technology studies but to scholars in all fields interested in the troubled politics of the global movement of capital, technology, and people.”—Akhil Gupta, author of Postcolonial Developments: Agriculture in the Making of Modern India

A. Aneesh is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Global Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Table of Contents
1. Of Code and Capital 1
2. Programming Globalization: Visions and Revisions 14
3. Body Shopping 37
4. Virtual Migration 67
5. Actions Scripts: Rule of the Code 100
6. Code as Money 133
7. Migrations: Nations, Capital, and the State 153
Appendix A: A Note on Method 165
Appendix B: Tables 171
Notes 175
Bibliography 179
Index 191