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Generational affinities and discourses of difference: a case study of highly skilled information technology workers




Sociologists theorizing the concept of ‘generation’ have traditionally looked to birth cohorts sharing major social upheavals such as war or decolonization to explain issues of generational solidarity and identity affiliation. More recently, theorists have drawn attention to the cultural elements where generations are thought to be formed through affinities with music or other types of popular culture during the ‘coming of age’ stage of life. In this paper, we ask whether developments in computer technology, which have both productive and cultural components, provide a basis for generational formation and identity and whether generational discourse is invoked to create cultures of difference in the workplace. Qualitative data from a sample of Information Technology workers show that these professionals mobilize ‘generational’ discourse and draw upon notions of ‘generational affinity’ with computing technology (e.g. the fact that people of different ages were immersed to varying degrees in different computing technologies) in explaining the youthful profile of IT workers and employees' differing levels of technological expertise.