Middle Tech – Software Work and the Culture of Good Enough

CDC Book Presentation

25. Jun

Paula Bialski (University of St. Gallen)

With her upcoming book Middle Tech (2024), Paula Bialski provides an insight into work cultures of developers and programmers. Her findings highlight work practices that challenge the organizational ideology of excellence found in corporate software settings. The portrayed developers practice ‘good enoughness’ – their stories reveal how experts communicate, care and compromise to make software work. Besides providing a contemporary account of what it is that programmers in slightly stagnant, yet stable tech enterprises do all day, her research also sheds light onto manager-expert-relations, software work and software quality. It speaks to the discourse around burnout, but also adds another angle to the phenomenon that has been coined ‘Bullshit Jobs’; the observed employees must deal with 'Bullshittyness’ daily – but they also intentionally and unintentionally create some of it for reasons that are explored within the book. Thus, ‘Middle Tech’ is also an ethnography of the necessary alliances and informal understandings employees build to meet their employers' demands and still alleviate their work pressure, sometimes at the expense of better software. But as the saying goes, better the enemy of good – or is it?

  • 25.06. / 12-2pm 
  • C40.320

Paula Bialski is an Associate Professor for Digital Sociology at the University of St. Gallen. She is an ethnographer of digital technologies, looking at contexts of usage as well as production, and she frames her research within cultural, social and media theory in general, and science and technology studies in particular. Her upcoming book, Middle Tech: Software Work and the Culture of Good Enough. (Princeton University Press, 2024), looks at mediocrity and slowness of corporate software work and its relationship to our digital infrastructures. 


  • Ina Dubberke