Building Ideal Workplaces: Labor, Affect, and Identity in Tech for Good Projects

Karina Rider


Nascent organizations emerging from a mixture of public and private interests are attempting to collaboratively innovate new ways to build digital technologies premised on the robust support of citizens and public goods—known broadly as “Tech for Good” initiatives. Drawing on 6 months of participant observation and in-depth interviews with civic technologists in the San Francisco Bay Area, I argue that Tech for Good initiatives are thoroughly structured by technologists’ affective attachments to their careers. While participants work to build digital technologies to benefit the common good, they simultaneously work through feelings of disillusionment, unfulfillment, and disappointment with their jobs in the high-tech sector—a set of practices that I call repair work. By engaging in repair work, participants repurpose civic technology organizations into idealized versions of their workplaces. Accounting for the constitutive role of repair work in Tech for Good projects is critical for future design justice efforts.


labor, affect, Tech for Good, civic technology, design justice

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