Liquid Labour

Smart phones, tablets and laptops make work almost inescapable as we are almost always ‘wired’. This also means that work can be more flexible than turning up in an office from nine to five, five days a week. This idea of liquid labour – whereby work is flexible and not bound by traditional constraints of time and space – is examined in Gregg’s “Function Creep: Communication technologies and anticipatory labour in the information workplace.” 

New technologies are sold as important, useful and necessary for all workers, but rather than make work life easier, they make work life more accessible and work life leaks further and further into the rest of a workers social life.  

 

 

A major issue in Gregg’s study was with email. The study focused on email because it was easy for participants to provide tangible evidence. Participants expressed guilt at not answering email promptly and not wanting those they are communicating with to feel ignored. This in turn led to feelings of failure at their work because they could not keep up to date with their emails. However, this was a problem that was felt across the study and across industries.

While this liquid labour is put forward as positive thing that allows workers to utilise their time how they choose, it does have a number of downsides, in particular the work life invading leisure time. Essentially, the more flexible work enabled by technologies is still bound by the same etiquette and ideals, just across a new platform.

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Network Paradigm

This week’s lecture was on understanding the network society paradigm. Castells’ “Afterword: why networks matter” was very useful I understanding this topic. He questions why we are living in a network society now, as opposed to previously. His answer to this is simple: we now have communication technologies that allow a networking society to exist and dominate. While steering clear of technological determinism, Castells acknowledges that certain events and social changes could not happen without the introduction of new technologies.

One point I found particularly interesting was the networking of political institutions. Castells briefly mentions that the day to day small connections between nations is what helps run this networking society successfully. In cases of stress and crises each nation does what it can to help. This is only the case due to technologies that allow the world to become a smaller place. In the wake of the MH370 countries across the world used the satellite technologies and pooled their search equipment to attempt to find the plane. Without ongoing networking, these individual nations would not be capable of coordinating such a wide scale search.

Castells sums up the afterward with these sentences:

“Networks matter because they are the underlying structure of our lives. And without understanding their logic we cannot change their programmes to harness their flexibility to our hopes, instead of relentlessly adapting ourselves to the instructions received from their unseen codes.”

This highlights the importance of networks and of understanding networks to best use them and function in this network society. Castells has made the understanding of networks much clearer and, personally, helped me to understand their importance in society today.  

 

The History of a Metaphor

The DIGC202 lecture on the telegraph as a nervous system tapped into what is, apparently, quite an old metaphor.

Since it became popular in the 1800s, the telegraph has been explained using the metaphor of the human nervous system. As such, the telegraph and more recently the internet, has been used to explain how the nervous system worked.

A quick Google search brought me to this very interesting journal article. It discusses how people of the Victorian era found this metaphor so useful and how they appreciated the telegraph system itself as it represented the values and ideas of Victorian England. It represented discipline and the imposition of this discipline further from its originating point than ever before. Combing the idea of the rigidly disciplined telegraph with the human nervous system appealed to Victorians as they saw the human mind and body as something that should be controlled absolutely.

The telegraph showed progress. It was an actual real life example of the possibilities of understanding nature in a scientific way. A couple of quotes from this article sum up very nicely how the Victorians felt about the telegraph.

“Commentators waxed lyrical over the way in which the new invention made the mysterious fluid, electricity, subservient to mankind.”

And,

“The Victorians excelled at combining romanticism with utilitarianism.”

These sentences sum up how, from the beginning, the idea of instant communication was very exciting and interesting to people. They show how Victorian England saw the world and how they saw their place in it – as a powerful force that shaped discipline while still remaining in awe.

In the present however, there is more of a focus the idea of how telecommunications, and now the internet, can be used to promote freedom to the oppressed. More and more, however, this has turned into critiques of this idea. This blog is not long enough to discuss the major change in thinking throughout the past 200 years but this offers an interesting viewpoint.

To sum up, here is a video that shows how linking of the telegraph and the nervous system has traveled from Victorian England to the late 1970’s children’s programming to a digital media subject in 2014.

Schoolhouse Rock!

DIGC202

Hello DIGC202!

My name is Paris, I’m studying media and communication but have in past switched between arts and commerce. I’m from Jervis Bay, which has much better beaches than Wollongong. 

This subject is my second subject that involves blogging and it still feels pretty new and confusing! I also have not used Reddit before because, in all honesty, I find it displeasing aesthetically. I have, however, been a long time user of Twitter, mostly as a way of following road cycling in Europe because it is such a great way to keep up with new information in races that are not broadcast on Australian free television.  

In DIGC202 I am looking forward to learning about a range of things that I have never considered before. Such as how Reddit can be used as an informative and interesting tool. I don’t know what I’m interested in researching yet, but I am looking forward to seeing the ideas of fellow students. 

Bye for now!