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The Digital Monad

From Counterculture to Cyberculture, by Fred Turner, presents the fascinating history through which avowed cultural radicals of the 1960s came to generate the present day dogmas of working culture under digital capitalism. In the last week, I’ve written about this in terms of the digital nomad and the digital hipster. […]

The Ideal of the Digital Nomad

In From Counterculture to Cyberculture, Fred Turner analyses how digital technology came to be seen as capable of liberating the individual, freeing them from the shackles of petty attachments to organisations and places. This is a complex story but it’s one in which cultural entrepreneurs figure prominently, carving out modes […]

The ascent of the spiralists

I wrote recently about a short article by Michael Burawoy in which he bemoaned the ascendancy of the spiralists within universities. These relentlessly ambitious new entrants to the university system see it as a theatre within which they can make themselves known, spiralling into the university before once more spiralling out of […]

The duality of the platform: users and workers

There’s an interesting passage in Uberworked and Underpaid, by Trebor Scholz, in which he discusses the contrasting experience of Amazon Mechanical Turk by users and workers. From loc 719: While AMT is profiting robustly, 11 it has –following the observations of several workers –not made significant updates to its user […]

The Workation

I just came across this term in The Upstarts, by Brad Stone, loc 1828: Enjoying a modicum of momentum, Kalanick leased a new office in San Francisco but had a month before he could move in. Instead of waiting, he took the whole company to Thailand, where they worked eighteen-hour […]

The colonisation of life by work

From Inventing the Future, by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, loc 2429: Work has become central to our very self-conception –so much so that when presented with the idea of doing less work, many people ask, ‘But what would I do?’ The fact that so many people find it impossible […]

The Lived Reality of Work in Tech Firms

From Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, by Douglas Rushkoff, loc 72-86: A few weeks later, there was nothing to smile about. Protesters in Oakland were now throwing rocks at Google’s buses and broke a window, terrifying employees. Sure, I was as concerned about the company’s practices as anyone, and […]

The Zero Marginal Cost Society

From Intern Nation, by Ross Perlin, loc 2379: (A small-scale survey in the U.K., conducted in 2010, found that a whopping 86 percent of recent graduates and soon-to-be graduates were willing to work for free, despite considering it exploitative.) As the cost of copying and disseminating (but not creating) content […]

“Please, sir, may I go home?”

An interesting snippet from Losing The Signal, by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff, concerning the lengths to which overzealous mangers would go during the early days of Research In Motion. From pg 39: One RIM manager became so obsessed with deadlines he issued an edict requiring engineers to ask permission […]

“What do you do?”

From The Refusal of Work, by David Frayne, pg 199: What do you do? After ‘What is your name?’ and possibly ‘Where are you from?’ this is one of the first questions that strangers usually pose to one another, with convention dictating that this question is almost always an enquiry […]

an uncertain future (for other people’s jobs)

I gave a lecture earlier this week about the cultural politics of automation and how this might shape the emergence of mass automation as a primarily structural reality.  I wish I’d seen this Pew poll when I was preparing the lecture: This sense of the inexorability of mass automation is deeply worrying. It’s possible that […]

enjoying it: candy crush and capitalism

I was slightly disappointed by Enjoying It: Candy Crush and Capitalism but I’ve come away from it with one core concept stuck in my mind. The author distinguishes between what he calls ‘productive’ and ‘unproductive’ enjoyment: the former is that which ‘serves’ social and cultural structures, while the latter is pointless […]

smart phones and work place repression

A really interesting BuzzFeed article about the use of smart phones on building sites to increase efficiency (the 30% of on-site time that is regarded idle, for reasons attributed to ‘miscommunication and disorganisation’) and their implications for workplace surveillance. What’s particularly striking is that inefficiencies are often the result of […]