This week’s topic of the globally networked information economy resonated on a personal level for me. In a society where we are constantly networking – on a physical and virtual level – can we even consider it possible to ‘switch off’? Travelling to and from the city for work, I see key examples of people struggling to disconnect. Even before they are in the office, people are checking and exchanging emails, rendezvousing for breakfast meetings and are involved in business related phone calls – never mind the fact that it is only 7:18am. Time doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore for business information networks. I can assure you the ‘must be contactable at all times’ clause was not in my contract. The infiltration of the Internet and our adapted cyberculture have allowed for information to travel anywhere, anytime and anyone – even to those who are not involved in the transaction. If you weren’t aware of the business being conducted before the phone call taken by the man sitting next to you in the train carriage – you certainly are afterwards.
The information Ted shared on Udacity – an educational institution who believed much of the educational value of their university classes could be offered online – really cemented some of my attitudes towards my university experience. The very existence of our digital society is created by curiosity, interest and the human drive to push the boundaries. I struggle to ascertain why the university is not harnessing this potential? In exchange for our university fees, we receive education. But in an era where people are connecting online everyday and can ‘Google’ the answer to just about anything – why are students being forced into a situation in which no value is received (keeping in mind that value can be perceived differently to each individual)? An example in this case refers to the seemingly newly adopted concept of ‘compulsory’ attendance at lectures. If a student can gain a more valuable educational sense through personal research methods online – rather than being literally lectured, by a controlling individual with a monotonic voice tone at the front of a lecture theatre – why should they be disadvantaged? The diverse functionality of the Internet and cyberspace should be a complementary experience for students- not one which is seen as a ‘minimalist approach’ as described by one lecturer. If our degrees are to prepare us for our futures, and then Internet and cyberspace are most certainly going to play a key role in this – what is the aversion? It is after all –those individuals forced into this situation who ‘switch off’ and find themselves in their own ‘personal information system‘.
When it comes to finding a balance between work and play – liquid labour has certainly blurred the boundaries. I am not sure whether people in today’s society could ever completely switch off – I imagine it would be like quitting smoking – it is hard to go cold turkey. Perhaps, there in this case there will never be a happy medium – but rather an acceptance of liquid labour as a normality?
Bradwell, P., and Reeves, R. (2008) Economies. In Networked Citizens (pp. 25-31). London: Demos. [URL:http://www.demos.co.uk/files/Network%20citizens%20-%20web.pdf].
Deuze, M. (2006) ‘Liquid Life, Convergence Culture, and Media Work’. [URL:https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2022/3343/Liquid%20Life%20Deuze%202006.pdf].
Gregg, M. ‘Function Creep: Communication technologies and anticipatory labour in the information workplace’. [URL: http://homecookedtheory.com/wp-content/uploads/functioncreepnms.doc].