Tag: office

Ian Bogost on hybrid work

I always enjoy Ian Bogost’s articles for The Atlantic as they’re thought-provoking. In this one, he talks about how ‘hybrid work’ is doomed, mainly because The Office is a construct, a way of organising life and work, and heavily invested in the status quo.

A rational assessment of your time and productivity was never quite at issue, and I think it never will be. Companies have been pulling employees back to work in person irrespective of anyone’s well-being or efficiency. That’s because return-to-office plans are not concerned, in any fundamental way, with workers and their plight or preferences. Rather they serve as affirmations of a superseding value—one that spans every industry of knowledge work. If your boss is nudging you to come back to your cubicle, the policy has less to do with one specific firm than with the whole firmament of office life: the Office, as an institution. The Office must endure! To the office we must go.

This should be obvious, but somehow it is not: The existence of an office is the central premise of office work, and nothing—not even a pandemic—will make it go away.

[…]

Even in the technology sector, where the tools of remote work are manufactured, the Office reigns supreme. Before the pandemic, Big Tech companies doubled down on the sorts of work environments that had been common for almost a century: urban high-rises and suburban office parks. (Think of Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Washington; Google’s and Facebook’s in Silicon Valley; Apple’s spaceship in Cupertino; and the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco.) Their deluxe office amenities—free food, gymnasiums, medical care, etc.—only underscore this point: The tech industry has a deep investment in the most conservative interpretation of office life.

If the companies that design and build the very foundations for remote work still adhere to the old-fashioned values of the Office, what should we expect from all the rest? It’s still possible that hybridized knowledge work will become the norm, with work-from-home days provided as a perk. But to get there, office workers must organize, and take the goals and power of the Office into account. It does not want to be flexible, and it cares little for efficiency. If the Office makes concessions, they will be minor, or they will take time; hybrid work is not a revolution.

Source: Hybrid Work Is Doomed | The Atlantic

Saturday strikings

This week’s roundup is going out a day later than usual, as yesterday was the Global Climate Strike and Thought Shrapnel was striking too!

Here’s what I’ve been paying attention to this week:

  • How does a computer ‘see’ gender? (Pew Research Center) — “Machine learning tools can bring substantial efficiency gains to analyzing large quantities of data, which is why we used this type of system to examine thousands of image search results in our own studies. But unlike traditional computer programs – which follow a highly prescribed set of steps to reach their conclusions – these systems make their decisions in ways that are largely hidden from public view, and highly dependent on the data used to train them. As such, they can be prone to systematic biases and can fail in ways that are difficult to understand and hard to predict in advance.”
  • The Communication We Share with Apes (Nautilus) — “Many primate species use gestures to communicate with others in their groups. Wild chimpanzees have been seen to use at least 66 different hand signals and movements to communicate with each other. Lifting a foot toward another chimp means “climb on me,” while stroking their mouth can mean “give me the object.” In the past, researchers have also successfully taught apes more than 100 words in sign language.”
  • Why degrowth is the only responsible way forward (openDemocracy) — “If we free our imagination from the liberal idea that well-being is best measured by the amount of stuff that we consume, we may discover that a good life could also be materially light. This is the idea of voluntary sufficiency. If we manage to decide collectively and democratically what is necessary and enough for a good life, then we could have plenty.”
  • 3 times when procrastination can be a good thing (Fast Company) — “It took Leonardo da Vinci years to finish painting the Mona Lisa. You could say the masterpiece was created by a master procrastinator. Sure, da Vinci wasn’t under a tight deadline, but his lengthy process demonstrates the idea that we need to work through a lot of bad ideas before we get down to the good ones.”
  • Why can’t we agree on what’s true any more? (The Guardian) — “What if, instead, we accepted the claim that all reports about the world are simply framings of one kind or another, which cannot but involve political and moral ideas about what counts as important? After all, reality becomes incoherent and overwhelming unless it is simplified and narrated in some way or other.
  • A good teacher voice strikes fear into grown men (TES) — “A good teacher voice can cut glass if used with care. It can silence a class of children; it can strike fear into the hearts of grown men. A quiet, carefully placed “Excuse me”, with just the slightest emphasis on the “-se”, is more effective at stopping an argument between adults or children than any amount of reason.”
  • Freeing software (John Ohno) — “The only way to set software free is to unshackle it from the needs of capital. And, capital has become so dependent upon software that an independent ecosystem of anti-capitalist software, sufficiently popular, can starve it of access to the speed and violence it needs to consume ever-doubling quantities of to survive.”
  • Young People Are Going to Save Us All From Office Life (The New York Times) — “Today’s young workers have been called lazy and entitled. Could they, instead, be among the first to understand the proper role of work in life — and end up remaking work for everyone else?”
  • Global climate strikes: Don’t say you’re sorry. We need people who can take action to TAKE ACTUAL ACTION (The Guardian) — “Brenda the civil disobedience penguin gives some handy dos and don’ts for your civil disobedience”