It is common in industrial and post-industrial societies to suppose a rigid, almost antagonistic division between work and play. We work in order to earn enough money to afford us time for something called fun or play—the antidote for work. Moreover, "play" is most often associated with children's pastimes, geeky video games, or other unproductive activities considered the opposite of seriousness. Maybe there is more to play than meets the eye?
In the classic study Homo Ludens, the great scholar Johan Huizinga pointed out the anthropological relevance and the profound evolutionary implications of the human activity called play. Huizinga saw the instinct for play as the central force of civilized life: "Law and order, commerce and profit, craft and art, poetry, wisdom and science. All are rooted in the primeval soil of play." Five hundred years before LEGO registered the trademark, Renaissance magus Marsilio Ficino used "Serious Play" (Serio Ludere) to describe the way the fathers of Western thought operated: “Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato had the habit of hiding all divine mysteries behind the veil of (...) serious play". And speaking of divine mysteries, in the Hindu mythology the god Brahman creates the world itself, as it were, through Lila — "divine play." Play seems to be serious business after all.
Play is a state of mind, a highly sophisticated approach to life and work. Play is a fun, flow-inducing experience, among the most enjoyable states of consciousness available to humans. Play is a space for experimentation—a primal learning environment that allows one to take controlled risks without dangers. Read the rest
The Public Domain class of 2018
— authors with significant works entering the public domain next year — includes Aleister Crowley, Rene Magritte, Siegfied Sassoon and the other Winston Churchill.
Winston Churchill was an American best-selling novelist of the early 20th century. He is nowadays overshadowed, even as a writer, by a certain cigar-toting British statesman of the same name, with whom he was acquainted, but not related.
Here's the CSPD list of works that should have entered the public domain this year, but didn't thanks to congressional servicing of Disney. Read the rest
Salem Barker's kid isn't afraid of a little hard work. At five, he already knows how to run the hydraulic logsplitter they rigged up at their farm. Read the rest
Pippin Barr (previously) created a game that presents itself as a Windows 3-ish desktop from about 25 years ago. Mash away at each task in It Is As If You Were Doing Work until you win promotions and break time, wherein Breakout may be played.
“I positioned It is as if you were doing work in the context of the apparently near future of automated work (I read Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford recently in this vein). Thus the game poses as an application that humans who have been put out of work by robots and AI can play as a way to recapture the sense they once had of doing work and being productive. It’s a kind of semi-condescending service offered by this new world to those of us who can’t deal with it.”
Via Alice O'Connor, who points out the uncanny similarities to the pointless make-work foisted on the white-collar unemployed in Europe, training for jobs that will soon be extinct. Read the rest
Sheyla Veronica White was working at her desk at Cinque Terre Energy Partners in Fort Lauderdale, Florida when a piece of a sprinkler fell from the ceiling and unfortunately just missed her. Why unfortunately? Because if it hit her, she could file a worker's compensation claim. So she promptly picked up the metal piece and bashed herself in the head with it. From Fox 13:
Her employer's insurance company got suspicious and referred the incident to Florida's Division of Investigative and Forensic Services. Detectives requested security cam footage and were able to prove she staged the whole thing.
The employee... was convicted for workers' compensation insurance fraud -- a third-degree felony -- and sentenced to 18 months of probation.
Read the rest
In University of Pennsylvania psychiatrist Jody Foster's new book The Schmuck in My Office: How to Deal Effectively with Difficult People at Work, she shares sound advice on dealing with narcissistic co-workers. From an excerpt at Quartz:
Read the rest
On a day-to-day basis, appealing to this person’s egocentricity can be very effective. The occasional recognition of the person’s achievement, strengths, or values may go a long way in avoiding anger or demeaning comments; in some instances, you may simply want to remark upon a person’s good efforts. Fanning the embers of narcissism is particularly effective in avoiding unwanted conflict. Particularly if the Narcissus is your boss, you have to let them think that you perceive them as important. No matter how difficult it may be to do this, the Narcissus boss can make the workplace a living hell for anyone who they think is not on board with their success. Give them compliments, and try to do so without mocking them.
Remember that the only commentary that the Narcissus will be able to actually hear will contain some degree of praise in it. So when asking for a favor or for some type of change that could be perceived as an insult, definitely attempt the route of first praising him in some way. Even a simple statement like a reminder about a deadline might need some positive reinforcement embedded in it: “I can’t wait to see your draft of the proposal on Friday.” Remember that the Narcissus has special techniques for avoiding hearing criticism and can interpret even a simple suggestion or reminder as an insult if it doesn’t contain anything positive.
The glitched shimmer of a Fort Lauderdale office CCTV feed. A woman long of bone at the machine. A sprinkler head fell on her desk and she gaped up at the pebbledash expanse of the droptile ceiling. The metal thing just sat there on the melamine under the cold flourescent light. Then she took it up and bashed her head with it. I can't tell you what she was thinking but I can tell you what come to pass.
"Her employer's insurance company got suspicious and brought in Florida's Division of Investigative and Forensic Services." At least that's how Fox 13 out of Tampa put it. God might not see nor care but they had a camera upon her the whole while. They fired her and charged her with insurance fraud. The judge put her on 18 months' probation.
They never gave her money so she don't have to repay none.
Read the rest
Our friend and frequent Boing Boing contributor Clive Thompson has a piece in the January/February issue of Smithsonian magazine entitled "Rage Against the Machines." He explores the 19th century Luddite Revolution, the first rebellion against automation, comparing it to the upcoming robot workforce revolution.
I didn't know that pre-industrial textile workers were well-paid and had lots of free time. No wonder they fought so hard against textile automation!
Read the rest
At the turn of 1800, the textile industry in the United Kingdom was an economic juggernaut that employed the vast majority of workers in the North. Working from home, weavers produced stockings using frames, while cotton-spinners created yarn. “Croppers” would take large sheets of woven wool fabric and trim the rough surface off, making it smooth to the touch.
These workers had great control over when and how they worked—and plenty of leisure. “The year was chequered with holidays, wakes, and fairs; it was not one dull round of labor,” as the stocking-maker William Gardiner noted gaily at the time. Indeed, some “seldom worked more than three days a week.” Not only was the weekend a holiday, but they took Monday off too, celebrating it as a drunken “St. Monday.”
Croppers in particular were a force to be reckoned with. They were well-off—their pay was three times that of stocking-makers—and their work required them to pass heavy cropping tools across the wool, making them muscular, brawny men who were fiercely independent. In the textile world, the croppers were, as one observer noted at the time, “notoriously the least manageable of any persons employed.”
But in the first decade of the 1800s, the textile economy went into a tailspin.
Women Who Draw is a directory of illustrators interested in accepting work. You can filter by location and minority status. It's well-designed, too, displaying a straightforward example of each artist's style in a lazyloading grid layout.
Women Who Draw is an open directory of female* professional illustrators, artists and cartoonists who take freelance work. It was created by a group of women artists in an effort to increase the visibility of female illustrators, with an emphasis on female illustrators of color, LBTQ+, and other minority groups of female illustrators. We hope this directory will be used by publishers, art directors and editors to find less visible illustrators, and encourage them to work with these illustrators more frequently.
The BBC's Vicky Baker reports on an enduring problem: why do certain high-paying gigs in illustration get consistently assigned to men, when so many top-flight illustrators are women?
Read the rest
Ms MacNaughton and Ms Rothman, who are both successful illustrators, said they were motivated to create the project after noticing certain publications were dominated by male artists.
"We counted a certain magazine that often has illustrated covers, and noticed that in the past 55 covers, only four were by women," said Ms Rothman.
Something seemed to be amiss, considering that the arts field within education is often dominated by women.
In the UK, data from higher-education admissions service Ucas shows that in 2016 the number of women enrolled in design studies courses (including illustration) was more than double the number of men.
Lars Martinson, creator of Tonoharu, an excellent graphic novel trilogy about an American teaching English in a rural Japanese village, made this video about the lessons he learned after spending a large part of his life writing and drawing it. Read the rest
Over the last year, my colleagues at Institute for the Future's Workable Futures Initiative conducted ethnographic interviews with more than 30 people across the country who use on-demand work platforms to make ends meet. There's Seda, who runs her own small business selling women’s clothing and accessories, but makes ends meet as a professional “lab rat” who participates, sometimes illegally, in clinical trial studies all over the country; Nichelle, a Ph.D. who crafts communications courses on an online learning platform while she takes it easy as an expat in Costa Rica; Jan, a homeless veteran who is using the Rover.com pet-sitting site to make a little money while she works with Swords to Plowshares to find a place to live and earn a degree; and many other fascinating people.
These ethnographic interviews informed IFTF's synthesis of "7 new archetypes of workers” whose input will be critical to creating better policies, technology platforms, and systems for people to have sustainable and successful livelihoods in the future, instead of just maximizing revenue for the platform companies. The research is presented in a new report, Voices of Workable Futures.
From a Fortune magazine article about the research:
Read the rest
The overarching goal of the Institute’s report is to help create what it calls “positive platforms”—ones that “not only return profits to investors but also . . . provide dignified and sustainable livelihoods for those who use them.”
To that end, Gorbis says she’d like to see more support mechanisms—paid for by the platform companies—through which gig workers could access tax and financial assistance, physical gathering spaces for “social connectedness,” and a rating service capturing the employee experience on a range of sites.
Over at Democracy Journal, my Institute for the Future colleagues Marina Gorbis and Devin Fidler explore the "digital coordination economy" (aka the on-demand economy) and how "it may take deliberate design choices in platform architecture, business models, new civic services, and public policy to prevent this increasingly seamless “coordination economy” from becoming highly inequitable as well." From Democracy Journal:
Read the rest
As software takes an increasing role on both sides of transactions—ordering and producing—it promises to bring vastly more efficient coordination to these kinds of basic economic functions. This emerging digital coordination economy, with its efficient matching and fulfillment of both human and nonhuman needs, has the potential to generate tremendous economic growth.
However, as software engineers essentially author a growing segment of our economic operating system, it may take deliberate design choices in platform architecture, business models, new civic services, and public policy to prevent this increasingly seamless “coordination economy” from becoming highly inequitable as well. Already the growth of on-demand work has allowed investors and owners in some industrialized regions to reap substantial financial returns while many of the people using platforms to generate income streams are struggling to maintain their standard of living. Uber drivers, for example, have seen a drop in earnings in the United States over the last couple of years, even as the company continues to grow at a dramatic pace.
It is clear that the fundamental technologies driving the coordination economy are neither “good” nor “bad,” but rather offer a heady combination of opportunities and challenges.
Most states being large and empty, the most frequent answer to the question "what is the most common job in your state?" is "truck driver." For everywhere else, teachers and software developers prevail. And where even roads are rare, farmers. Hawaii, though...
NPR's map is fascinating, though, in that you can jump back to earlier days. In 1978s, what did we all do before software development was the day job of millions?
What's with all the truck drivers? Truck drivers dominate the map for a few reasons.
Driving a truck has been immune to two of the biggest trends affecting U.S. jobs: globalization and automation. A worker in China can't drive a truck in Ohio, and machines can't drive cars (yet).
Let's see about that in a decade.
Read the rest
Over at Medium's WTF? Future of Work publication, our pal Marina Gorbis, exec director of Institute for the Future, and IFTF's Devin Fidler write about why we need new design principles for on-demand work platforms
Their creators have mastered the discipline of interaction design and brought it to new heights… when it comes to consumer experience. Uber, Munchery, Postmates, and many apps are exquisitely designed, sometimes even addictive for users. They make previously laborious processes effortless and seamless. No hassles with paying, calling, talking. Swipe your phone with a finger and voila: your ride, your meal, your handyman magically appear.
But the apps are not only platforms for consumption. They are quickly becoming our entry points for work, gateways to people’s livelihoods. In this sense, whether or not platform creators realize it, they are engaging in another kind of design, socioeconomic design, the design of systems that people will rely on to structure their work, earnings, daily schedules. And here we find ourselves in the same phase as interaction design was decades ago — the inmates are running the asylum. The stakes, however, are much higher; instead of just convenience, we are talking about people’s livelihoods.
"Design It Like Our Livelihoods Depend on It: 8 Principles for creating on-demand platforms for better work futures" Read the rest
Author John Biggs, who cranked 'em out for Techcrunch and Gizmodo, is quitting blogging. He writes about the things he's learned and earned generating 11,000 posts.
The first thing, of course, was the complete ruination of his health: he now "looks like a nervous beluga." But there are other perils—ambiguous ones, professional tradeoffs in the 3,300,000-word accumulation of mastery at something. You learn how to write fast and with dense precision, but it wrecks your ability to work long-form, to let a story unfold. You gain an uncanny awareness for what people want to read, but you can't remember what you want to read. You realize that while you're not really being read, authenticity works.
And you won't believe what happens next…
You learn that you can help people. In 2005 I wrote this post. It was about a WD-40 straw holder. It was a throwaway. A few months later I got a call. A nice lady was on the phone. She was trying to track me down. She said that the WD-40 straw holder post saved her company. She was able to sell hundreds of them and stay in business. I felt good for a minute and then wrote 16 more posts that day.
Read the rest
A pharmacist fired by Walmart after reporting safety problems
was awarded $31m in damages by a jury Friday. Read the rest