Human-ities · Social/Politics · Theory

Work, Learning and Freedom

In this often personal interview, renowned linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky outlines a libertarian perspective on work and education, arguing that freedom is the root of creativity and fulfilment.

The question I would like to ask is what is really wanted work? Maybe we could start with your personal life and your double career in linguistics and political activism? Do you like that kind of work?

If I had the time I would spend far more time doing work on language, philosophy, cognitive science, topics that are intellectually very interesting. But a large part of my life is given to one or another form of political activity: reading, writing, organising, activism and so on. Which is worth doing, it’s necessary but it’s not really intellectually challenging. Regarding human affairs we either understand nothing, or it’s pretty superficial. It’s hard work to get the data and put it all together but it’s not terribly challenging intellectually. But I do it because it’s necessary. The kind of work that should be the main part of life is the kind of work you would want to do if you weren’t being paid for it. It’s work that comes out of your own internal needs, interests and concerns.

Excerpt from an interview between Noam Chomsky and Michael Kasenbacher, New Left Project. Continue HERE

Book-Text-Read-Zines · Social/Politics · Technology

The Social Media Reader

With the rise of web 2.0 and social media platforms taking over vast tracts of territory on the internet, the media landscape has shifted drastically in the past 20 years, transforming previously stable relationships between media creators and consumers. The Social Media Reader is the first collection to address the collective transformation with pieces on social media, peer production, copyright politics, and other aspects of contemporary internet culture from all the major thinkers in the field.

Culling a broad range and incorporating different styles of scholarship from foundational pieces and published articles to unpublished pieces, journalistic accounts, personal narratives from blogs, and whitepapers, The Social Media Reader promises to be an essential text, with contributions from Lawrence Lessig, Henry Jenkins, Clay Shirky, Tim O’Reilly, Chris Anderson, Yochai Benkler, danah boyd, and Fred von Loehmann, to name a few. It covers a wide-ranging topical terrain, much like the internet itself, with particular emphasis on collaboration and sharing, the politics of social media and social networking, Free Culture and copyright politics, and labor and ownership. Theorizing new models of collaboration, identity, commerce, copyright, ownership, and labor, these essays outline possibilities for cultural democracy that arise when the formerly passive audience becomes active cultural creators, while warning of the dystopian potential of new forms of surveillance and control.

Text and Image via NYU Press

Bio · Science · Social/Politics · Technology · Theory

Division of labor offers insight into the evolution of multicellular life

Dividing tasks among different individuals is a more efficient way to get things done, whether you are an ant, a honeybee or a human.

A new study by researchers at Michigan State University’s BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action suggests that this efficiency may also explain a key transition in evolutionary history, from single-celled to multi-celled organisms.

The results, which can be found in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrate that the cost of switching between different tasks gives rise to the evolution of division of labor in digital organisms. In human economies, these costs could be the mental shift or the travel time required to change from activity to another.

Excerpt from a press release by MSU

Human-ities · Social/Politics

Workers of the World Divide: The Decline of Labor and the Future of the Middle Class

Since the middle of the last century, the American labor movement has been in steady decline. In the early 1950s, around one-third of the United States’ total labor force was unionized. Today, just one-tenth remains so. Unionization of the private sector is even lower, at five percent. Over the last few decades, unions’ influence has waned and workers’ collective voice in the political process has weakened. Partly as a result, wages have stagnated and income inequality has increased.

The decline of American unions was not preordained. The modern labor movement first emerged in response to the Great Depression, when fledgling workers’ organizations and established unions led mass protests against unemployment and the failures of American capitalism. Tumultuous strikes rocked the heartland from the coalfields of Pennsylvania to the factories of Michigan. In those days, “anybody struck,” as the labor historian Irving Bernstein once observed. “It was the fashion.” In 1935, a key component of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the National Labor Relations Act, codified workers’ rights to form and join unions…

Text and Image via Foreign Affairs

Human-ities · Performativity

Let’s Be Less Productive

HAS the pursuit of labor productivity reached its limit?

Productivity — the amount of output delivered per hour of work in the economy — is often viewed as the engine of progress in modern capitalist economies. Output is everything. Time is money. The quest for increased productivity occupies reams of academic literature and haunts the waking hours of C.E.O.’s and finance ministers. Perhaps forgivably so: our ability to generate more output with fewer people has lifted our lives out of drudgery and delivered us a cornucopia of material wealth.

But the relentless drive for productivity may also have some natural limits. Ever-increasing productivity means that if our economies don’t continue to expand, we risk putting people out of work. If more is possible each passing year with each working hour, then either output has to increase or else there is less work to go around. Like it or not, we find ourselves hooked on growth.

Excerpt of an article written by TIM JACKSON, NYT. Continue HERE