~e; Hi-Techwork Wasteland

From human being <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Wed, 27 Nov 2002 22:12:31 -0600

// for those who have worked in factories and have
// also done manual labor, there is little difference
// between computing and factory cultures and their
// subcultures (of management techniques, say). when
// companies in multimedia gulches and silicon driveways
// and semiconductor islands began touting foosball and
// extra-curricular activities with fellow employees as
// job perks, those who did not yearn for a continuation
// of the socio-politically-engineered cultural malaise
// may not fit in so well. in any case, mass layoffs like
// in normal industries, the role of the temporary worker,
// and other basic requirements (have updated tech, will
// work/ no tech, no job interview/ no friend, no chance).
// besides the high-tech workplaces, which seem to have
// pioneered good things like massages and child-care for
// workers, turned in on itself, as another thing (not the
// H.P. way) it seemed that the reason for having fun were
// more part of the production than the actual reality of
// the dot-bust and dot-bomb, closed businesses, real-
// estate fall-out, and a post-worker environment of
// inflated stocks, housing, pricey poor-quality goods,
// and all the shlock to keep the charade going. adieu.

Hi-tech workplace no better than factories

What is the future for the hi-tech workplace?


Staff in technology jobs work in the white collar equivalent of a 19th 
century factory. suffering from isolation, job insecurity and long 
hours, research has found.

Much needs to be done to ease the intense pressure, inequality and 
exclusion in technology jobs, said the study by Sean O'Riain, Professor 
of Sociology at the University of California.

He looked at the characteristics of hi-tech workplaces, which are seen 
as a potential model for the future of work.

He found that the individualistic, macho culture of tech jobs was 
putting women off applying for jobs, despite an often critical shortage 
of skills.

Lonely and insecure

In his study, Professor O'Riain found a fiercely competitive world, 
which one software engineer described as a white collar factory.

"Although hi-tech workers are relatively free from supervision, peer 
pressure and deadlines drive them to extreme labour," said he said.

For many this may be the shape of work in the 21st century,

Professor O'Riain Workers like software programmers are often cited as 
living out the dream of modern flexible working, untied by geographical 
office boundaries, able to work on their own initiative and offered 
stock options in their firms.

The reality is somewhat more nightmarish, Professor O'Riain found.

"They face the lonely insecurity of the individual entrepreneur in a 
marketplace and culture that stresses, with macho imagery from war and 
sports, that they are ultimately alone," he said.

"For many this may be the shape of work in the 21st century."

The dot.com downturn has added job insecurity to the list of stresses 
for the workers in the technology industry.

"When the economic crisis hit, they found themselves with few 
collective guarantees, they were cast to their individual fates," said 
Professor O'Riain.

Corporate dominance

The image of the socially excluded geek working long and frustrating 
hours seems to be a hard one to shake off, despite efforts to change 
perceptions of the technology sector.

Hi-tech workers have much-sought after skills

According to Professor O'Riain, the hi-tech worker has become a product 
to be bought and sold, despite having much-sought after skills.

They are under constant pressure to update skills. And social 
relationships among the technical communities are defined by common 
technical interests rather than a common employer.

"If security of income and long-term learning were strengthened, 
technical communities could emerge as an important alternative model of 
economic organisation to increasing corporate dominance of the 
workplace," concluded Professor O'Riain.

The research is published in the American Sociological Associations' 
Contexts magazine.


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