Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘affective labor

Saturday Links!

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* Does the BBC want Moffat off Who? Well, then, I guess that’s pretty much everyone.

* The AV Club argues the American Office, to the end, was a great television show about how terrible love can be.

So you survived the apocalypse. Here’s what would it take to rebuild the world.

* How to Avoid Toxic Chemicals.

* But it’s not only the Globe. This failure is repeated across the mainstream media landscape — the product of a mindset in which climate change is simply another environmental problem, albeit a particularly complex one for which we’ll eventually find a technical fix, mainly by doing more or less the same things we’re doing now, only more efficiently and with better technology. It’s nothing to get too excited about. It’s certainly not anything to sacrifice your career over.

* Mark Fisher on affective labor. Warning: The ultimate imagistic reference is pornographic, if that’s unpleasant for you.

Being exploited is no longer enough. The nature of labour now is such that almost anyone, no matter how menial their position, is required to be seen (over)investing in their work. What we are forced into is not merely work, in the old sense of undertaking an activity we don’t want to perform; no, now we are forced to act as if we want to work. Even if we want to work in a burger franchise, we have to prove that, like reality TV contestants, we really want it. The notorious shift towards affective labour in the Global North means that it is no longer possible to just turn up at work and be miserable. Your misery has to be concealed – who wants to listen to a depressed call centre worker, to be served by a sad waiter, or be taught by an unhappy lecturer?

Yet that’s not quite right. The subjugatory libidinal forces that draw enjoyment from the current cult of work don’t want us to entirely conceal our misery. For what enjoyment is there to be had from exploiting a worker who actually delights in their work? In his sequel to Blade Runner, The Edge of Human, K W Jeter provides an insight into the libidinal economics of work and suffering. One of the novel’s characters answers the question of why, in Blade Runner‘s future world, the Tyrell Corporation bothered developing replicants (androids constructed so that only experts can distinguish them from humans). “Why should the off-world colonists want troublesome, humanlike slaves rather than nice, efficient machines? It’s simple. Machines don’t suffer. They aren’t capable of it.  A machine doesn’t know when it’s being raped. There’s no power relationship between you and a machine. … For the replicant to suffer, to give its owners that whole master-slave energy, it has to have emotions. … . The replicant’s emotions aren’t a design flaw. The Tyrell Corporation put them there. Because that’s what our customers wanted.”

* And the only way to win is not to play: In part, this is how all solitaire games work. The solitaire aesthetic in general is about taking rational content and form — apparent in the effort to model the range of a T-37 turret gun in the game’s structure — and giving it metaphysical expression and feeling in a game-play design. It is a constructed channel of experience, with clearly defined player operations, yet completely undefined in terms of how the player experiences it. Even though you are rolling a die and consulting a results table, you see the battle in terms beyond paper and dice; your mind creates a narrative in which the enemy is repulsed or surges forth, where a battle-scarred unit makes the break-through or where defeat is quickly assured when a leader is cut down in the opening hellfire of bullets. A string of successful rolls translates into cosmic kismet, failed rolls into a series of punches putting you on the ropes.

Sunday Links

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Suff1(some shamelessly borrowed from you-know-who)

* Britain paid reparations for slavery? That’s fantast–oh god.

The true scale of Britain’s involvement in the slave trade has been laid bare in documents revealing how the country’s wealthiest families received the modern equivalent of billions of pounds in compensation after slavery was abolished.

Fathers matter, but so do grandfathers and great-grandfathers. Indeed, it may take as long as 300-500 years for high- and low-status families to produce descendants with equal chances of being in various parts of the income spectrum.

* The Ambition Gap: When researchers have studied the ambition gap, they’ve discovered something peculiar: It’s not there. Women do ask for more. They just aren’t rewarded for it. Via Feminéma.

7 Obscure Children’s Books by Authors of Grown-Up Literature. Joyce! Twain! Woolf! Eliot! Shelley! Tolstoy! Wilde! 7 (More) Obscure Children’s Books by Famous “Adult” Lit Authors. Huxley! Stein! Thurber! Sandburg! Rushdie! Fleming! Hughes!

* Actually existing media bias: Glenn Greenwald on what’s become of MSNBC.

I wonder: does someone who goes from being an Obama White House spokesman and Obama campaign official to being an MSNBC contributor even notice that they changed jobs?

* Mentoring and cruel optimism.

* Race and the cuts at Emory.

* Rehabilitating Zero Dark Thirty.

Susan Sontag once wrote that every mass art form is practiced and experienced as “a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power.” Zero Dark Thirty’s critics, unwilling to understand themselves as the film’s intended audience, instead imagined that “real Americans” were being made tools of power through one of their most important social rites: moviegoing. What these critics did not confront was their own need to fend off anxiety. For Maya, as for many Americans, the anxiety has to do with the inadequacy of Osama bin Laden’s death as consolation for all of the disasters that preceded it. How else to explain the manic focus on proving that torture did not contribute to the search for bin Laden? It suggests a kind of desperation, a desire to hold up just this one episode as separate and different from the rest of the war. This desire is Zero Dark Thirty’s true subject, as well as the object of its critique.

‘Welcome to Dystopia’: We Are ‘Entering A Long-Term And Politically Dangerous Food Crisis.’

The Princess and the Trolls: The Heartrending Legend of Adalia Rose, the Most Reviled Six-Year-Old Girl on the Internet. People are the worst. Jesus Christ.

* Texts from Pride and Prejudice. Texts from Don Quixote.

* Ten Little Suffragettes.

* George Saunders, lapsed Catholic.

* Papal Conclave 101.

Perhaps the classic expression of this idea belongs to none other than the outgoing pope, Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected. This was his response:

I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope. … I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.

Then the clincher:

There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!

* Hayley Schafer chose her dream job at the age of 5. Three years later, her grandmother told her that if she wrote it down, the dream would come true. So she found a piece of blue construction paper and scrawled on it with a pencil: “Veterianian.” “No one told me how to spell it,” she remembers. “They just said, ‘Sound it out.’ ”

At the age of 30, she still has the sign, which is framed on her desk at the Caring Hearts Animal Clinic in Gilbert, Ariz., where she works as a vet. She also has $312,000 in student loans, courtesy of Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. Or rather, $312,000 was what she owed the last time she could bring herself to log into the Sallie Mae account that tracks the ever-growing balance.

* The Cost of Prison.

* A brief history of the car cup holder.

* Oscar voters overwhelmingly white, male.

* Oscar Pistorius and the Media. The curious case of Reeva Steenkamp’s boyfriend. Inspiration porn and compulsory able bodiedness.

* Stay Free or Die Tryin’: Scenes from the student protests at Cooper Union.

Hidden behind a false wall and a fast-food restaurant, large black and brown images depict the faces of seven UCLA alumni, symbolizing the struggle of social activism and black history.

* Could a president use drones to kill journalists?

* Being David Bowie.

But what I wanted to talk about is the way that the Harlem Shake meme seems perfectly designed for the workplace.

More Bousquet (On Superexploitation)

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More Marc Bousquet, this time on superexploitation from Academe:

What interests me about Spartacus and the grammar of adult film is the question of delivering work without a wage, for an extreme wage discount, or over and above the requirements of a wage. In the technical sense, most wage work (excepting the hypercompensated type) is simple exploitation: you produce more value than you receive back in wages, often a lot more, and that value goes to someone of the Real Housewivesclass, who buys jewels and a good conscience by making occasional donations to charity.

By contrast, working without a wage—or for a discounted wage, or for psychic compensation, or delivering additional work off the clock—generally involves some form of superexploitation. The cutting edge of management practice is finding ways to maximize the employee’s donation above and beyond the wage: checking office e-mail at 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., taking calls on weekends and on vacation, working through lunch, and so on. One of the vectors for this exploitation is making workplaces “creative” and “fun,” as Andrew Ross has argued; another is faux professionalism; another is providing elaborate nonwage recognitions, as in the military, church, and education bureaucracies. Internships are both straight-up extortion (“You can’t get a job without one”) and status awards (“I won the competition for the position!”).

Gladiators experience the most primitive forms of superexploitation (direct enslavement, imprisonment, and degradation). All of these primitive forms are alive and well in today’s global economy, from prison labor to the traffic in women. And some aspects of gladiator labor are realized cinematically as the kind of lockedin dormitory workplace associated with Chinese manufacturing.

But the primitive forms of superexploitation don’t explain the Starz demographic’s identification with the characters and situation. The viewer identification has much more to do with the fact that the gladiators also experience the most advanced or progressive forms of superexploitation associated with Western workers employed in some of the most sought-after positions in the global economy.

While gladiators do receive some material compensation (better food, occasional prize money), they are ultimately paid in the coin of emotion. This is where the mapping of gladiation onto the porn industry delivers the most insight. The gladiators are almost exactly analogous to today’s porn “stars,” who support one of the most lucrative industries on the planet—but who can make as little as one hundred dollars for a filmed sex act, and might work on just a couple of films in a “career” that lasts a few months. The cost of plastic surgery, physical training, and so on easily outweighs the earnings of many, a fact known perfectly well to most of the men and women struggling to get into the industry. The idea that all these people are delusional, trying to win a lottery of high adult-film paychecks, misses the point. For the most part, they understand that they are also being paid in a kind of reputation that they have chosen to seek (perhaps mistakenly), even if they don’t get rich.

This is the heart of Spartacus’s appeal—its insight into a core question of our time: “If the rewards are so slim, why do it?” And the series captures the complexity and honesty of the answer: that most of us are deeply social in our motivations, that we strive most vigorously for nonwage compensation . . . and that these generally social preferences represent our vulnerability to the economic predators of our time.

…But a labor market arranged around working for love—rather than fair compensation—is actually one of the most sexist, racist, and economically discriminatory arrangements possible. As I emphasize in How the University Works and elsewhere, when you make the professoriate an economically irrational choice, you stop sorting for the most talented people and begin to sort for the people who can afford to discount their wages.

Via @jhrees.

Of course, the coin of emotion, in fulfilling the desire to serve, is only part of the story. Just as the gladiators are also restrained by the lash, the superexploitation of academic labor is assisted by lines of force. Where the personal need to serve ends—when it runs out, is depleted, pumped absolutely dry by the relentless engine of university accumulation “in the service of good”—a whole underworld of terror, humiliation, and abuse awaits the university worker who comes to his or her senses. When the appeals to pride, love, and self-sacrifice at last run their course, most of today’s superexploited will simply be bullied into further giving with absurd metrics, unreasonable expectations, dishonest evaluation, the threat of nonrenewal, or the like.