Work in the age of communication

Came across this today via Stowe Boyd today:

Olli Gunst’s blog: The future of work

The structure for working is slowly changing. We are increasingly moving away from the traditional cubicle environment. More and more people are working out of cafés, co-working spaces or even from abroad where the cost of living is lower and the weather nicer. Centralized and hierarchical organizations are being challenged by decentralized and horizontal networks of independent workers, who often work on several projects at once, sometimes even for multiple companies.

There are at least three key drivers behind this change:

The cost of communication has collapsed which make all this decentralization economically feasible.

The western economy is increasingly based around knowledge and creativity instead of the traditional economies of scale.

More and more people choose to become independent workers because of the flexibility and independence it offers. Companies are also hiring less people and often favor the contractual nature of independent workers.

In a historical perspective this can be seen as a return to the pre-industrial working structure of independent artisans. The industrialization demanded new ways to structure work (see Fordism) in order the pursue the open opportunities of industrial efficiency and the economies of scale. When we move further into the post-industrial world we start to question these old structures when we realize that they don’t fit the current economy anymore.

We might say that the industrial world was about harnessing artificial forms of power — of leveraging the use of natural resources to amplify force, laying down first order system of production as manufacturing.

The post-industrial world then welcomes the harnessing of information, amplifying information as a second order system of production, or observation.

We are now in the world of communication, wherein we amplify the connectivity and temporal flow of a mediated and open state of talk. This is a third order system of observation — meta commentary on the world of information.

It results in changes to the nature of work insofar as the temporality of communication is dislocated from place. Work as flow is the spatial metaphor for the organization of work in time as duration — having rhythms, cycles, repetitions, events, speeds, moods, and threads.

Co-location in space then is no longer how work binds workers, in this paradigm (and it is not by any means ubiquitous). Rather, communication is the binding force of this kind of co-working. And for this, competencies and skills in new forms and tools of communication become paramount.

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  • http://cirquedumot.com/new-readers/ Susan Silver

    Interesting perspective a project just ended for me that I worked on with a woman from NYC. We actally used this as a selling point for the blog we co created. It was a really interesting experience. It really made the world shrink and expanded my thoughts on how I could work with others in the future.