‘[S]ubtly but unmistakably, work is replacing religion’ . This is the assertion at the heart of Carolyn Chen’s new book Work pray code. The book’s choice of setting is striking: The heart of the American tech industry in Silicon Valley, California. Scholars of media, organization, or work are quick to point out both the potential value of accessing this field site, and often just as quick to point out that it is difficult if not impossible (e.g., Flyverbom, 2019: 2; Jarrett, 2022: 32; Peters, 2015: 337).
Conference organizers: Nick Butler, Lena Olaison, Bent Meier Sørensen and Sverre Spoelstra
This open issue is published against the background of a major global pandemic. The old ‘normal’ seems far away and undesirable, as a socio-ecological transformation becomes even more urgent. The contributions featured here scrutinize the current trends in the capitalist mode of production and envision the alternative organization of our societies. They examine new configurations of work, to which capital-led digitalization is often key, and ways to resist it. Attention is also paid to a fundamental rethinking of work, economy and care.
The editorial of this open issue of ephemera is written against the background of a major global pandemic. The disease known as COVID-19 is believed to have started in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It rapidly spread across the world the following months, with various restrictive measures put into place to flatten the curve of contagion. Besides losses of lives globally, the pandemic has caused severe economic contraction on a historic scale (Hevia and Neumeyer, 2020).
In 2004 Mario Lavandeira started blogging ‘because it seemed easy’ (Stevens, 2013). Free blogging software and an abundance of online paparazzi photos inspired a blog that offered a different approach to celebrity: rather than promoting these public figures through flattering texts and images, the blog ridiculed and mocked them through snarky comments and image manipulations.
Today, work and consumption are notably blurred. Consumption matters are found to make inroads into the realm of work, while consumption gains traction in the domain of production. This special issue of ephemera gets to the heart of this phenomenon. Covering a range of themes – genetic testing, self-quantification, migration, popular media and modern workplaces – the contributions to this issue call attention to the ethico-politics of productive and consumptive aspects of contemporary life.
While self-management has emerged as a robust way of getting things done in present-day work life and organizations, it also presents itself as a conception of considerable multivalency and ambiguity. In a broad sense, self-management seems to require that employees think, feel and act in ways that contribute to the realization and improvement of the individual worker, but only insofar as they concomitantly anticipate and contribute to the various needs of the organization (Manz and Sims, 1989; Thomas, 2002; Costea et al, 2008).
I’m the chairman of the bored
(Iggy Pop, ‘I’m bored’)