Back to school–I mean, “possibility space”!

Daniel J. Flynn has written a book entitled Blue Collar Intellectuals: When the Enlightened and the Everyman Elevated America.  He writes about a time when “intellectuals” spoke to “the common man,” and how many in the demographic of “common man” (and woman) distinguished themselves as “intellectuals” in their own right.  He writes about blue collar savants like Mortimer Adler, Milton Friedman, and Eric Hoffer.  All of this contrasts with the tendency today, in which “intellectuals” speak only to themselves in an arcane idiom that no one else can even understand, while the “common man” is content with mindless pop culture pablum.  And even intellectuals have become anti-intellectual.

But that’s not what I want to blog about.  An excerpt from his book published in the Intercollegiate Review includes a devastating send-up of the state of contemporary education.   I offer it to you as a “Back to School” present. [Read more...]

The sensorization of consumer tech

The big thing out of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas?  Biometrics.  Eye-tracking devices to see what ads you pay attention to.  Mood-sensing ear buds.  Pupil dilation sensors to see how much you are “aroused.”  And, what I’m trying to get my mind around, bras that analyze brain waves.

After the jump, read all about it.  But then I have some serious questions I want to raise. [Read more...]

News costs money

I like to read newspapers.  Those big floppy papery things.*  (*Who can catch that allusion?)  I am aware, though, that fewer and fewer people share my affection.  Among the young adults I know, including those who are very interested in current events, hardly any of them read a newspaper.  They have become technologically obsolete, so the newspaper industry is fading.  More and more people, maybe most people by now, get their news from the internet.

But you know what?  When you get your news from the internet, clicking links from Drudge or Google News or this blog, you are taken for the most part to articles from newspapers!  For us to have all of that information, somebody has to pay the reporters. [Read more...]

How the Democrats used FaceBook

The Washington Post is publishing excerpts from its reporter Dan Balz’s book on the last presidential election: Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America.  Monday’s installment was about how the Democrats’ sophisticated use of technology to target their message and get out the vote.  After the jump, an account of what the Democrats did with FaceBook. [Read more...]

Is the internet worth it?

Economics columnist Robert J. Samuelson argues that the internet is not worth it.  Yes, it’s nice to get e-mail, watch YouTube, and have access to all this information.  But, he maintains, the internet has made our infrastructure more fragile and our dependence on the internet opens us up to new levels of crime, sabotage, privacy violations, and social problems. [Read more...]

The boundary between work and home

A growing number of companies are telling employees to stop using electronics to work even when you are home.  From Cecilia Kang:

Tonight, employees at the Advisory Board have an unusual task: Stay off ­e-mail.

Stash away those smartphones and laptops, the District firm has instructed. For those who just can’t stay away, read but don’t reply. And while we’re at it, ignore your inbox throughout the weekend, too, the firm added.

The consulting firm’s push for no after-hours e-mail is part of a growing effort by some employers to rebuild the boundaries between work and home that have crumbled amid the do-more-with-less ethos of the economic downturn.

In recent years, one in four companies have created similar rules on e-mail, both formal and informal, according to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. Firms trying out these policies include Volkswagen, some divisions of PricewaterhouseCoopers and shipping company PBD Worldwide.

For the vast majority of companies and federal offices, the muddying of work and personal time has had financial advantages. Corporations and agencies, unable to hire, are more productive than ever thanks in part to work-issued smartphones, tablets and other mobile technology, economists say.

And that presents one of the great conundrums of our recessionary era: E-mail has helped companies eke out more from each worker. But the perpetually plugged work culture is also making us feel fried.

“There is no question e-mail is an important tool, but it’s just gone overboard and encroached in our lives in a way where employees were feeling like it was harder and harder to achieve a good balance,” said Robert Musslewhite, chief executive of the Advisory Board, a health and education research and software-services firm.

Official numbers show just one in 10 people brings work home, according to a Labor Department report in 2010. But economists say that figure is wildly conservative because it counts only those who are clocking in those hours for extra pay.

More often, employees work evenings and weekends beyond their normal hours and do not record that time with their employers, labor advocacy groups say. And that’s made work bleed into just about every vacant space of time — from checking BlackBerrys and iPhones at school drop-offs, on the way home from happy hour and just after the alarm clock rings, they say.

via After-hours e-mail, companies are telling employees to avoid it – The Washington Post.

Some professions just don’t fit the 9 to 5 hourly breakdown.  If you own or are responsible for a business, you are thinking about it round-the-clock.  Even with me, a professor and college administrator, I find myself thinking about what to present in my classes or what to do about some problem at any time in the day or night, including when I toss and turn in the middle of the night (where I seem to get my best ideas).

It’s worth noting too that when Luther was articulating the doctrine of vocation, there was no boundary between work and home, since most work–farming, crafts, most trades–was done at home (as opposed to what happened after the industrial revolution when most economic labor took place away from the family).  Thus Luther wrote about the vocations of the “household,” which included both the family callings such as marriage and parenthood and what the family did to earn a living.

And yet, arguably, the invasion of the home by the workplace, abetted by technology, may well be eroding the other vocations we have.  Notice how when we hear the word “vocation” we immediately think of our “job.”  In Luther’s day and in the Biblical writings about “calling” (e.g., 1 Corinthians 7:17), people would first think about things like marriage.  (See our book on the subject, Family Vocations.)

There is little doubt that today people are neglecting their callings as spouse, parent, church member,  citizen, et al., because of their pre-occupation with their work and the enabling device of their smart phones.  Would you agree?  Do we need to “rebuild the boundaries between work and home”?  Or do we need to break down those boundaries, but in a different way than we have been doing?


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