food for thought: labor relations edition

This weeks’ links are a mix-n-match of stories revolving around labor exploitation and our work environments.

Paul Campos @ Lawyers, Guns and Money explores the change over time in the correlation between educational credentials and household income, 1973-2013:

It would be something of an understatement to say these statistics call into question the enhanced human capital theory of educational attainment. Instead, they are precisely what we would expect to find if educational credentialing is a positional good: one whose value must invariably deteriorate as it becomes less scarce. (Currently, somewhere between a quarter and a fifth of 25-34 year old college graduates are earning less than the median high school graduate of the same age).

Aliqae Geraci is polling MLS grads regarding their student loan debt. If you have already, please consider completing her anonymous online survey; also take time to read through the aggregate results:

Like the Ph.D. Debt Survey, the M.L.S. Debt Survey publicly documents the debt accrued over the course of professional training – in this case, the professional training of librarians. Unlike the Ph.D. Debt Survey, M.L.S. Survey respondents inhabit a financial aid landscape where full funding is not an operational assumption.

Selena Larson @ readwrite looks at a recent women-in-tech failure you may have heard about, the “male allies” panel at the Grace Hopper Celebration 2014, and points out the many ways in which the male panelists were tone-deaf on the subject of discrimination in their industry:

Missing, of course, were any women to field the questions the men so gingerly talked around. The panelists exhibited little genuine sense of self-awareness, and while the men said existing tech culture needs to change, they offered only stale encouragement, and had little to say about any of the repercussions women and other outsiders can face when they do “speak up” or “tell people their story” or “lean in.”

Trust me: People who are not white males already know very well that they have to be “twice as good as them to get half of what they have,” as the saying goes.

By contrast, other panels and talks throughout the day forthrightly addressed the issues that can arise when, for instance, women advocate for themselves and ask for career advancement. One talk entitled “Winning At The Game Of Office Politics,” specifically focused on how women are consistently passed over and denied recognition for good work.

Radio Boston did a segment on Thursday of last week looking at gender diversity in the workplace:

The happiness-productivity balance is a perpetual challenge of the modern American workplace. Managers want to foster their employees’ well-being while boosting the bottom line. You wouldn’t think that these goals would be in opposition, but a study recently published in the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy illuminates something that can have a significant — and opposite — effect on both: gender.

The study, “Diversity, Social Goods Provision, and Performance in the Firm,” finds that employees express greater levels of satisfaction and well-being in same-gender workplaces, but they’re more productive in mixed-gender environments.

There was not a full transcript I could find, but you can access additional information at Radio Boston’s story page.

Intern Labor Rights is holding a rally in New York City today against the exploitation of unpaid interns:

Each year in New York State tens of thousands of young people take on unpaid internships, hoping and believing that they will gain the training necessary to get jobs and begin their careers. The vast majority find themselves untrained and exploited. They are the victims of Wage Theft!

Danah Boyd @ Apophenia as pulled together some frameworks for understanding the future of work that might be of interest:

Technology is changing work. It’s changing labor. Some imagine radical transformations, both positive and negatives. Words like robots and drones conjure up all sorts of science fiction imagination. But many of the transformations that are underway are far more mundane and, yet, phenomenally disruptive, especially for those who are struggling to figure out their place in this new ecosystem. Disruption, a term of endearment in the tech industry, sends shutters down the spine of many, from those whose privilege exists because of the status quo to those who are struggling to put bread on the table.

Karishma @ Persephone Magazine explores the way in which privilege and nostalgia operate to make inclusion feel threatening to those for whom mainstream

When whiteness is the default for both decades of television and the pioneering 90s kids’ television, why wouldn’t male whiteness be the default? As national demographics shift and the TV landscape slowly diversifies to match, the overall rhetoric and dominance of nostalgia is further complicated by a perceived shift in power and loss of said power by white men. Klickstein and men like him use this nostalgia to refer back to the good ol’ days when whiteness was stably centered as the default for everything, including television representation. These men use diversity as an example of the purported struggle of white men in society, and in doing so, they fail to recognize their own privileges and power in comparison to these diverse groups.

John Walker @ John Walker’s Electronic House wrote a thing about #GamerGate that resonated with some recent conversations on Archives & Archivists regarding politics in history and the archivists’ responsibilities regarding objectivity:

GamerGate would like to see the politics taken out of games coverage. This statement deserves an essay of its own, but I want to try to address it quickly here. It is a fallacious statement, whether by design or misunderstanding. One cannot remove the “politics” from anything. Let’s take an imaginary example:

There’s a new game out, called Koala Fighters XVII. It’s a game about an elite squadron of fighter pilots, who are taking on the menace of the invading koala hordes. In it, throughout, are cutscenes showing bare-breasted women being kidnapped by the evil koalas, threatened with torture and death, to be rescued by the amazing gang of pilot men. The game is, obviously, brilliantly well made, featuring some of the best koala shooting action ever seen in a game. However, when reviewing this game, gaming site Poltaku comments on how the nudity and sexual stereotypes are disappointing. Meanwhile, Sensible Gaming Reviews, leaving the politics out of games coverage, doesn’t say anything of the sort, not seeing the feature necessary to mention. GameBros4Ever, meanwhile, reviews the game and comments on how brilliantly the breasts are animated, and how great it was to feel like a powerful man in the cockpit of the plane.

All three reviews are inherently political. Choosing to mention this specific feature of the game is a political decision, whether to condemn or celebrate. And crucially, choosing not to mention it is a political decision too. Not thinking it worth mentioning, also, is born of a political position on the matter. Indifference to something of importance to others is, of course, a political position. You cannot “leave the politics out of games coverage”. Politics are inherent. What is instead meant by this demand is, by its nature, “Leave politics I don’t adhere to out of games coverage.”

Wanting games coverage that doesn’t take issue with, for example, sexualised images of women (or men) is wanting coverage of a specific political leaning. It’s a desire for a specific political position to be taken in games coverage. Which is fine! But it’s not, in any way, leaving politics out of it.

…And of course the pretense that it’s about neutrality is patent nonsense. By requiring neutrality on those specific subjects, such as anything regarding the representation of any group of people, it is a tacit endorsement of the opposing political position. The desire to mute criticism of the representation of women in a game is a tacit endorsement of the representation of women in the game. And again, of course, anyone is absolutely entitled to endorse that representation if it is their position. But it’s a position.

And finally, if you have not yet read Kathy Sierra’s searing indictment of the culture of gender (and other identities)-based harassment and violence on the Internet I suggest you do so now. Anyone who wonders why women on the Internet seem, at times, to jump at shadows: We know, There but for absolutely no rational, avoidable reason go I. The year Sierra was trolled offline and out of her career was the year I began actively blogging and the year I began graduate school in library and information science. For me, as for many women who work as librarians, archivists, and associated information professionals, this culture of violent misogyny and the everyday spaces of our networked careers, are (or are in continual danger of becoming) one and the same:

I now believe the most dangerous time for a woman with online visibility is the point at which others are seen to be listening, “following”, “liking”, “favoriting”, retweeting. In other words, the point at which her readers have (in the troll’s mind) “drunk the Koolaid”. Apparently, that just can’t be allowed.

From the hater’s POV, you (the Koolaid server) do not “deserve” that attention. You are “stealing” an audience. From their angry, frustrated point of view, the idea that others listen to you is insanity. From their emotion-fueled view you don’t have readers you have cult followers. That just can’t be allowed.

You must be stopped. And if they cannot stop you, they can at least ruin your quality of life. A standard goal, in troll culture, I soon learned, is to cause “personal ruin”. They aren’t all trolls, though. Some of those who seek to stop and/or ruin you are misguided/misinformed but well-intended. They actually believe in a cause, and they believe you (or rather the Koolaid you’re serving) threatens that cause.

Read the whole thing at Wired.

As always: If you have links you would like to see shared in the food for thought round-up, please Tweet or email them to the Amiable Archivists for curation.

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