Last year I went to an event at Oxford University where they brought together leading experts on work, employment and labour markets to discuss how the internet and digital platforms are transforming the world of work. I have learned a lot of new ideas that are truly eye-opening. In particular, Dr. Gregory talked about how sharing economy pushed individuals from ‘formal labour market came to take up esoteric practice as an entrepreneur practice… ’ She suggested that our digital society is pushing people into entrepreneurship. (Uber driver, for example) She didn’t seem to be happy about it because in her eye that now labour is in great insecurity. There would not be fixed wages every month, no insurance and no pension from company anymore.
There are two interesting concepts in the social media and data study field that supported her argument.
First is a ‘USB flash disk’ theory; This is a theory created by Zhenyu Luo, a famous media and communication worker. Unlike Gregory, he hold a rather optimistic view. The internet, in particular the social media has made communication and cooperation much easier and effective; therefore there is a more symmetrical information network for individuals. People can then have a higher degree of freedom in work, and we can work as a USB flash disk that is portable and adaptable. Comparing with a hard disk that is only fixed on one device, a USB flash disk are ready to move anytime, to anywhere.
The second is a concept called free labour. Everyone is a free labour for their activity online. For example, watching a chatty youtube video. Yes, you are having your leisure time. Meanwhile contributing data to social media platforms. And data, is monetisable. The social media entrepreneurs(Youtubers, instagram stars) take advantage of their fans and sell targeting advertisement. Therefore, people have to take their initiative and realise that every click they made online is meaningful. Internet is not only for entertaining, but also a place of self branding and marketing.
Hence, Web 2.0 makes the organisation structure looser and people are freer than before. There is a bigger chance of working for yourself and being enterprising is extra important in digital era!
Go and check out part 1 of the Handbook if you haven’t read it!
Watch Karen Gregory’s talk at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pC4aNShuoFU&t=707s