[iDC] Hyperemployed or Feminized Labor?

Hamilton, Kevin kham at illinois.edu
Tue Nov 19 05:54:50 UTC 2013

Hello all -

To return to gender a bit here - Is to be "hyperemployed" to be "doing work people like me shouldn't be doing?"

If I understand Ian's thought experiment, the "hyper" part of hyperemployment translates to "less visible" as well as "less materially compensated." That invites some uncomfortable comparisons for me - from the domestic work referenced earlier in the thread to garment-industry workers and slave labor, to the unpaid intern "starting at the bottom" to…checking email?

I certainly don't want to seriously compare my calendaring and emailing with slave labor. But if we describe a standard of acceptable labor primarily in terms of compensation/visibility, isn't that where we end up?

I wonder if, as framed, what keeps Ian's experiment from sliding into that comparison is its dependence on a slightly different standard at work. Rather than (lack of) compensation as the main issue, I wonder if the real source of "exhaustion" or critique in the article might stem from a worker's "rightful" mobility not aligning with her "choices" as a free agent. Is "exhausting" labor in this case that which a person *should* be able to refuse, given her otherwise mobile/independent status?

If so, then "hyperemployment" would be only possible for those who can point to some degree of relative freedom to which they feel they have a claim - a freedom they have unwillingly "surrendered" for some reason. (As if a "willing surrender" would be more desirable - i.e. in a space of leisure.)

As such, maybe hyperemployment as described in Ian's article is that domain of work spurned by some through "media refusals."

Work by Portwood-Stacer or Jurgenson on media refusal points out the role of class, race and gender in not only the ascetic act of media sabbaths, etc but in the frame of "digital dualism" on which such acts depend. If I abstain from a particular form of networked digital labor, I'm claiming a freedom in relation to others, and not just from those who benefit from my user data.

I recently returned to FB as wary as ever of that company's awful tactics. But I decided to submit not to Zuck but to others whom I'd borrowed some autonomy from as a "refuser." I want to get off that space together, not alone.

Likewise, I'd rather frame the problems of my over-connected work life as not -only- about my lack of individual compensation, but rather first about my participation in a problematic collective rhythm.

Great to see this list back up again,

Kevin Hamilton
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