[iDC] introductions

Payal Arora arora at eshcc.eur.nl
Sat Jun 7 23:41:29 UTC 2014

Dear all,
Greetings! This is Payal Arora from Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Lovely to read all these wonderful introductions. Looking forward to meeting such an eclectic group and touching base again with some of you that I already know ☺

So, briefly, I’ll be taking a historical angle to digital labor in my presentation , “Factory Pleasure Gardens, Social Visionaries and Emotional Labor: A Historical Investigation of ‘Playbor’ Geographies.” This is drawn from my recently published book , The Leisure Commons: A Spatial History of Web 2.0<http://routledge-ny.com/books/details/9780415887113/>  (Routledge, 2014).  I go back to the industrial era of the nineteenth century where leisure was already being viewed as a potential tool to motivate and mobilize. The modern question of leisure in our work life was not just driven by workers demanding more freedom from their chores or statesmen with a new utopic dream to sell. It was also driven by certain industrialists that were beginning to believe that productivity was intrinsically tied to leisure practice. In an age of increasing urbanization, nineteenth century industrialists and the state were concerned about losing control over the socialization of the working class. Providing ‘normal’ leisure spaces became fundamental to channeling angst and enhancing emotional intelligence, a quality tied closely to competence. Back in the 1880s, a new type of designed green space appeared in the industrial landscapes of Europe and the USA – the factory pleasure garden. These companies sought to hire the very architects who were instrumental in designing public parks (also a radical spatial architecture then) and thereby extended such aesthetics to work arenas. Viewed as ‘recreational welfare capitalism,’ the efforts of carving park spaces around factories was seen by corporate visionaries to add economic, social and cultural value to the company by contributing to a more healthy, stable and productive workforce and enhancing the company’s profile in the local and public realm. Today, there is much hype about the novelty of ‘playbor’ practice brought on by new media technologies and pervasive tensions of what constitutes as virtual work and play. There is ongoing and expanding usurping of social leisure networks for corporate benefit: to foster more intimate organizational cultures, enhance loyalty of employees and create spaces of sharing, with the hope of promoting the circulation of ideas. Hence, I will argue to leverage on the metaphor of the factory pleasure gardens as leisure geographies of productivity, challenging the novelty claims of playbor practice. I critically analyze the spatialization of playbor and its roots that go well beyond the Web 2.0 era, offering a more nuanced understanding of what counts as new labor practices today.

Beyond this area, I am also delving into digital labor in a new book I am in the midst of writing with my co-author Nimmi Rangaswamy from Xerox Labs – “Poor at Play: Digital Life beyond the West” (expected 2016; Harvard University Press). Here , we will focus on the range of practices by marginalized youth in emerging economies as they get online and exercise tremendous labor to figure out how to leisure within these new internet spaces. It’s exciting to resituate conversations on digital labor as we go into contexts such as slums in Hyderabad, favelas in Brazil to townships in South Africa.

For more on my work, please feel free to check my website : http://payalarora.com/

And below is my generic bio for a quick glance of what my current and past engagements are. Looking forward to meeting with you soon. Cheers Payal

Payal Arora has research and consulting experience in both the private and public sector worldwide including with GE, Shell, World Bank, hp, National Health Foundation, The Ministry of Education in Jordan, Sotheby’s, Art Review, Kellogg and the Beirut Chambers of Commerce. She has been invited to speak by several prestigious universities such as Cornell, Duke, Kings College London, MSU and the University of Utah. She is currently a GE Fellow on the Industrial Internet Project. Her paper on digitization of information won the 2010 Best Paper Award in Social Informatics by the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T). She is the author of several books including Dot Com Mantra: Social Computing in the Central Himalayas<http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409401070> (Ashgate, 2010), The Leisure Commons: A Spatial History of Web 2.0<http://routledge-ny.com/books/details/9780415887113/> (Routledge, 2014; Winner of the EUR Fellowship Award), Poor at Play: Digital Life beyond the West with co-author N. Rangaswamy (expected 2016; Harvard University Press) and The Shape of Diversity to Come? Crossroads in New media, Identity & Law with co-author W. de Been (forthcoming; Palgrave). Her expertise lies in social informatics, new media studies, digital cultures and economies, and edutainment. She sits on several boards including NESCoR<http://nescor.socsci.uva.nl/>, the Global Media Journal<http://www.globalmediajournal.com/>, The South Asian Media, Arts & Culture Research Center<http://research.unt.edu/clusters/strategic-areas/south-asian> in University of North Texas, Young Erasmus, and The World Women Global Council in New York<http://www.worldwomenglobalcouncil.org/>. She holds degrees from Harvard University (M.Ed. in International Policy) and Columbia University (Doctorate in Language, Literacy & Technology). She is currently based in the Department of Media and Communication at Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

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