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Communication Studies
Alexandre Sevigny

Lecture 20 CMST 1a03: Introduction to Communication Alex Sévigny, PhD, APR, MCIPR (Winter Term, 2013) ITC – B. Crow & G. Longford: “From the „Electronic Cottage‟ to the „Silicon Sweatshop‟: Social Implications of Telemediated Work in Canada” ITC – R. Hebdige “From Culture to Hegemony” B. Crow & G. Longford The work and workplaces of Canadians have changed over the last few decades.  A move from industry towards information.  This has been promoted by the emergence of new information and communications technologies (ICTs). Some theorists think that this is a source of strength and new employment others talk of “the end of work” There is a lack of adequate analysis of the influence of telemediated work on such things as the availability of employment, skills and income, job security and working conditions for many workers in the “knowledge-based economy”. For a minority of people, ICTs have been beneficial but they have resulted in a polarization between highly-skilled, well-paid knowledge workers and a large pool of semi and unskilled workers. Current public policy doesn’t address these issues ICTs in the Canadian workplace  The internet, email, electronic data interchange and wireless communication are widely used in business. o 63% Internet o 60% email o 51% wireless comms o 26% had websites o 12% used an intranet  Private capital investments in ICTs grew by 20% per year in the 1990s  Public sector spending on ICTs grew from 3billion to 5billion. Impact of ICTs on Work I: Demand, Security, Skills Competition, organizational changes and human resource strategies such as downsizing, delayering, outsourcing and temporary employment have had a major impact on employment in the last two decades. This has led to deskilling. Robotized communications tools have eliminated ten of thousands of service workers who used to work in Info-Booths. ICTs have also helped to accelerate the rate of transfer of jobs outside of Canada. The employment rate in Canada has declined very little. Hype would have it that ICTs spur economic growth, but this is a “jobless growth”. Really ICTs displace workers and the jobs that these people get are low-wage, temporary low-skill service jobs. Canada has seen a quick rise in part-time, temporary and contract work.  Almost 50% of Canadian workers seem to be in this circumstance.  ICTs have been very helpful to employers in surveilling workers, providing detailed analyses of what the workers are doing. This allows companies to “optimize” how many workers they employ.  This has led to underemployment and workers who are not covered by pension plans or who receive few benefits. Skilled in the new economy: Knowledge workers or cybertariat? Canadian workers are quite highly skilled. But how do we define skilled? Does word processing count as a skill if already 83% of computer users report proficiency at it? The real skills associated with ICTs – engineering, computer science and information technology degress -- can only be acquired are select elite institutions such as universities. So the two-tiered system prevails:  The upper class (information haves) can pursue lots more freedom of movement and choice.  The underclass often engages in boring, repetitive, mind- numbing work and are subject to hierarchy, subordination and electronic surveillance. Impact of ICTs on work II: A gendered and racialized division of labour ICTs have been touted as a means to remove gender and race as a barrier, offering attractive flexible working hours and the ability to work from home. Men and women both use computers, but men are much more likely to be involved with “knowledge work”. The polarization of incomes and the division of the workforce into info haves and have-nots will accelerate the gendering and racializing of the workforce. Inequality and Social Cohesion in the New Economy University graduates in Canada 47% increase in employment, non-graduates 2%. There is a contraction of opportunities for vulnerable workers. Non-standard work means less training and the responsibility is placed on workers through the ideology of life-long learning Governments need to create opportunities for access
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