Global judgements and ideas.
The Danish trade union for academics, Dansk Magisterforening, is to publish an interview conducted with me on digitalised labour for the June 2018 edition of the union’s magazine Magisterbladet. Here is the interview text, written by Troels Kolln:
Howdy can be seen as an example of an increasing interest in computer-driven management based on employee monitoring – in management terms sometimes described as people analytics or human capital analytics.
“The surveillance and measurement that has been in factories and warehouses for years has now also come into the offices. But even though the purpose is the same – optimization of labor – the angle is a little different. It’s not your tasks now, but your person that is being measured and quantified: your sense of happiness, your health, your values”, says Associate Professor Phoebe Moore, who researches workers’ conditions at the University of Leicester. She has written the book The Quantified Self in Precarity: Work, Technology and What Counts and recently finished a report for the ILO on physical and psycho-social risk factors in digitalized work.
It’s a good idea for many HR departments, because it gives a sense of security and rationality when management can be quantified, says Phoebe Moore.
“Humans have a long tradition of trusting numbers to be perfect. It gives us something tangible, that we can count on. But at the same time, it surrenders the authority to make decisions to a set of data that is difficult to question, because they appear neutral and objective. The computer becomes your boss”, says Phoebe Moore.
The question is what the effect is in the longer term and in a larger perspective, says Associate Professor Phoebe Moore.
“An app like Howdy may have the opposite effect in the long run by raising anxiety because you are constantly being asked to assess how you feel. At the same time, it can break down the boundaries between your private self and your work self, because your personal life is being pulled into the work place”, she says.
She sees Howdy as part of what has been called the wellness syndrome.
“The norm in the workplace becomes such that you need to be well, need to be healthy, need to be happy. It is expected as something obvious and makes it difficult to be different. If you are not healthy, something is wrong with you and who is to blame? You are”, says Dr. Moore.