Yesterday instead of going to bed I followed the twitter feed from the EPIC 2011 conference in Boulder, Colorado, #epic2011. EPIC here standing for the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference. Suddenly something interesting happened that revealed how a catchy term can turn into a powerful metaphor depending on a shift in space and context. Since EPIC was not broadcasted live the following was very much a meta-event to the actual conference.
During the afternoon session Rich Radka held a speech together with Abby Margolis under the headline “Changing models of ownership”. Tweets were flowing and the term “jobbie” suddenly came into action and took over the feed during a short period of time. As a by-stander following this meta-conversation it seemed like Radka had coined the term but it was not completely clear when @uxprivacy first brought it into the twitter discussions.
(Others have used the word before in a similar sence as I interpret Radka as when “work-time is fun-time” and in a different way as a “hobby disguised as a job” but not ones primary income.) Others retweeted and @mayasuri even stated that ethnography was her “jobbie”.
Even though @mayasuri expressed hesitation about if it is a good thing it was more of a positive vibe surrounding the term in the feed. This would suddenly change when @enquiringdesign hinted that there exists a connotation to the word.
@mayasuri had apparently now googled it and found it’s “true” meaning in the urban dictonary. And so did @dragoncr as well.
Yes, “jobbie” means poo in a Scottish accent. However does this mean we need to abandon the term as @dragoncr suggests? Before its Scottish meaning had unfolded @planetjohnsen was more critical to the whole idea that surrounds the concept.
@planetjohnsen seems to be referring to that work in general for many people has become a primary identity marker. However I think that what is considered “hobby as a job” is especially true for the growing population of journalists, graphic designers, artists and others within the so called cultural and creative industries. Often working on a freelance basis as “involountary entrepreneurs” , hired for short term projects by multiple clients, and therefore loose the safety nets and benefits of being an employee. But they are also outside the organisations that gathers workers who could speak for them and negotiate their rights. Neither the employers or the unions consider them “theirs’”. They fall outside the traditional institutions which the welfare state was built upon during the 20th century.
In a debate article in Dagens Arena earlier this week the sociologist Karl Palmås addresses this problem. (For non-swedish readers you can use the google translated version of the whole article.)
Synd bara att de som förväntas bära upp denna flexibla och kreativa ekonomi står helt utanför alla de trygghetssystem som byggts upp under de stolta folkhemsåren.
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I framtida statsbudgetar behöver vi se fler åtgärder som syftar till att korrigera diskrimineringen av det arbete som sker utanför de stora organisationernas trygga värld. Trygghet i dagens ekonomi förutsätter upprättandet av ett alternativt institutionellt ramverk för – exempelvis – pensionsavsättningar och a-kassa.
Men här spökar i dagsläget åtminstone två problem: inom industriella hierarkier finns det automatiska system och medarbetare som efterser dessa transaktioner, medan ”den nya underklassen” förväntas sköta detta på individuell basis (utöver de tusentals andra individuella val som vi förväntas göra idag). För det andra är arbetsmarknadens regelverk konstruerat på ett sätt som sätter käppar i hjulet för potentiella lösningar på detta problem. Exempelvis kan man i dag inte arbeta inom egenanställning utan att riskera att förlora sin a-kassa.
Even though I think the “jobbie” as a metaphor for freelancers’ work has more to do with general working conditions than the amount of pay I let @planetjohnsen conclude this post with his response to the earlier tweet by @dragoncr.