Extra Credit: The Future of Work

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The Future of Work is one of the most important themes of our times.

Because the nature of work has changed so drastically due to technologies, countries, governments and international organizations (macro level), companies, foundations, labour unions (meso level), and we all as individuals are trying to come to terms with what to expect.

You may wonder why this is a topic for Int Comm – Asia. Here’s why:

  1. Changes in the way we work are real — and one of those is globalization. That’s why this course is a requirement for all Mass Comm majors.
  2. Asia has played, and continues to play, a major role in the global economy; whether we discuss new markets, or outsourcing, or tech innovations.
  3. The way we work in this course is quite literally a new way of working. We will soon explore some more collaborative platforms. In the future, many of you may work with colleagues whom you’ll never meet face-to-face.
  4. And yes — we got invited to the high-level graduate symposium. I want to offer you the chance to take part, and earn credit for this course.

To reiterate: This “lecture” is voluntary.

You can either participate online or in person (see below). It means there is no lecture this week and we return to the pre-assigned topics next week. All these changes are reflected in the updated syllabus.

A Commentary: Look at the margins, for the margins are the future

[This is a short text I wrote for a book on the future of work, to be published shortly.]

The future of work is a conversation filled with hopes but also with great anxieties, especially for those who are about to enter the labor market right now.

I teach topics around the media, communication technologies, globalization, and human rights, to university students from around the world, studying in Europe and in the United States. One of the first comments, and most positive predictions by the students, is that they, too, can potentially become entrepreneurs, influencers, and advocates in the borderless networked society, and live a creative life with flexible working arrangements.

Then, they quickly continue to the but of the situation: globalization means increased competition, especially from developing countries and emerging economies, signifying less rather than more work opportunities for them.

It is understandable that the 20-somethings located in the Global North view the world based on their own challenges. They need support in envisioning the globe, and their role in its workforce, in a new way. The biggest opportunity for them to survive, and thrive, is to embrace global collaboration, not competition. The regions, communities, and people that, for their parents’ generation, were in the margins of their worldview are now crucial in developing prosperity and jobs, for all of us.

Currently, my students have but few mentors in this line of thinking. Innovation progresses quicker than government regulation. Education has not (yet) responded adequately to the new demands and challenges. Few technologists are devoting time in understanding global structural inequalities, and building tools together with different communities, to ensure applicability and effectiveness of new technologies.

And there are many challenges to overcome. While mobile leapfrogging and great innovations especially in banking and health care are making a difference in lesser developed regions in the world, there exists a hidden digital divide, comprised of things like the speed of internet connection, or the rapid development of hard and software in the developed countries that the rest of the world cannot match. The predicted disruption in the nature and markets for work in the next decades will most likely hit the most vulnerable populations the hardest.

But, according to the new report by the Foresight Alliance, one the key solutions to the challenges is that higher-income and lower-income countries learn from one another about best practices in policies, flexible institutions (including education), and formal-informal work. In essence, this knowledge exchange is not between countries but between people. And those entering the job market must get ready to learn.

“Look at the margins, for the margins are the future”. That is what the world-famous cultural scholar John Fiske used to say to us graduate students of the media and technology in the 1990s. This is why Google and others are now investing heavily on Artificial Intelligence, a phenomenon still relatively marginal for our everyday lives.

But this is also why a small crowdmapping project, started by a Kenyan blogger and developed into the open source platform Ushahidi, is now used everywhere in the world to monitor elections, natural disaster relief, and more.

“Center the experiences of those at the margins of the economy”, concludes the Open Society Foundations in its recent report on the Future of Work. Look at the margins, care about those experiences, and collaborate. Without the margins there might be no future.


We have included this topic into our course at this point because of this unique opportunity:

The International Communication Master’s Progamme is hosting a high-level event on the Future of Work

on Thursday 3/31, 5:30pm, Moot Auditorium, SJU Law School.

Keynote: Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education at Microsoft.

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You can choose from 2 options:

  1. Participate in the symposium — just sign in on location with Dr. Basilio Monteiro. You will recognize him (if you don’t know him) because he will be introducing the speaker. That’s all; no other assignment. OR
  2. Choose one of these recent reports or other commentary on the Future of Work and write a short commentary as a comment below on how, based on your readings but reflecting with what we have discussed, you see as one of the key issues around the FoW.
    1. The Futures of Work (download the Report Overview here) OR
    2. Technology and the Future of Work — a summary of the debates.

DUE in 2 WEEKS, Fri 4/1 at midnight or anytime before that!


Author: Minna Aslama Horowitz

Minna is currently assistant prof at St. John's University NYC. She is especially interested in media development (research and consultancy), sustainable development goals, collaborative practices in policy-making, as well as online education. In addition, she loves dogs, NYC and upstate NY, and travel.

7 thoughts on “Extra Credit: The Future of Work”

  1. One of the key issues with the Futures of Work is that jobs could be taken away from people due to technology. New software and robots are created, and they take the jobs away from people because it saves them money, and usually ensures perfection. We see this happening in our world already today. For example, the self-checkout lanes at grocery stores. The more self-checkout lanes a store has, the fewer employees it needs to bag or ring up their items. I admit that if I have less than 10 items, I almost always do the self-checkout because it is easier and quicker. Even though this is more convenient for shoppers, it puts people who need the job out. Not everyone has a college degree or even a high school diploma, and they rely on these kinds of jobs that are available to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Technology. We can’t live without it. But does that mean it can replace our livelihood?

    In “The Future of Work,” it is stated that drastic advances in technology will have the ability to change the landscape of the workforce. Within its contexts, one of its statements is that jobs will look more to middle agers (40 to 55) as their ‘target’ for their workers. One would think that they would aim lower at about 25 to 35 but thinking about it, I realised that they would be targeting those a part of my generation and slightly older which is good in some ways. Nowadays, it is much harder for these people to find jobs, especially in the manufacturing industries. They want people who are young and quick, who will be able to adapt to any job that the employer needs them to do. In some ways it was assuring to see that there will still be an opportunity for us, even at our older age. But, of course there are its disadvantages. I’m a second year college student and after I graduate I do plan on attending Grad School to increase my likelihood of job opportunities. Yet, the overview highlighted the fact that not will employers only look for those who are older but those who have more experience rather than degree-based workers. If this is true, why are so many people struggling with going to college and getting higher level degrees if in less than 10 years down the line those degrees will mean next to nothing. There are some degrees that even take longer than 10 years to complete. Is it really worth it in the end?

    Along with this, I am also afraid that technology will take over a significant amount of the workforce. It seems that over half of the workforce will be replaced by new machinery that will be better equipped at performing their jobs. Although, there are some jobs that, I believe, can NEVER be completely replaced by technology, no matter how good it gets. Instead, these jobs can adapt to new technology. For example: teaching. I’m taking two online classes this semester, one of them being this class, and I genuinely love them both. The topics I study are interesting, the work load is sometimes daunting but manageable, and I can work my schedule around them. Yet, the online world will never be able to replace human interaction, especially teacher to student relationships in the previously mentioned scenario.

    With this being said, there’s still some time before technology is said to drastically deplete or change the workforce. Until then, maybe it’s possible that instead of replacing workers, we will be able to adapt to modern technology, instead of predicting the negatives to be true.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reading the two links simply confirmed the subject of technology taking over our world furthermore. When we look at how far technology has taken us just within the past 5-10 years with smartphones, social media, chargeable automobiles, etc. we can only help but wonder what’s to come next. Businesses are now working had to distribute goods in a simpler and faster way. For example, in stores, we now have self-checkout lanes so shoppers can get their needs, in a more self-efficient way. In today’s factories, majority of things are created using advanced technological equipment. Of course, it’s a high alert for the amount of people who have lost jobs due to our constant growth in the technology industry, but during my own research, I stumbled upon a very shocking and somewhat uncomfortable video; displaying how there are artificial simulations of actual humans being made as well. Just within this year, Dr. David Hanson is a head engineer and designer who is in the process of creating a real-life robotic replica of human beings. The video is definitely one to make you sit back and think; Are we getting a little out of hand with all this technology? What is the future of our world ?

    Liked by 1 person

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