Museum Human finishes the year with links about hybrid work, tech, NFTs, and capitalism.
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Tuesday's post was pretty much a summary of my museum-related feelings at the end of the year, so consider this a quiet extra to Museum Human's 2021. There'll be plenty to discuss regarding remote/hybrid work in the new year, so study up—and share your experiences! Workers can only change things if they contribute their stories to the group to help build a collective sort of bravery.
- Let's start with one (of many) links from Harvard Business Review about building relationships across teams in a hybrid workplace. This article makes some useful observations, among them:
"Fragmentation isn’t a byproduct of remote work. It results from a lack of intentional bridgebuilding to link discrete groups and regions. Silos were certainly prevalent before the pandemic — hybrid work has simply created new requirements for effectively connecting teams that must work together to achieve shared outcomes.
"… most people won’t be returning to work as the same people they were before the pandemic; the last 18 months have changed all of us in some way. Our values and priorities have shifted. Our senses of meaning and purpose have broadened. Our anxiety has increased. For some, tolerance increased while for others, it decreased. In short, we have to get reacquainted with who we’ve each become. Otherwise, our natural biases that formed about who each of us were will kick in, creating unhelpful dissonance as we react to each other as we did prior to the pandemic. For example, one executive said of his colleague, “She used to have the best sense of humor, but now quips I make that she would always laugh at get no reaction at all.” He’d failed to consider that she was emotionally exhausted because her family was hit especially hard by Covid-19.
That's key and real. I myself feel different; abilities and outlooks I could take for granted in the before times are gone, I don't respond or work the way that I used to. The article advises us (well, leaders) to "create new shared identities." I still believe that the focus on leadership is going to divide and reinforce hierarchy in unhelpful ways; we need to be advising everybody because leadership is going to morph into something different. And I also don't believe that fragmentation started with the pandemic—it was already there, but the ache of loss, with colleagues no longer always down the hall, is an obstacle to a humane and respectful remote/hybrid workplace.
- HBR also has this piece on avoiding return-to-the-office burnout, but the points should have already been mandatory without a pandemic!
- Here's a couple of articles about meetings, from HBR and the Atlantic. There's still a sense that we're working towards a new normal of meetings to substitute for the meetings we had before, but we need to ask—are these meetings necessary? If we really need so many meetings, is there something wrong with our workplaces, leadership, and silos that there's no other way to share information or reach an agreement besides collective time usage? (Or did meetings serve a primarily social and connective function?) We also need to ask, for what members of marginalized groups—including the disabled—did the previous form of meetings not work for? Maybe work—in general—needs to be asynchronous, as per this article, which includes software and tool suggestions.
- HBR of course has tons of articles on hybrid teams and cultures; a couple worth reading are here and here. The latter makes important points about how creating a strong social environment is the same as creating a strong learning environment, and how leaders need the physical workplace to be something special and unique, where values are reinforced. I would argue, however, that culture needs to be more democratically grounded and not leader-decided and -implemented.
- Here's yet another HBR piece on how workers can "thrive" (yay!) in the "new normal" (boo!). The article has a useful discussion of how leaders can help workers form networks (not make them so busy that they don't have time, for starters?).
- Anne Helen Petersen and Charlie Warzel have this thought-provoking piece in the Atlantic called "How to Care Less about Work." If you feel that the pandemic and return-to-work sapped the joy in your non-work activities, this article might be for you. It's an excerpt from their new book Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working From Home, which I just got in the mail. Expect to read more from Museum Human about this book after I've had a chance to read it (it has to get in line after Museums in a Troubled World and The Dawn of Everything).
- Bloomberg has this rundown of how workplace consultants have rebranded themselves as return-to-office specialists (followed by their own interview with Petersen and Warzel).
Tech, including NFTs, crypto, and Web3
- Wired has some pieces worth reading on poor—or too surveillance-focused—tech for students (with implications for workers using office tech remotely), the digital governance of the metaverse, and the continued dreams of the neverending digital frontier by one particular tech titan.
- Boston Review asks who really owns—and should own—our data.
- Here's more about
Facebook'sMeta's metaverse launch from the Atlantic, the Guardian, HBR, and Warzel.
- This piece in the OneZero publication on Medium warned that the ability to trust in images is about to vanish.
- HBR also had this piece about how automation transforms jobs.
- Here's a good primer from NPR about web3, the supposedly distributed, blockchain-focused internet. Here's a piece on Medium questioning whether this "decentralized" internet will be any such thing.
- Quartz had a long series of interviews with advocates for crypto, NFTs, and distributed autonomous organizations (DAOs). I found the interview with Adam Samere useful, and it made me think that DAOs could be a help to creating non-hierarchical organizations and work, especially in museums. Yes, I know, the whole crypto-for-everything is rife with abuse and scheming, but I think the DAO concept has potential:
It’s a new way to work: shared ownership by all the contributors, and you have a community-driven governance process versus traditional top-down decision making. I think that ownership is really big in motivating people to make good decisions and do what’s ultimately best for the project, since they have a direct vested interest in it.
- Also, scroll down in the article for interviews with Gail Wilson about community platforms (she recommends reading The DAOly post) and Sarah Drinkwater about creative experiments like Loot or Mad Realities (she recommends this YouTube explanation).
- Other descriptions I've found about DAOs can be found here and here—I haven't read these yet, so please forgive any skeevyness.
There's so much about NFTs and the art-and-museum world that makes me shiver but those of us in the sector have to be aware of and knowledgeable about it before we find ourselves put onto crypto projects.
- Check out Art News here on the weaknesses of NFT technology.
- Read this crypto advocate about generative art here.
- There's a useful piece on Medium here about the NFT-ification of the attention economy.
- This much-discussed-in-the-museum-field article from HBR here (read this thread: "Every sentence of this 'explanation' of NFTs and property rights in digital assets is false") still has people talking.
- I found this good article in Wired about one of the original crypto groups.
- MuseumNext has this short article about the metaverse and NFTs.
- More recently, an article from Hyperallergic questions whether NFTs are really as "democratic" in the art market—for buyers or sellers—as their proponents claim them to be.
- Nonprofits are increasingly accepting donations in crypto, according to this article.
- And here's a forthcoming new museum dedicated to NFTs themselves.
I'm reading more and more about DAOs because, as I wrote above, there is potential here for non-hierarchical workplaces, even perhaps new forms of museums. I'm less sanguine about NFTs, not because artists don't deserve to be paid, but because, like with the self-publishing craze a few years ago, the truth about how many artist NFTs don't generate any income except for the issuing orgs, is often deliberately obscured. Expect more on this in January if I don't disappear down a rabbit hole over the holidays.
You all know that more and more of Museum Human's writing this year was about capitalism, as the fight against the extraction of time, money, and resources from museum workers raised the stakes of a discussion about the capitalist assumptions of our nonprofit sector.
- I've noted this article before, but Anne Helen Peterson wrote in Vox on the escalating costs of being single, but to me, it emphasized how capitalism makes for a war of all against all.
- The Guardian wrote about "time millionaires," another example of how time is the real currency of work—and in museums, workers have none, or at least none of their own, in the face of overwork related to exhibitions, collections, and digitization.
- Boston Review had this piece about a new book, Lost in Work: Escaping Capitalism, by Amelia Horgan. It's also in my Kindle waiting for me to be done with The Dawn of Everything and then Out of Office. (Is there anyone else who, if they were able to retire now, would just read [including audiobooks, podcasts, etc.]?)
- There have been so many articles about "the Great Resignation," so what's a few more, from the Guardian here and here, Warzel in the Atlantic here, Wired here (which asks, what values—not just jobs—have changed around work), and Medium here.
- Truthout has an article about the supply chain breakdown in the face of covid and, in an allied field for museum folks, another about the danger of public-private partnerships in the library sector—like in so many areas, private equity is increasingly behind the private side of these efforts. (On the subject of libraries, here's a long and pointed piece about "slow librarianship." Like I wrote earlier this week, the key is a generous and expansive view of worker and customer and public time—only possible when precarity is absent.)
- Who's most worried about inflation? The answer may surprise you, as per this article in The Intercept.
- This very long read should satisfy all your philosophical questions about Squid Game.
- Truthout also covers big pharma and the question of covid vaccine profits.
- Those of us in mission- and purpose-driven fields who want to "love their job" should read this article in the Atlantic.
- Also from Truthout, is it time for workers to demand a four-day workweek?
- Economics writer Concoda has a piece on Medium about the cheap money era, important for those of us in the generally low-paying museum sector trying to figure out their future finances.
- Also for museum folks who have to live in expensive areas, here's an article from Texas Monthly with a more nuanced view of why people move (to places like, well, Texas).
- Cory Doctorow writes here about the "neoliberal shell game," with links to an article about how equity-capitalism really works. Museum folks should know who's on their boards …
- Want to read more about the tyranny of the software, content, and server subscription model? (Asks the blogger who's considering a subscription model, eventually, for this site … maybe a lifetime purchase will be fairer … .)
- Boston Review had this piece about the fight for a $15 minimum wage and whether competition is the cure for wage ills. Though we can debate the values of fair wages, employers still have the upper hand in capitalist labor markets.
- Nonprofit Quarterly had this article about local currencies, which made me wonder if cultural institutions could participate in these kinds of important experiments. (Douglas Rushkoff is a big advocate of local currencies, BTW; also read here.)
- We've wondered about the ideal CEO-to-front-line worker pay ratio in the private sector; is it time to ask about museums?
- Finally, here's an article from the Atlantic that asks if everything is game for investment, what about people as investments?
I hope this long list of links will provide you with holiday reading. Thanks for checking out the links and we'll be in touch in 2022!
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Links of the Week: December 17, 2021: Everything Must Go, part 3 by Robert J Weisberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.