For centuries, work has been imagined and used as a way of thinking and acting on human plasticity. Work has been described to change the bodily musculature of workers, altering skills, dexterity, and intellect, which also brings them either closer or further from the ideal of the homo faber.
The book project, Bearable Media, explores these investments in plasticity, seeking to understand how work trends sparked by computational media have sought to organize processes of adaptation since the late twentieth century. Contextualized in a milieu of endemic precarity, the book examines how trends like telecommuting, remote work, and platform work are tied to ecological imaginaries—homes, cities, airplanes, virtual environments—that are meant to shape the plasticity of subjects. These ecologies differentiate between workers based on class, race, and gender, setting out the different terms that adaptation should take place. And in encouraging these schemes of plasticity, work also dramatically extends its reach, intervening in areas like romantic and sexual relations, citizenship rights, survival in the Anthropocene, and the persistence of populations through time.
A study of bearable media thus brings attention to the ambitious program of plasticity embedded in digital labor: the ways that technologies and precariousness have extended the influence of work, rendering it a technology for life and persistence beyond the wage.
The book is still in development, but you can read some of the articles to see how I explain the influence that digital technologies have in shaping the plasticity of workers.
• Road Warriors to Digital Nomads: Portable Computers, Habitats, and Remote Work. Cultural Studies. Link
• Media Probes. Probing Interfaces: New Games, Spacewar!, and the Gamification of Complexity. International Journal of Communication. Link
• Telecommuting Pedagogies: White Plasticity and the Ecological Imaginaries of Working-From-Home. Social Text. Link
• Curative Platforms: Disability, Access, and Food Delivery Work in Singapore. Link
• Invited plenary speaker to the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society Conference (IACSS) on “Sustainable and Adaptable Culture” (2021)
• “Road Warriors to Digital Nomads” at 4S in “Aerotechnologies” (2021)
• “Telecommuting Pedagogies” at ICA (2021)
• “White Plasticity” at Lockdown: Mental Illness, Wellness, and COVID-19 (2020)