Sunday, April 08, 2007

Guest Speaker: Gina Neff

In her articles, Neff notes that personal innovation and creativity shaped the creation of the internet and cyberspace. She describes the earlier forms of cyberculture, as observed in the social networking of workers in New York City's Silicon Alley. All of Neff's articles represent a few of the many stages of the social history of information.

The Changing Place of Cultural Production: Locating Social Networks in a Digital Media Industry, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 597 (2005): 134-152.

Several scholars have suggested that networks increase workers' mobility within industries that rely on network forms of organization, and regional networks may substitute for types of workforce support that used to be found within organizations, such as internal labor markets, job training, and job security (137-8).

  • Silicon Alley's tech workers had the same job security as low-end service workers. Why was individual recognition and social networking so important to these workers that they were willing to tradeoff more traditional forms of support?

Regionally based networks encourage collaborative practices across and within organizations, help diffuse continually changing technical information, and build environments of innovation that provide positive economic externalities for firms and workers (138).

  • The dotcom crash signaled a re-development of the technical industry and corporate culture moved back to the foreground of the economy. Can creativity and an independent culture truly compete in a capitalistic market?

The parties and nightlife of Silicon Alley helped to constitute the production of the industry, not the other way around (140).

  • What other forms of networking have emerged among tech workers that have shaped our understanding of new media?

Entrepreneurial Labor among Cultural Producers: “Cool” Jobs in “Hot” Industries, Social Semiotics, 15 (2005): 307-334, with Elizabeth Wissinger & Sharon Zukin.

An unappreciated dimension of the impact of one relatively small sector of the overall economy is that work in culture industries has cultural value: the industry is "hot," and the jobs are "cool" (310).

  • What is it about these new media jobs that makes them so alluring and why are workers so willing to take risks in order to achieve such a position? What are the tradeoffs for "cool" jobs? Who ultimately benefits from such risk-taking: corporations or workers?

Permanently Beta: Responsive Organization in the Internet Era, in Philip Howard and Steve Jones, eds., Society Online: The Internet in Context, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2003, pp 173–188, with David Stark.

Permanently beta would be a product that never leaves the test phase. The internet makes it possible to distribute products that are continually updateable and almost infinitely customizable-- products that, in effect, never leave a type of beta phase (177).

  • What shift in cultural values accompanied the commercialization of the internet?