We are all familiar with Web 2.0 technology and whether we like it or not, it has easily become a part of our daily lives. Web 2.0 not only includes the social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter but also Google, Wikipedia and even this blog site. With the advancement of technology today, companies are using some of the power structures and ideologies embedded in our use of Web 2.0 for oppression or hegemonic practices. For example, do you carry a company cell phone? Is your company email set up on your personal phone? These are just a couple common ways that organizations use technology to gain “control” over employees.
Eisenberg & Goodall state, “Although face to face interaction is still important in todays organizations, advances in communication technology have overcome some of the limits of face to face interaction.” (Eisenberg et al, 2010, p. 301) Some examples of this are video conferencing (Skype) or even work IM. These technologies are implemented to improve work processes and employee productive. There are two types of communication technologies used in the workplace: computer assisted communication technology: (fax, email, smartphones, Internet) and computer assisted decision aiding technologies (information retrieval database systems, online management systems). These are used to “enhance the speed of communication and enable people to communication regardless of geographic location” (Eisengberg et al, 2010, p. 301). Could you imagine completing your job without the use of Internet or email? Me either. I see the use of these technologies in the workplace from the utopian view where it serves to equalize power relations at work by bridging time and space. But it should be noted that I am a fan and avid user of technology so that may influence my opinion. Some employees that may see the use of technology like this through a dystopian view, limiting our freedom under corporate surveillance and scrutiny (Eisenberg et al, 2010, p. 303).
I work in a call center where of course “our calls are monitored for quality and assurance purposes.” But more than just our calls are monitored for quality assurance. Our computer screens are monitored as well while we are on calls. Don’t play a game of solitaire or go on a non work related website while talking on the phone with a customer because executive management can pull any call and listen to it as well as see what’s you are doing on the computer screen. Also you may not want to send an email to your fellow coworker about how you dislike the new hire. Most companies monitor emails as well. Is it all a bit much? Maybe, but then again, maybe not. Because you are on the clock and most importantly interacting with a customer on a call, from the company’s perspective, your main priority and focus should be on that interaction. Not a shopping website, game or email. So I do understand the company’s process with that type of monitoring. However, in call centers one thing that is extremely important and monitored is how you use your paid and unpaid time. Lunches/breaks, vacation/sick time is looked at closely in this environment. If anything is out of adherence to your schedule you run the risk of corrective action or even termination. As we all know, emergencies and unforeseen circumstances do occur, so are they taken into consideration? Depends on your tenure, performance and honestly how well liked you are by management. However if you are supposed to be out on sick leave or on a day of bereavement, don’t take a FB photo on a beach! Don’t put up a tweet about what a great time you had at last night’s event! I have witnessed employees get written up for these situations (which can be justified for dishonest behavior) and it brings up another form of technology surveillance. Having all of your coworkers as Facebook friends may seem like a great idea but if thats the case you want to be aware of what you post. And that is a good thing to keep in mind in general, as employers often look to social media profiles before and after the hiring process. This can pose a problem for some people who may feel that their profiles show personal activities and interests and should not be used as evaluation of their work ethic. “The effects of electronic surveillance on people’s right to privacy is a major issue.” (Eisenberg et al, 2010, p. 307) This form of monitoring and oppression fits within the six concerns in analysis of communication technology:
1. Humans are agents.
2. Tacit knowledge should be respected.
3. Understanding is partial.
4. Technology is politically ambiguous.
5. Informal communication must be acknowledged.
6. Counterrational decision making must be acknowledged. (Eisenberg et al, 2010, p. 304).
Personally, I don’t have a resistance to the technological monitoring in my company because I feel that during my work shift, the tools I am using belong to the company so of course they have the right to monitor everything work related. It’s something I have become accustomed to and I follow the rules accordingly. But now that I think about it, I may have been programmed to feel this way. 🙂
Thinking ahead to Web 3.0 and what that will look like, I am thinking it will be a more monitored but more mobile platform. Privacy agreements as well as advertisements on sites such as Facebook or Google may be tailored more toward the user. Occasionally on my Facebook I will see things related to my interests and hobbies (such as the suggestion to “like” the page of an artist who performed at a concert I just attended) and wonder how did Facebook know that? The technology world is moving toward live stream of pictures and videos with the creation of apps such as Vine, Keek and Instagram video. Everyone will basically be the star of their own reality show, which could bring more hegemonic practices and privacy issues because not only is your information public but your live image, location and surroundings are as well. I also see the evolution of electronic personal assistants taking place in Web 3.0. With features such as Siri for iPhone gaining so much popularity and utilization in today’s world, this technology can help those of us who cant afford to hire a personal assistant (me) in our busy day-to-day lives. Lastly with Web 3.0, I foresee the availability of GPS tracking for employers (to locate an employee’s whereabouts while on the clock ) becoming more widespread. This would undoubtedly cause many privacy issues and dismay to employees. Verizon Wireless actually already offers a tracking program of this sort that they provide as an option to their business customers. Now that is a practice that I would be resistant to.
How is oppression or hegemonic practices used in your workplace? Are you resistant or receptive to these practices?
*Images courtesy of Google Images*
Eisenberg, E.M., Goodall, H.L. & Trethewey. A. (2010) Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint. (6th ed.) Boston: Bedford/St.Martin’s.