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I’m the boss of MySelf Inc.

I’m the boss of MySelf Inc.

I’m the boss of MySelf Inc.

In Article — By Nefula — 22.06.2017

A small overview on the self-employment drama that, maybe, really isn’t.

Three days ago on this webpage appeared the first guest’s article of our Journal. Do you feeling our pride?
I bet you do, even if you are reading from an old-small-low-res display.
The article firmed by Identity Atlas is about the Non-Résumé project, an answer to the CV madness that characterizes our time.
Even if the literally meaning of “curriculum vitae” is “the course of life”, Identity Atlas observes, it isn’t a faithful representation of our lives since we are not putting our mistakes, wrong choices, afterthoughts in it. Whatever medium you choose for your CV, it will be your best opportunity to look professional, smart, brilliant and, finally, find a job. So nowadays résumé is a lot more important than Leonardo Da Vinci could have imagined when he wrote the first CV.
To be honest, CV is becoming quite an obsession, a self-branding tool.
Some time ago at Nefula we had fun when a friend of ours, who we hadn’t seen for a long time, started a conversation saying: «Hey, I heard you’ve been invited to the X conference! I bet you wrote it in your résumé, isn’t it?». But maybe this is no a laughing matter.


The last post by Salvatore Iaconesi on our Journal is about the Future of Work, and it starts from the definition of what “work” means.
For his purpose Salvatore chose the definition of work as «the physical or mental activity in order to achieve a result, which usually corresponds to an economic compensation of some kind».
But, as Salvatore specified in his introduction, “work” is not only definable in the economic sense.
Work contributes to determinate who we are.
In the Refusal of Work, David Fraybe is a cornerstone of our work-centred society:

“The connection between identity and occupation is forged from a young age, with children being prompted by parents and educators to refine their career aspirations and begin cultivating their employability. In the work-centred society, the most readily accepted purpose of education is the socialisation of young people for the successful adoption of a pre-defined work role. If every society has its own way of measuring achievement, in affluent societies this is usually through work. Conversations with strangers often start with the question ‘What do you do?’ (a dreadful question to ask a person who does not work, or who dislikes the work that she does), and it is common knowledge that this question represents an abbreviation for ‘What job do you perform?’.”

Often, after the end of the school, new graduates are encouraged to “find a place in the real world”.
Because a life without work is not a real life, isn’t it?

Thanks to @AcademiaObscura

The term “work” has a different meaning in the fields of arts and creativity. It used to describe «the artistic production of a particular author, composer, or artist, regarded collectively» (Oxford Dictionary).
And here we are: could a creative work, the process of the material embodiment of talent and sensibility, be considered as labour?
This is the existential trouble of the workers of the cultural and creative industry.
On this issue, Peggy Deamer wrote an essay that starts with an inspiring story:

“At a recent symposium, a young audience member asked the distinguished panelists what she could expect from a career in architecture. One of the panelists answered fervently: “Architecture is not a career. It is a calling!”

The essay is part of the must-read of The Architecture Lobby, an organization «that argues for the value of architecture, beginning by identifying ourselves as workers and our contributions as “work” – work that is aesthetic, technical, social, organizational, environmental, administrative, fiduciary, but in all cases, work.»
Every day the creative industry workers have to face with the inability to access to all the things that labour should ensure: social protection, financial stability, job security, bonuses or health insurance…
It’s seems to be a losing battle. Freelance work is winning.
Precarity Pilot, a platform that aims to create a collective way to deal with precariousness in design, defines this process as self-precarisation:

“Self-precarisation denotes the decisions and processes through which workers decide to precarise themselves. For designers and other cultural producers, this includes taking precarising decisions in order to be able to stay within the creative industries.

This does not just concern the cultural and creative industry: freelance work is spreading everywhere.
It is the gig-economy baby.

#money #unicorn #cash #silicon valley #startups, the hashtags of this images are close to form an Haiku

A new kind of worker emerged for the bowers of the 21st century labour: the entreprecariat.

“The entreprecariat is the semi-young creative worker who put effort in her own studio while freelancing for Foodora, the manager on the verge of a burnout, the employee who needs to reinvent himself as soon as his short-term contract is over, the fresh graduate who struggles to repay his loan with a top-notch university.”

Silvio Lorusso describes the entreprecariat as a self-employee, and he/she might enjoy it:

“But one can’t properly describe the precariat without referring to a genuine enthusiasm, sometimes of a euphoric kind, that often emerges from these conditions. This animation is fundamentally entrepreneurial, it’s a dynamic energy that demands to turn precarity into flexibility, at least at the level of perception.”

Yes, because the self-employed is a double-edged sword. In her essay Neither Scylla nor Charybdis: some muses on forming one’s practice and resisting bad arguments Valeria Graziano wrote about how, when the responsibility of success is put on the worker’s shoulders, easy it is to become our own worst enemies:

“At a first glance, self-management is often perceived as being preferable to being managed by others. In self-managed working environments relationships tend to be less hierarchical and more informal in tone. [...] At other times, self-management becomes a sort of self-discipline and self-exploitation in which we are constantly encouraged to change our personality or police our behavior to match what is required of us. In other words, if self-management means to simply moves the locus of control from the boss’s office to our own head, it can solve very little of our problems at work, and it might indeed intensify them. Moreover, stress and anxiety provoked by self-imposed working regimes might affect our health and wellbeing in deeper ways, as our boss literally lives with(in) us and might never stops nagging or reminding us of that upcoming deadline.”

In gig-economy self-employees and entreprecariats are the new working class, but they think they are brands. We mix our personal life with our work life, we have friends that tomorrow could be colleagues or collaborators, we have bedrooms that could be offices if necessary. In the same space of our social-network timeline we mix love relations, work stuff and message for our far-away grand-ma.
And we all know that our Facebook, Twitter, Whatever profiles are scanned from our clients and competitors.
Furthermore, there is the issue of time-management: the incessant try to to increase personal productivity and find a more efficient way of work.
Oliver Burkeman considers it a dominant motif of our age:

“Time management promised a sense of control in a world in which individuals – decreasingly supported by the social bonds of religion or community – seemed to lack it. In an era of insecure employment, we must constantly demonstrate our usefulness through frenetic doing, and time management can give you a valuable edge. Indeed, if you are among the growing ranks of the self-employed, as a freelancer or a worker in the so-called gig economy, increased personal efficiency may be essential to your survival. The only person who suffers financially if you indulge in ‘loafing’ – a workplace vice that Taylor saw as theft – is you.”

All this, obviously, is the perfect habit for the growing of a certain number of paradoxical stories.
One of this, that sounds like a dystopian novel, is the story of Mary the Lyft 9-months pregnant driver who took rides while she was in labor.

“After a few rides, Mary started having contractions. Since she was still a week away from her due date, she assumed they were simply a false alarm and continued driving. But as the night went on, they didn’t stop, so Mary decided to drive herself to the hospital. Since she didn’t believe she was going into labor yet, she stayed in driver mode, and sure enough — ping! — she received a ride request en route to the hospital. Luckily, the ride was a short one.”

Here we wouldn’t talk about 24/7, so that you do not get anxiety, but you know: Mary could work while she’s having a baby.

Mary’s daughter wearing a “Little Miss Lyft” onesie

All of this looks like a huge mess.
And it probably really is.
All of this is part of the Strange Now that we are living in this moment, in our fast-changing present.
Here at Nefula, we feel that we are in this mess. So we are exploring the Future of Work, an exercise that a lot of people, in different ways, are trying to do in these last years. From our personal point of view, this process is having a lot of value because, while we are doing our research, we have a good occasion to face our fears and our hopes, that are the same of many different people and realities. Until now we were able to find out many questions, and very few answers. And this can be seen as a good results, in some way.
We would like if all these actions of investigation about the Future of Work could be the trigger for collective discussions on how we want to work tomorrow. We all have to enlarge our imaginary about what work is, and its role in our lives and society. We should be able to create our own visions on the possible near future of work, alternative ones to the dominant idea of future. We have to take our present choices in order to create our desirable futures.
This is why Nefula is studying the present and the futures of work, moved by selfish reasons and intellectual curiosity.


But if we don’t have answers or directions yet, there is one thing that really makes us very convinced: we will never ever eat Soylent or do 10-minutes-workout-for-desk during our lunch break, even in the near or very far future!


Cover image credit: The Founder project


Nefula is the first italian studio of Near Future Design.
Nefula loves humans and the Earth, but also imaginary worlds and fictional beings.


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