Digital media and the 40-hour work week

Not long ago, Nina Lentini edited one daily newsletter, worked from 9 to 6 at home Monday through Friday, and enjoyed nights, weekends and holidays with her family. Now, she edits not only that publication but also 10 weekly newsletters, which means starting at 7:30 a.m., working weekends and holidays–sometimes until 11 p.m.–and having her daughter help by replying to business-related messages as they drive around in the car.

As Michael Winerip details in his New York Times story, these weekly newsletters are sources of additional ad revenue that cost her employer virtually nothing to produce, since they're published online, Lentini still gets the same salary, and the writers who contribute free stories to them get "paid" only in links to their own Websites.

Lentini accepts these working conditions because she's glad to have a satisfying job with a good salary, considering the current economic and cultural landscape. "Everybody works like this now," Lentini told Winerip. "This is just the new reality." The problem is, he notes, "she remembers the old reality."

Skepticism toward new media is often written off as a generational divide, that people who aren't "digital natives" are just resistant to change or just don't "get it." Maybe, in fact, we do get it… "It" being the fact that the new reality is not an unqualified improvement over the old one.

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Texting costs $749 per megabyte, and other techno-skeptic holiday tales from my family

SMS XOXO coffee mug

My family has enjoyed chiming in on the Slow Media critique. For example, my aunt gave me this amusing coffee mug that serves as reminder of how much she loves texting.

This year's Christmas dinner provided a rich opportunity to talk Slow Media with my relatives. My dad, who's 85, just "got on e-mail" (again). Or so he claims… He has called me on the telephone to confirm receiving my e-mail messages but I have not actually received an e-mail from him yet. This is maybe the third time in a dozen years that he's set up an e-mail account, never used it, then canceled it. He retired (from the phone company) 20 years ago, before PCs were ubiquitous, so he's never really taken to the gooey interfaces, yet alone the series of tubes.

My brother, who at age 35 is a tech-savvy engineer, just "got on Facebook" a couple of months ago… but only because colleagues bribed or blackmailed him into it with some sort of Secret Santa shenanigans. He's already become disenchanted with the superficiality of online social networking and threatening to quit. It bothers him that on Facebook some "friends" do not treat him like, you know, friends. He says he plans to keep in touch with important people
in his life "in more meaningful ways."

Then my cousin, who's also 35 and works in finance, brought up the topic of exploitative text pricing. Consumer Reports has been running a campaign against the rising cost of text messages. Consumers Union, which publishes the magazine, says that cellphone companies keep raising per-text costs for customers without SMS plans, even though the actual cost to the companies of sending these short messages is negligible.

He sent me links to some Popular Mechanics articles that explain how texting now costs $749 per megabyte–more than four times what NASA pays to transmit data from the Hubble telescope back to Earth. The magazine also gives these useful tips for e-mailing text messages from your smartphone to obviate the extra charges. Of course, we could just give in and sign up for unlimited monthly packages. But, should we have to?

Now I'm thinking that technology resistance might run in my family.