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The Great Watercooler in the Cloud: Melissa Gregg on Distributed Work, Collegial Presence, and Mindful Labor Post-COVID

Date and Time: 
Tuesday, April 6, 2021. 05:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Zoom
Workshop: 
Digital Aesthetics: Critical Approaches to Computational Culture
Meeting Description: 

The immediate shift to so-called "remote work" in the pandemic created an extraordinary instance of corporate reckoning: hierarchies seemingly so solid and impenetrable evaporated within weeks as workers rapidly adjusted to doing their job in slippers. Previously commonsense notions of the day's rhythms - the obligatory performance of a 9 to 5 persona - faced critical contaminants in the form of children, spouses, and pets. Meanwhile the surprisingly social elements of office life became apparent in their obvious absence. Zoom fatigue replaced team-building drinks as the dominant affective mode. As the work world prepares for a return to something other than normal, this talk draws on multiple studies of technology users in lockdown and previous research on productivity to understand the condition of professional intimacy post-COVID. In doing so, it reflects on the psychological, physical, and environmental burdens embedded in the idea of "work from anywhere."

Melissa Gregg is Intel's chief social scientist and thought leader for user experience (UX). With a PhD in gender and cultural studies, she is an international expert on the future of work and a specialist in applied ethnography. Her over 60 peer-reviewed publications and books have anticipated key shifts in the experience of connected work and home life, from Work’s Intimacy (Polity 2011) to Counterproductive (Duke 2018), The Affect Theory Reader (Duke 2010) to the new collection, Media and Management (Meson Press 2021). Following an academic career in Australia, Melissa led Intel’s first university investment in social computing before building user research to a position of strategic impact in the PC business. Her team now guides the roadmap for product development and architecture across consumer and commercial segments, including the EVO brand. As Chief Technologist for Sustainability in the Client Computing Group, Melissa inspires technologists, colleagues, consumers, and customers to accelerate the transition to carbon neutral computing. This requires a fundamental reckoning with business as usual for the PC industry, to ensure the finite resources providing connectivity today can continue in to the future.

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