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Strange New Work

Author: Tara McMullin

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Lots of people are talking about the future of work today: remote work, artificial intelligence, white-collar unions, robots, 4-day workweeks... But those things are either here already or will be soon. What about the far future of work? What alien advancements await the office of the future? This podcast wants to boldly go where no other future-of-work podcast has gone. Host Tara McMullin (What Works) brings this limited series about how speculative fiction can help us imagine strange new ways of working and understanding ourselves. We'll explore questions about how we can transform work to be more humane and inclusive. We'll imagine new ways of working together, managing the economy, and providing for others.
9 Episodes
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Join Tara McMullin for a journey into the far future of work, and consider how we can create more humane, inclusive, and supportive work environment.The first episode of Strange New Work drops September 14! Support the show at: whatworks.fyiStrange New Work is brought to you by What Works with Tara McMullin and YellowHouse.Media.
The future of work doesn't have to be an extension of today's reality.This is the first installment in Strange New Work, a new series from What Works about imagining radically different ways of working and doing business.In this episode, I take a closer look at speculative fiction and its role in the collective imaginary. Is science fiction all space operas and apocalyptic battles? Not hardly. Science fiction isn't really about the future. It's a commentary on and reimagining of the present.Footnotes: All of the books I mention in this series can be found here. No Time to Spare by Ursula K. Le Guin The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara The Jewel-Hinged Jaw by Samuel Delaney "The Epistemic Value of Speculative Fiction" by Johan de Smedt and Helen de Cruz "Sci-Fi Idea Bank" by Packy McCormick Ursula K. Le Guin in conversation with The Nation on YouTube Vauhini Vara on Amanpour and Company on YouTube "The Measure of a Man" Star Trek: The Next Generation (Season 2, Episode 9) Each installment in Strange New Work is published in essay form at WhatWorks.FYILove What Works? Support the show and my work by becoming a premium subscriber for just $7 per month. Learn more!
Artist and writer Morgan Harper Nichols is a world-builder. She says, "Worldbuilding, for me, [is] a form of expansive hope—a necessary imagination for being alive." What is world-building? It's the process of creating secondary, fictional worlds. There's world-building in all sorts of fiction—but especially science fiction, speculative fiction, and fantasy.And world-building as a practice—a necessary imagination—can be a tool for mapping a better work environment, too.Footnotes:Find out more about Morgan Harper Nichols on Substack, her website, and Instagram.Read the piece that inspired this conversation.The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley RobinsonN.K. Jemisin on world-building on Wired and LitHubTo Write Love On Her Arms"What is capitalist realism?" by Tara McMullin, featuring Iggy PerilloEvery episode of What Works is also shared as an essay at whatworks.fyi—become a free subscriber to get weekly posts delivered to your inbox or upgrade to a premium subscription for access to bonus content and quarterly workshops for just $7 per month!All of the books I mention in this series are in the Strange New Work Bookshop list.Strange New Work is a special series of What Works and hosted by Tara McMullin.
Today's work happens in tiny slivers of time. And we try to optimize each minute or hour for all its worth. But remarkable work? Well, that takes time. And lots of it. The kinds of work that are central to our evolving economy—care work, maintenance work, creative work—require more time rather than more optimization. In this episode, I consider how viewing work through the long-term lens can help us reimagine projects and systems in a way that's more just, equitable, and beneficial for all involved.Footnotes: Find out more about Jordan Maney  Follow Jordan on Substack and Instagram Find out more about Joanna L. Cea Grab a copy of Beloved Economies The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz "How to Build a Planet" on Our Opinions Are Correct "The Seven Practices" from Beloved Economies The Parable of the Sower & The Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler "A Few Rules for Predicting the Future" by Octavia Butler What Works is a podcast hosted by Tara McMullin that explores how to navigate the 21st-century economy without losing your humanity.  Love What Works? Become a premium subscriber for just $7 per month. Your subscription helps make my work sustainable and gets you access to twice-monthly This is Not Advice episodes, quarterly workshops, and more. Click here to learn more and preview the premium benefits!
Social and professional norms aren't natural or innate. They're political. Those in power exert their preferences on those who aren't, and throughout history, have exerted social, cultural, and physical violence to either force subjugated people to assimilate or drive them out of society altogether.Speculative fiction is rife with tales of imperial conquest and colonization. And it's helpful for identifying the kinds of control and domination that we deal with daily, even though many of us never notice it. Speculative fiction can help us see harm for what it is, recognize the damage done by colonizers, and imagine forms of resistance.In today's episode, I dive into the harms of imperialism, how supremacy culture forms the basis of professionalism, how Indigenous futurism gives us a way to "imagine otherwise," and what coach and author Charlie Gilkey recommends for creating a culture of belonging at work through team habits.Footnotes:"Remote work gave them a reprieve. They don't want to go back" by Samantha Masunaga for LA TimesThe Imperial Radch Trilogy by Ann LeckieAnn Leckie on Geek's Guide to the Galaxy"Unsettled" in Buffalo is the New Buffalo by Chelsea Vowel"Indigenous futurism" on WeRNative.org"From growing medicine to space rockets: What is Indigenous futurism?" on CBC's Unreserved, featuring guest Grace DillonWalking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction edited by Grace Dillon"White Supremacy Culture" by Tema OkunTeam Habits by Charlie GilkeyThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky ChambersSolarpunk MagazineLove What Works? Become a premium subscriber for just $7 per month. Your subscription helps make my work sustainable and gets you access to twice-monthly This is Not Advice episodes, quarterly workshops, and more. Click here to learn more and preview the premium benefits!Strange New Work is a special series from What Works that explores how speculative fiction can help us imagine new ways of working.
Think the future of housework looks like Rosey the Robot from The Jetsons? Or maybe just a fleet of Roombas keeping every inch of a house free of dust or dirt?Think again. Housework is ready for a much, much bigger disruption. Of course, housework is rarely portrayed in pop culture space cowboy science fiction. And when it is, it's all about the high-tech solutions to trivial issues like making dinner or scrubbing dishes. But many quieter (and more constructive) speculative stories do consider how housework might evolve in a completely different direction.How we restructure housework—domestic and reproductive labor—is key to rethinking how we approach the future of all kinds of work. How we live impacts how we work. And how we work impacts how we live. And this episode is going there.Footnotes: Frances Gabe's Self-Cleaning House After Work by Helen Hester and Nick Srincek A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers Embassytown by China Miéville Too Like The Lightning by Ada Palmer "What Communes and Other Radical Experiments in Living Together Reveal" on The Ezra Klein Show Everyday Utopia by Kristen Ghodsee The Perennials by Mauro Guillén "The demographics of multigenerational households" via Pew Research Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk and Robot) by Becky Chambers A Spectre, Haunting by China Miéville Can't Even by Anne Helen Petersen Love What Works? Become a premium subscriber for just $7 per month. Your subscription helps make my work sustainable and gets you access to twice-monthly This is Not Advice episodes, quarterly workshops, and more. Click here to learn more and preview the premium benefits!
Made for Work

Made for Work

2023-10-1927:47

Find the work you were born to do. Do what you were meant to do. Discover the work that makes you feel alive.We've all heard these messages. Crack open any career, self-help, or personal development book on your shelf, and you're sure to find a similar message. It seems pretty convenient that our "purpose" in life is work, doesn't it?In this episode, I unpack the "made for work" message, take it to its logical sci-fi ends, and draw on a key idea in the sociology of work to consider how we might shape the next 40 years into something more humane.Footnotes: "If you 'don't dream of labor,' should organize for socialism" by Caitlyn Clark for Jacobin Embassytown by China Miéville Translation State by Ann Leckie The Terraformers by Annalee Newitz The New Spirit of Capitalism by Eve Chiapello & Luc Boltanski Love What Works? Become a premium subscriber for just $7 per month. Your subscription helps make my work sustainable and gets you access to twice-monthly This is Not Advice episodes, quarterly workshops, and more. Click here to learn more and preview the premium benefits!
What's the most undervalued skill of the 21st-century economy? Moderation.I very well might be forgetting something. But with more of our lives and work showing up online every day, the way our feeds, data, and connections are moderated is critical to our daily lives. Moderation can be many things—it's how platforms are designed, how content is incentivized or de-incentivized, and how communication between people is mediated. Some moderation is done structurally, some is done with code, but lots of moderation is done by real people all over the world.In this episode, I take a close look at the skill of moderation, its role in our evolving tech futures, and the politics that complicate this essential work.Footnotes: "Welcome to hell, Elon" by Nilay Patel on The Verge "Why Elon's Twitter is in the Sh*tter with Nilay Patel" on Offline with Jon Favreau Fall; Or, Dodge in Hell by Neal Stephenson Work Without the Worker by Phil Jones "Content Moderation is Terrible by Design" featuring Sarah T. Roberts on Harvard Business Review "Moderating Social Media" on the agenda on YouTube "How Microwork is the Solution to War" by Ben Irwin on Preemptive Love "Reddit faces content quality concerns after its Great Mod Purge" by Scharon Harding Rosie Sherry on tips for content moderation "Neal Stephenson Explains His Vision for the Digital Afterlife" on PC Mag Love What Works? Become a premium subscriber for just $7 per month. Your subscription helps make my work sustainable and gets you access to twice-monthly This is Not Advice episodes, quarterly workshops, and more. Click here to learn more and preview the premium benefits!
Power. Some fear it. Others hoard it. Some with power speak softly. Others carry a big stick. Power is charisma, or coercion, or violence. Power is name recognition, or money, or computer code.Regardless of your definition or perceptions of it, power plays a critical role in how we work.Today, we explore power—what we can do with it, how we can grow it, and, critically, how we can share it—because power in the future of work will look very different than it does today.Footnotes:Find out more about Tania LunaLead Together by Tania LunaThe Power Paradox by Dacher KeltnerThe Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin"The Lathe of Heaven" BBC film adaptation"Mary Parker Follett—Creativity and Democracy" by Gary M. Nelson in Human Service Organizations"There Is a Better Way to Use Power at Work. This Forgotten Business Guru Has the Secrets" by Matthew Barzun in Time Magazine"Content Decision Making" via Sociocracy For AllEmergent Strategy by adrienne maree brownThe Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin"A Band of Brothers, a Stream of Sisters" by Ursula K. Le Guin
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