How the digitization of work affects us all

A customer sits near a Bitcoin machine at the Old Shoreditch Station Cafe and Bar in east London March 7, 2014.

Blurred lines ... is greater work-life integration actually good for us? Image: REUTERS/Andrew Winning

Claudio Cocorocchia
Platform Curator, Shaping the Future of Media, Information and Entertainment, World Economic Forum Geneva
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Is the digitization of work ultimately good or bad for society? Now that’s a loaded question.

There are many aspects of digitally transformed work that can be considered good: increased mobility, less need of a dedicated work space, increased productivity from new tools: the list goes on. One interesting development cited in the World Economic Forum’s Digital Media and Society report is that digitization has enhanced the “flexibility for workers and employers, boosting productivity and enabling greater work-life integration”.

But is greater work-life integration actually good for us? Does blurring the boundaries of private and professional life enhance society? Perhaps this works wonders on employee and corporate performance, but the implications on family life and health leans more to the negative side, in my opinion. In fact, our tendency as humans is to never really “disconnect” from our digital productivity tools, a behaviour analogue with use of digital media for personal reasons.

Guy Standing, a British economist and author of The Percariat, argues that globalization “commodifies” everything, increasing the number of people doing insecure forms of work. The precariat works when and in whatever circumstances employers choose, creating short-term jobs that lead to a short-term lifestyle with little hope of building a future or a career.

In the media and entertainment industry, we have seen the gradual commoditization of premium content (the music industry as a case in point), so a similar effect on work and jobs could also be expected. Standing believes that because of its constant distractions, online connectivity conditions people towards a general short-term philosophy on life.

You can view seven short videos about the societal implications of digital media and the impacts on various aspects of our lives:

Author: Claudio Cocorocchia, Content Lead, Media, Entertainment and Information Industries, and a Global Leadership Fellow

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