August 2016 archive

The Five Minds for Success – Reading Response no. 6

In this text, psychologist Howard Gardner suggests five types of minds that he believes we need to take on in order be successful in the future. Relating to mental attitudes opposed to skills and knowledge, the five minds he asserts are:

1. The disciplined mind – one that holds the ability to persist to attain a specific skill or certification
2. The synthesizing mind – one that makes connections between disparate pieces of information
3. The creating mind – one that comes up with new ideas and offers fresh outlooks towards things
4. The respectful mind – one that takes special consideration of others, welcomes human differences and tries to work effectively with all kinds of people
5. The ethical mind – one who is conscious of how their actions and work affects society

He then goes on to critique the education sector and its narrow focus on science and technology. Her primary argument is that if the education does not broaden its curriculum to encompass social sciences (such as arts, humanities, civics, ethics health and safety) then individuals will never be able to adopt the five mindsets that will enable them to succeed.

Upon initial thought, I was transported back to high school and the familiar phrase ‘when are we ever going to use this in life?’ entered my head. In some respects, this age-old question has some level of merit to it, as realistically we rarely revisit our high school science and maths unless we choose to go down that path. The formal education system is quite traditionalist in the sense that the curriculum has changed very little in the last 50 or so years in light of the fact that our society has changed in such drastic ways.

However, relating the text to my own experience I would have to disagree with the apparent exclusivity of formal education. At my high school, we were offered a range of social science subjects in addition to traditional science and technology-related knowledge. In terms of the respectful and ethical minds – which are more so associated with human relations – we also undertook workshops and activities that had the end goal of improving our social skills and ability to work with one another. While we never learnt to do our taxes and how to truly ‘adult’ as they say, I feel like I came away with a breadth of knowledge that has certainly helped me to acquire the five mindsets, or at least in getting a taste of each.

Overall, I saw the point that the author was making but I do feel as though there were some gaps in their discussion. Perhaps the education system is making progress, but still has a long way to go.

Permanently Time-Poor – Reading Response No. 5

This reading poses some interesting questions and assertions about our relationship with time as a result of living in an acceleration society. By ‘acceleration society,’ the author implies the rapid rate in which technological advances are occurring and effectively changing the way we choose to allocate and utilise our time during both work and leisure.

It is interesting to acknowledge the fact that although digital technologies are essentially designed to save us time, they do not always have this effect. It’s as if these technologies place a greater expectation on workers to get more done in a day than what was once expected without said devices. In saying this, the fact that time is money induces the need for maximum efficiency and productivity within as little time as possible, which while this can potentially increase leisure time, it can also make us feel more pressured and rushed.

Further, the constant connectivity that these technologies enable makes it harder to (literally) switch off from work, which can interfere with our leisure time. Elaborating on this, Wajcman acknowledges how the abundance of ICTs affects our leisure in the sense that we are constantly renewing our devices, which requires a regular investment in new skill acquisition. She also highlights the fact that although new while modern autonomous technologies, such as driverless cars and smart kitchens, promote themselves as being time-saving and time-efficient devices, they will not necessarily solve our time-related problems.

This reading puts forward some interesting ideas in relation to the work/life balance. While it does not give us the answers, it certainly positions us to think about our time-related priorities and the pace of which we wish to live our lives.

Skills VS Passion – Reading Response no. 4

In this text, Cal Newport presents an interesting angle on particular attitudes and approaches towards work. Specifically, he reveals the mindset that he believes workers in all fields must assume in order to build a compelling and satisfying career – that is, the ‘craftsman mindset.’

The craftsman mindset is based on the idea that your skills and output trumps all, and by focusing on these assets you will ultimately lead a happy and fulfilling career. Newport uses musician Jordan Tice as an example, as he is so focused on his craft and skill set that he remains incredibly humble and content with what he is doing. By focusing purely on his music in attempt to create the best result possible, he does not let questions of self-validity cloud his view. Newport also acknowledges the career and tact of comedian and actor Steve Martin, who worked at his stand-up act for a solid 10 years before achieving his eventual success. Newport uses Steve Martin’s quote ‘be so good they can’t ignore you’ to demonstrate the strength of the craftsman mindset in achieving your goals.

Conversely, Newport highlights the fact that although the ‘passion mindset’ is perhaps more commonly held, it is much more problematic. According to Newport, the passion mindset focuses on “what the world can offer” you, and is based on the premise that “people thrive by focusing on the question of who they really are – and connecting that to work that they truly love.” However, Newport asserts that when you focus purely on what your work offers you, you will effectively start to concentrate on the aspects you don’t like about it, which will lead to unhappiness. Further, workers with the passion mindset also deal with the struggle of attempting to answer life’s impossible questions, e.g. ‘who am I’ and ‘what do I truly love’. He suggests that the inability to answer these questions will lead to prolonged confusion and self-doubt.

Whilst I certainly understand the worth of focusing on your outcomes over life’s hindering questions, I feel as though passion still comes into the equation somewhere. At some level I tend to agree with the counterargument, that is, that pre-existing passion can fuel the craftsman mindset. Newport dismisses these arguments as he claims that performers like Jordan Tice and Steve Martin would have sourced their craftsman mindset from a more pragmatic standpoint, such as the need to get by and source an income. But my question is, why would people pursue such uncertain and precarious positions in the first place, if not for passion?

job meme

Flexibility VS Exploitation – Reading Response No. 3

This reading outlines the issues surrounding media-related labour and the blurred lines between flexible working conditions and exploitation. This is immediately relevant for us as I found myself relating to a number of the issues raised, such as the pros and cons of extended low-paying or unpaid internships and the uncertainty of freelance media work. Safe to say this text has made me even more anxious about my future in this field and has positioned me to seriously consider extending my 2017 travel gap year by at least an extra year to further delay facing the harsh reality that is this industry.

Okay, let’s try to be positive here. The benefits of informal work do look good on paper, as indicated by Richard Flordia’s optimistic Rise of the Creative Class. Theoretically, through undertaking informal employment, you can work the hours that suit you and live an autonomous and liberated lifestyle. It is also relatively easy to start doing what you love in order to build your resume if you are prepared to do it for less than minimum wage or for free. In relation to my own life, I’m currently in this position with my recent creation of my own media production business, Elemdee Media. I’ve done some videography jobs for free and others for a small amount, and I’m flexible in the sense that I can edit videos from home and in my own time.

However, it is needless to say that informal employment in the media field has some serious downfalls. To name a few, there are no minimum wages, you run the risk of being exploited and you are usually either overworked or out of work entirely. Unpaid internships and months doing informal freelance jobs do not guarantee eventual job security or formal wages. If all this wasn’t enough, it is especially difficult for women to secure formal work in this field. Based on these facts, I tend to think Bakker’s description of this current state of as ‘digital sweatshops’ is sadly pretty accurate (2012). Additionally, the current nature of informal work also puts those in more formal 9-5 jobs in jeopardy as more and more unpaid ‘contributors’ may threaten the need for their full-time position all together.

Lobato and Thomas try to keep our pride intact by proposing some solutions for these issues faced by creative workers. They assert that in order for informal work to be ethical and fair, clear differentiation of intent needs to be identified (e.g. between unpaid internships with future career in mind and hobbies undertaken purely for self-satisfaction) and appropriate regulation needs to be put in place. In an ideal world, we need “the creation of regulatory systems that enable the most productive and rewarding kinds of formalities and informalities to coexist.” Easier said than done, but one can dream…