The contemporary digital work environment favours technocratic values of efficiency, productivity, and engagement. Microsoft’s widely used productivity software MyAnalytics plays into this by turning e-mails into metrics, graphs, and diagrams. The software monitors how many mails someone sends, the time spent writing them, and how many colleagues the sender communicates with and for how long. However, none of these metrics can grasp the content and nuances of interpersonal communication. As mailing culture becomes subject to quantitative metrics and productivity scores, qualitative output is measured through quantitative metrics.
In its insights on wellbeing, MyAnalytics asks, ‘Are you able to disconnect and recharge?’. When technological language is used to discuss human wellbeing, what does that imply? Are we solely ‘recharging’ to restart the working day fresh to get productive? Today’s workers are hyperemployed. The office moves into the bedroom as users easily switch between work and leisure with a few clicks on the same device. MyAnalytics continues to monitor employees outside of working hours, turning wellbeing into a productivity metric. The software reinforces a work-life balance by paradoxically crossing the boundaries between work and non-work.
Watch Me Work presents three fictional characters – based on interviews with workers – who respond to MyAnalytics’ wellbeing monitoring. After working hours, the characters repeatedly send MyAnalytics e-mail updates as they anxiously try to keep up with tasks - sometimes falling asleep, only to be woken up again by notifications. Tired, overwhelmed, and overworked, their mails give overly detailed reports, insights into their thoughts and moods, or reveal attempts at outsmarting their algorithmic boss. By emphasising the quantification of labour, Watch Me Work questions (meaningless) productivity at the expense of actually wellbeing.
Marijn Bril is a media art curator and (artistic) researcher. With an interest in the complexity and absurdity of digital culture, she explores topics ranging from networked images to digital metaphors. She reflects upon these predominantly through curated programs, essays, and exhibition interventions. Currently, Marijn is a student at the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master program Media Arts Cultures, at the universities of Krems (AT), Aalborg (DK), and Łódź (PL). Marijn has worked with CIVA Festival, The Wrong Biennale, Inter Media Art Institute, Young Curators Academy, and Institute of Network Cultures.
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