29th October 2009 Making Tracks

There’s a piece of rail­way track in my house. It looks, unsur­pris­ingly, out of place. It wasn’t intended for the man­tel­piece or to be a doorstop. But now it’s here it would be quite a job to take it any­where else. You see, it’s incred­i­bly heavy. You need two hands to lift it even though…

A Fire-Fighter’s Hands

I was walk­ing through New Cross in South East Lon­don recently when I saw these pho­tos of fire-fighters’ hands. They were fixed to the rail­ings out­side the fire sta­tion, as a kind of heroic cel­e­bra­tion it seemed to me — and with just cause — of the work that fire-fighters do.

27th October 2009 When Home is Work

Stud­ies of home work (Fel­stead and Jew­son, 2000; Nippert-Eng, 1996) focus on the expe­ri­ence of doing (paid) work in your own home. They point to how the bound­aries between pub­lic and pri­vate are eroded. Some home­work­ers engage in a range of strate­gies to sep­a­rate home and work tem­po­rally and spa­tially – through clos­ing the ‘office’…

Toads, by Philip Larkin

26th October 2009 The Construction of a New Building

In Decem­ber 2005, just a few months into a two-year research con­tract at Essex, the bull-dozers arrived and started dig­ging directly out­side my office. Con­struc­tion of the new Social Sci­ence Research Build­ing was finally under­way. A good thing for sure, in prin­ci­ple but not in such close prox­im­ity. Still, I took to look­ing out of…

20th October 2009 The Good Saturday

Sat­ur­day used to be a stan­dard work­ing day. Fac­to­ries demanded a 6 day week, And if there was an extra day off to be had on top of a silent Sun­day, it would be Saint Mon­day. Shops opened late on Sat­ur­days for these 6 day week work­ers. As first Sat­ur­day after­noons and then Sat­ur­day mornings…

13th October 2009 The Letter and the Parcel and the Eternity of the Postman’s Job

There are forms of work which are una­menable to tech­no­log­i­cal change. The ques­tion of tech­nol­ogy replac­ing labour is an ongo­ing story in the study of work (see Braver­man on deskilling, or Sen­nett on the loss of craft skills). Some accounts of ser­vice work sug­gest that these are the least ‘vul­ner­a­ble’ to replace­ment, although researchers at…

8th October 2009 Norfolk Reed, Tradition in Decline

I got talk­ing to these reed­cut­ters in North Nor­folk one sunny Jan­u­ary Sun­day. They were sad about the decline of this tra­di­tional indus­try and the dearth of young peo­ple want­ing to work in it, and also com­plained about the high cost of thatched cot­tages in con­trast to their own low wages.

2nd October 2009 Down in the Tube Station at Midnight

I recently spent the night above a Tube sta­tion in North Lon­don. A friend of mine has moved into the sta­tion house there which is lit­er­ally built around the ticket office. You wouldn’t really notice it as a dwelling unless you knew, you’d just assume it was offices or some­thing. Any­way, the line is overground…

1st October 2009 work : place at the University of Essex

par­tic­i­pa­tory art at work I recently co-organised an exhi­bi­tion work : place explor­ing the expe­ri­ence of work at the Uni­ver­sity of Essex. We pro­duced a col­lec­tive artis­tic inter­ven­tion to describes the Uni­ver­sity on ‘What a Day’, the 18th March 2009. We received almost sev­enty entries into a com­pe­ti­tion that asked for an artis­tic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the…