The Play of Work
Amanda Schurr, 2016
“My work is a game, a very serious game.” — M.C. Escher
Throughout the Fall 2016 semester, I immersed myself in research on the Future of Work in its many interdependent frameworks: education, government and politics, gender, the modern family unit, socioeconomics, culture, healthcare and wellness, geography and global relations, climate change and the environment, and demography. How has the narrative of “work” evolved, and how might this evolution transform with even more complexity given the advent of Artificial/Augmented Intelligence, the potential end of retirement and up to seven different generations coexisting in the workplace at once, the decline of marriage and birthrates, changing professional and personal values, and other variables? From Strauss-Howe Generational Theory to Stewart Brand’s The Long Now to Paul Taylor and the Pew Research Center’s recent “history”/forecast The Next America, I examined patterns and intersecting ecologies, along with workforce analytics, trends and disruptors. This installation was, quite literally, a playful means of presenting some of my findings.
With The Game of Life, I revisited the classic 1960 version of a childhood favorite, annotating its now remarkably antiquated milestones with current data to spotlight how our priorities and paths have shifted. Nearby in this makeshift post-nuclear living room was a TV on which was broadcast a recent look at where the Future of Work is taking humankind; scrolling at the bottom of the screen was a curated ticker stream of news headlines, current and otherwise. Visitors were encouraged to think up their own future scenario—no idea was too outlandish.
For a comparison with predictions of barely a decade ago, playing cards from the Institute for the Future gamified skillsets and jobs that reflect our increasingly collaborative, agile, knowledge-based and creative workforce. Lastly, on the wall was a tongue-in-cheek experiment titled Persona Non Grata, in which guests were invited to share the stereotype or assumption that peeved them the most about their given generation—Boomer, X, Millennial, or otherwise. Though each era is shaped by different events at different stages of life, the question guiding my research was: Are we all that different, or have we simply adapted slowly over time to “work,” and what it means to each of us? Most importantly, how can this help us better understand one another, and how we can work together longer, better?