At lunch on Monday, after various grumblings about work drudgery, I proposed that office workers may soon revolt. Maggie scoffed, “They’ll never revolt, they’re paid too much for a cushy office gig doing nothing.” Hmm, I thought, and headed to the history stacks of the library, where I spent this morning reading every edition of Processed World in the collection, starting with volume 1 from 1981 through the 20th anniversary edition in 2.001 and a follow-up edition (2.005). Pretty terrific stuff that feels relevant today, which means that office culture has been consistently awful for the past 30+ years, with increased emphasis on data collection and filing, increased emphasis on looking busy sitting at one’s computer. The later issues gain Chris Carlsson’s input, and you see the influence of biking culture enter, with shout-outs to Critical Mass and the Great Bicycle Protest of 1896 which demanded better streets. I was particularly shaken by the article in the 2.001 volume about the Great Speed-Up (“the dramatic intensification of work, ostensibly because computers have made us so much more productive… “). 13 years later, we’re sped up even more. When will it stop?
I see the need for an updated zine; the typists and word processors and filers of the 80s are obsolete and problems now are around obsessive meeting culture (having a meeting to discuss a future meeting– I’ve been in too many of them) along with 24/7 work expectations. Things have changed over the last 15 years. We’re now tethered to the teat of emails and expected to respond within seconds up until 11pm, immediately reaching for the internet upon rising the next day.
I enjoyed articles in the early editions by Christopher Winks, Lucius Cabins, Tom Athanasiou, and appreciated the inclusion of feminist topics through the energy of Maxine Holz.
Graphic from Mother Jones’ article about working harder and longer for less and was reminded of Processed World by the Baffler’s recent issue.