The Hipster Effect » freelancing Identity, society and work in the age of perpetual connectivity Tue, 26 Mar 2013 00:35:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 I’m a time-shifter (and so are you) /2012/03/26/im-a-time-shifter-and-so-are-you/ /2012/03/26/im-a-time-shifter-and-so-are-you/#comments Mon, 26 Mar 2012 20:42:18 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=638 more]]> I used to be one of those people who hated TV. You know the type – I didn’t own one and I wouldn’t allow one in my home. My laptop was my own personal movie theater, and for me that was enough. A few years later I upgraded to a dedicated monitor, and not long after that I caved in and got myself a big old HDTV (and a correspondingly small box for streaming movies and, eventually, TV shows). After swearing it off for years, the realization finally dawned on me that what I’d hated wasn’t the act of watching content – it was the feeling of wasted time I got by endlessly flipping through channels on cable TV. With the nonstop flow of programming available there, it was just too easy to get lost in those channels, usually watching something I didn’t really want to be watching. I wanted to choose for myself how I would spend my time, and not to fall into fruitless time-sinks like channel-surfing.

Unlike pretty much all technologies that preceded it, the internet is, by its very nature, infinite. There is no set start or end – everything is available, all of the time. It is up to us to choose our own beginnings and endings, a freedom we are now coming to expect from older forms of media as they transition into the digital world. We want our movies, music and books to be available when we want them, where we want them, and though legions of viewers still watch American Idol live, scores more are happy to Tivo or download it to watch later, uncut and commercial-free. As the time-unrestricted nature of the internet has become an expectation that many now view as a fundamental human right, we increasingly expect to choose for ourselves not only how we want to live, but when.

As a freelancer who works from home, I often get lost when it comes to time. On many an occasion have I found myself wondering why there are so many people on the roads or in the subways before realizing duh, it’s rush hour, clueless. The ability to work remotely and on my own schedule means Saturdays can be Tuesdays, midnight can be lunchtime and the holiday break can be crunch time. While telecommuters represent an extreme version of a time-untethered existence, anybody who uses the internet is, to some extent, a time-shifter. Older generations gathered around the radio at a set hour to hear weekly broadcasts. The morning newspaper gave you all the news that was fit to print, and not an article or editorial more. Millions tuned in every evening to watch Walter Cronkite and once the national anthem played, that was it for TV viewing that night. These days, it’s up to us what we want to access and when – which is a good thing and a bad thing.

Now that we can choose for ourselves when and how we’re going to interact with just about any form of content out there, it’s also up to us to choose when to start, and when it’s time to stop. Anybody who’s surfed the internet knows how easy it is to get sucked into the LOLcats vortex, emerging hours later with that same sense of wasted time that once made me shun cable TV. With everything now available all the time, it’s up to us to choose when and how to interact with all that content, and with each other. When I first started freelancing, I had to set certain rules for myself to make sure I still got things done. Similarly, I have rules for myself when it comes to interacting with content. I still don’t allow cable TV in my home (though I’m an avid user of Netflix). I only use social networks on my own computer – no Twitter on my mobile or peeking in on Facebook when I’m at a friend’s. My phone gets shut down every evening when I’m done working, and so on. These rules impose a certain framework that helps me be more effective and less distracted, and all of that makes me a happier human being. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, with great freedom comes great responsibility. You’re darned right that I missed some deadlines in my early freelancing days due to irresponsible use of my new-found freedom; it wasn’t until I started actively managing that freedom that I began to truly reap the rewards. And it wasn’t until I set limits on my technology usage that I was able to fully enjoy it without being overwhelmed.

What about you, my fellow time-shifters? How do you keep yourself from getting sucked into the always on, always connected, always new world of internet content and interactions?


Image credit: Sean MacEntee


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The rising freelance ethos /2011/11/04/the-rising-freelance-ethos/ /2011/11/04/the-rising-freelance-ethos/#comments Fri, 04 Nov 2011 02:56:10 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=417 more]]> Clearance aisles don’t lie: standalone GPS units are on their way out. The same goes for MP3 players, consumer-level cameras, TVs and now even cars. Single function is passé. Multifunction is in.

As hardware technology matures, more and more functionality is being built into standard devices. Whether it’s in your pocket, your lap or your car, today’s devices are expected to perform a wide array of tasks previously reserved for single-function units. Long gone are the days when your phone was not also your calculator, your music player and your video camera. In today’s fast-paced world, we don’t want to switch devices every time we need to perform a new task. We just want to open a new program.

Offline, this trend has manifested itself as a growing interconnection between the different spheres of our lives. Facebook may be play and Outlook may be work, but when both can be accessed wherever you go using a single device, the two become harder to differentiate. And as a whole generation raised with a multifunction ethos is now attesting, the line between work and play is about to get a whole lot blurrier.

A recent report from Cisco shows just how dramatically workplace priorities are shifting to include the personal realm. 4 out of 5 college students want to choose which device they use for their jobs. 71% of students (and 68% of young employees) believe corporate devices should also be used for social media and personal use. In other words, the overwhelming majority of the next generation entering the workforce wants a custom device that can be used for both work and play. Nor do they think that work should be limited to the office – 3 out of 5 students think they have a right to work remotely with a flexible schedule. 7 out of 10 believe being in an office regularly is unnecessary. The message is clear: work is no longer a place you go. Work is a thing you do.

Just as our devices have grown to allow us to seamlessly switch between work and personal functions, so too have we shifted our concept of what each realm means. Work can be brought home, home can be brought to work, and the traditional notion of the workplace has been flipped on its head. While many have called it the rise of the freelance economy, the jobs themselves are not going to transform into project-based work overnight. What will transform is the traditional work ethic. Freelancers are accustomed to managing their own time and billing only those hours they spend working. As more employees start working remotely and spending more time in the office on personal tasks, the freelance ethos will continue its foray into the traditional workplace. Want to spend an hour playing around on Reddit? Go ahead, but don’t bill for it. Want to leave the office early and finish the project over the weekend? Go for it, just don’t miss the deadline.

With the blurring of the line between life and work has come an accompanying rise in the freelance mentality. If we expect to be free to work from home, we must prove that we are responsible enough to do so. Today’s students are already dealing with these issues and have developed the ability to manage their time efficiently. As they enter the workplace, they bring those same time management skills with them. Our devices have forced us to learn how to manage our own time on our own terms and the modern workplace is feeling the resulting shift in mindset. No, we’re not all going to suddenly become freelancers. But we sure are starting to think like them.

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