Faculty Forum Online, Alumni Edition: Melissa Mazmanian PhD ’09

Faculty Forum Online, Alumni Edition: Melissa Mazmanian PhD ’09


>>Hi, I’m Whitney Espich, the CEO of MIT
Alumni Association. And I hope you enjoy this digital production created for alumni and
friends like you. Aviva Rutkin: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome
to the MIT Faculty Forum. My name is Aviva Rutkin and I’m going to be serving as today’s
moderator. I’m a master’s in 2013 in science writing and today I’m the math and data editor
at The Conversation US, a non-profit news publication. Before we get started, just a
reminder. We welcome all of your questions during this chat. We will get to as many as
we can. If you want to send them in, alumni , use the Q&A feature on the toolbar. Those
on you too can — YouTube 10 at questions to the comments stream. We encourage you to
tweet using #MITBetterWorld. Today we are hosting Melissa Mazmanian, 2900 and PhD program
at MIT. She is an associate professor of informatics as well as an associate professor in organization
and management in the Paul Merage school of management. She studies emerging relationships
to wireless modes of communication and the social dynamics. Her recent publications and
presentation also cover topics ranging from parenting in the digital age to discussions
of social economic stigma in online communities. Melissa, thanks for joining us. I will turn
it over to you to share some of your latest research on these topics. Melissa Mazmanian: Well, hi, everyone. It
is lovely to be here in my office. I was very pleased to be invited to be part of this forum.
I have really enjoyed my time and educational experience at MIT, so I’m happy to be back
at MIT however I can. A little about me. As Aviva said, I have a long-standing interest
in the role of communication technologies in our daily lives and our experience is in
the workplace. I have been a variety of ethnographic research from which means I go in and spent
a long time with people and get to know them and talk to them and observe them, hopefully
not in a weird way. But really engage with their everyday lives to understand how we
are experiencing everyday work practices, cultural norms and power dynamics both in
the workplace and outside the workplace, and the fact that when we have new forms of communication
that really allow us to shift our expectations of what is reasonable in terms of how often
we are going to be there for each other, be responsive, be available, how that shifts
relationships both personal and professional. And the effects of that on both organizations
and work practices and out experience of everyday life. That is the big umbrella I’ve worked
on for a dozen years or so, with lots of projects on the way. I am happy to answer questions
or talk about my research depending on what comes up. Rutkin: Why don’t we start with maybe kind
of an obvious question, but when you think about the technologies that are changing these
norms, the way that we live our lives, what kinds of technologies — what are the ones
that are the most dramatic agents of change? Mazmanian: So there is lots — that is a great
question. The one that comes to mind the most is this one. In the last — really in the
last 15 years we went from having zero accessibility outside of our desktop computers that were
situated in a home office or in an office, and now we go around with these things in
our pocket that are these kinds of Windows to all kinds of digitally mediated information
and communications. There are links to our family, to our friends, to our work, the news,
sports source, etc. We all know the multifunctionality of these devices. We are carrying around this
kind of communication prosthetics come in emotional prosthetic come information prosthetic,
and it changes our everyday life as well as what we can expect from each other. If somebody
sends you a text and you don’t respond, their immediate assumption is going to be not that,
oh, she didn’t get my message. It is, oh, she is choosing not to respond to my message
for whatever reason. That is a very different shift in accountability and how people relate
to each other in all the micro-moments of everyday life. That is kind of a big one.
I also study things like electronic medical records which really shifted the dynamics
of how work happens and how health care happens on a daily basis. I’ve studied electronic
legal files full to similarly, these big work systems that really affect who knows what,
when, was able to see what information and what kinds of things become visible in those
systems of the eye just how — and I just had a conversation with a new student who
is interested in cars and how cars are no longer the machines reimagines them from from
50 years ago, but they are really just like moving computers, and what that means for
our experience of this kind of vehicle that is going to take us from place a A to B. Lots
of different ones, but I would say this forefront is the most dramatic. — the smartphone is
the most dramatic. Rutkin: What kinds of — you say you do these
studies where you follow people that are kinds of trade-offs do you see people making to
handle those expectations? Mazmanian: That’s a really good question.
The phrasing of the question is kind of fascinating, only because I don’t see people think they
are making trade-offs. You are just living. For someone who is a little bit of an insider-outsider
— I’ve gotten to know you well — I frame it more as trade-offs because I think about
where is your attention at one moment. But very rarely do people think, oh, I’m trading
off between being a good parent or being a good colleague. They are trying to do both
at once always. But what it means to be a good parent and a good colleague simultaneously,
as qualitatively shifted when it is perfectly reasonable for your boss to be inattentive
for Kim and ask you to run a forecasting report. And it is perfectly reasonable for the school
teacher to text you and say, hey, why did so-and-so not get their homework in? And even
more formal systems — schools send e-mails — I’m sure many of you get this about how
your kid is doing, whether they submit assignments, etc. You are just living it. You are not thinking
of this as trade-offs, and I’ll most — I don’t it is interesting that people don’t
see it that way. You are just trying to do both. Rutkin: I’m going to ask a question — I’m
going to apologize because I think the chances of getting this name right is low — how do
you show engagement at work while at the same time disconnecting when people at work know
that you have your phone with you and you “should” be able to see it? Mazmanian: That is the catch 22 of today’s
professional environment. Numerous, numerous jobs really cultivate this kind of norm and
culture of what it is to be a good worker, which doesn’t all an idea that you are at
the ready, you are accessible — which does involve this idea that you are at the ready,
you are accessible. There is robust research of showing that this is a way of showing dedication
and competency. We have not clear metrics of what it means to be good at your job come
which is lots of jobs — consultants, most knowledge professionals. It is not like you
have something you build record be designed — that could be designed to break or not
break. It is not like you are a salesperson where you have clear numbers and if you reach
her numbers you can check off “I am a good worker.” A lot of these ambiguous jobs, we
are trying to figure out how we measure competency, and a lot of times accessibility becomes proxy
fortification and competency. It is a really thorny issue, and even organizations to understand
this is a problem still have a hard time figuring out what to do about it because it is so embedded
in our head . That is not what you wanted to hear, because
you are asking what might I do about that. What I can say is that there has been some
really interesting efforts — are worked with Leslie Perillo from Harvard business school
about efforts that happen at the level of project teams rather than individuals, or
even the bigger level if you can do it within a division or organization. But you have to
think of this as a collective issue. Who is it in your life that is expecting that kind
of responsiveness, and can you work with those people to develop different norms? I highly
recommend Leslie’s book . It is unpacking a change effort in a large consulting company
where I was part of that research where we went out and interviewed and understood and
helped facilitate a change effort that was at the project team level, where teams had
to create different ways of engaging so that individuals could take predictable time off,
which actually meant time away from their e-mail in the evenings. I think once you can
get a collective volume, and are nice strategies in that book about how to do that, that is
going to be the secret towards individuals getting more control over their time. It is
little that paradoxical that in order for you as an individual to get control over your
time outside of working hours, you actually need to collectively work together with your
peers and colleagues to do that. Of course, it requires some leadership buy-in and things
like that, but I think that might be the only answer. I don’t think anyone of us can just
choose to put it down when we live in those environments. Rutkin: Yeah, well, we have this comment that
I want to read. My concern that the individual’s time and life is becoming less there own.
The idea that if I do not read and answer right away, that means I’m sliding them. It
is the increasing demand and expectation that they own part of my time. When will one get
things done in their job, family, and life? Mazmanian: Good question, Carl, one that has
occupied me for about 15 years — or is it 12 years? You’re right, many of us experience
this in our everyday life, and again, I think there is a fundamental problem with the way
we think about smartphones and the way we experience them. If you look at the current
conversation about smartphones, it is about a user and a tool. What that implies to me
is that you have a single individual using a tool, and even when we talk about people
who overuse their technology, we use language like “addiction,” which is the language of
an individual problem, pathology. Very rarely in the conversation about smartphones do we
talk about how these tools are just making us to everyone around us. I also mention it
being like there is a person — I am must imagine it being like there is a person, there
is me, and there’s a million people around me. It could be my friends, my colleagues,
my babysitters from all the people I rely on in my everyday life. We are all connected
by a string , and in a way, once upon a time those strings had some slack in them, and
if somebody wanted my attention, they might tug at the string and it would travel, and
maybe I wouldn’t even feel the tug. I would say, oh, I didn’t get your voicemail. That
was frustrating, but it was a perfectly reasonable thing to not get someone’s voicemail message
for the eye remover when my family first got an answering machine. — I remember when my
family first got an answering machine. Before the answering machine the call would just
ring and ring. There were frustrations to living that way — we didn’t always know where
people were, etc. When we think about it, those strings are pulled super tight. When
someone tugs, you get jerked that way. When you are tugging others from it can the real
feeling of empowerment and stress relief — I can get this person to go pick up my kid from
school like that. I can check my e-mail and make sure nothing is going on at work and
I am on top of things. That can be a lovely feeling of agency. But of course can they
can tug at us just as much. We are very individualistic society in the U.S. You guys are all over
the world. We tended to focus on our ability to tug at others rather than stepping back
and conceptualizing how we are tu gging at each other. What you are talking about is
the experience of being tugged in multiple versions by multiple people and these technologies
have facilitated because of it capacity of the technology and the layering of social
expectations that now you have to be at the ready — otherwise, you are not a good colleague,
not good at work, you don’t love your spouse from whatever it is. The social norms plus
the capacity of the tools have left us feeling tugged all over. Again, the answer — collectively.
I don’t think one individual can just put it down and actually live the lives you are
probably trying to live. Rutkin: So when you are living in that state,
you have all those strings pulling on you. Do you have a sense — what is the emotional
cost what is the psychological cost that people pay for that? Mazmanian: So I am not a psychologist so I
cannot answer that from an informed research perspective, but I can just tell you my gut
sense of that. I think one of the things I find fascinating is that when I talk to people
about their stress, I used to think that I was getting really messy signals and really
messy data about living on stress. Then I actually realized that — I was asking them
about their experience of checking their e-mail this morning. They would tell me that the
phone helped their stress, because of that sense — they say those individual micro-moments
of control where I can be like, I’m looking, no one needs me, whew. Stress relief for that
second. However, if you are talking about big-picture careers and life goals and they
reframe the device as something that is really intensifying their stress because of its inability
to disconnect and reflect and figure out who do I want to be in this world. I think in
some ways it is kind of paradoxical effect on our emotional state where it simultaneously
allows us to feel like we are able to do and be more and is kind of taking away from or
undermining our ability to actually beware we want to be. Does that make sense? Rutkin: I think so. It’s interesting, it gets
to another question we have here from an anonymous person. Maybe you could answer this a little
bit. They want to know, how can you separate the device from the Internet when you study
these kinds of things. They want to know — this person — isn’t a lot of this research work
scrubbing medical ships since the World Wide Web came along? Mazmanian: I think that is a great question.
Yes, right, the Internet is facilitating these connections. It is facilitating having information
at our fingertips and people at her fingertips to a certain degree. But when those people
are actually at our fingertips, like in our pockets and carried around with us, it can
cause amplification of expectations, or ratcheting of expectations of how much we could and should
be available to each other. If my Internet access was really just reserved to my giant
screen right here in my office, it would be a very different experience. I would have
to physically go to a place to connect. I think that there is the very mobility of some
of these devices allows us — it shifts our expectations. That can both be freedom — I
have had many people telling me, I can leave the office now, and that is very lovely. But
that freedom also means you are more at the beck and call. And not just at work. I talked
to one really articulate lawyer who said my child has baseball every Wednesday. Before
this thing, I never could have gone. And now I go to baseball every Wednesday — I leave
work at 2:00. Isn’t that awesome? But what was the expense of baseball? The experience
of baseball was him on the sidelines with his device. In an interesting way, his family
both felt like, you know what, you can be here. You have a device, and you only to us
to come to baseball because we love you and we want you to be a good dad, etc. He’s all
caps where he could visit — he felt trapped where he could physically be there but not
mentally be there. That is very hard space to be in emotionally. But if the expectations
of his wife and child were just as strong as his expectations from colleagues and people
in the workplace, you are really getting pulled in these directions. A thing I will say is
I don’t think anybo dy meant to do this, but I think smartphones are kind of brilliant
in their design of this block. People think the next stage of mobile computing is going
to be wearables or even implants — people who study under-skin technology. And it may
be. But what I think is fascinating of these particular things is they feel — it feels
like — there is meat using it, it is my little world, but I can actually put it down. It
allows me to feel like I have control over it, that you have control over yours, and
you should only answer my messages in your downtime. It perpetuates this feeling of individual
control, but the actual visceral experience is something that is really intimate and can
be pocketed and worn on the body. It is this interesting hybrid space between it being
part of us and not part of us at the same time that allows us to keep thinking we are
in control in some ways. That got kind of dark, but definitely [LAUGHTER] Rutkin: Well, your baseball anecdote leads
to a few questions — we were talking about this before we went live. Kids and technology
— some wanted advice for how you handle technology for school-age children. Mazmanian: That is a great question. I have
another slightly separate stream of research working with parents and teenagers and family
dynamics about the role of technology in the family and their experience of growing up.
You asked that question about modeling. I think that is important, and I — I am a big
one is more important in modeling is communicating, talking about it. You do have multiple demands
. I think it is OK for kids to see that parents have different lives and they do, and we are
not going to ignore our children and say, you know what, this is what I’m doing right
now and this is why I have to do it and this is when I will come back, or something like
that. Just the ignoring is very alienating the children. But children are very understanding
of the fact that their parents have demanding lives. I led a study where we interviewed
over 100 parent-teens — the teenagers were very understanding of the parents’ as they
sliced particularly if the parents were talking about it. But what I have found is that oftentimes
parents in their desire to be good parents are very, very restrictive of the child’s
use of technology, and I don’t think that is a problem necessarily, but that restriction
can come with a blanket “no, you’re not using it,” and the kids don’t always understand
why. Because from a kid’s perspective from my technology is actually where I’m having
very viable relationships that are often incredibly positive. This storyline that social media
causes depression. There is also research that shows the sense of confidence, quality
of their relationships is enhanced when I have groups of friends engaging in this positive
way. For them maybe this is a tool that where I am living my friendships. I have kids who
say, you know what, my parents say no YouTube, but that is so I can do my math homework,
and don’t they want me to do good in math? YouTube is one of these incredible resources
where you have kids going on in learning creative art projects and math videos and all kinds
of interesting stuff, but also there is toxic things on YouTube . This is going to add one
more pressure on parents. But the more you can and should engage with your child, talk
about how social media is not the same — and — Rutkin: Sorry, you cut off the last bit, talking
about how social media is not the same as? Mazmanian: First of all, not every type of
social media is the same . I was speaking with a wonderful mom the other day who has
four teenagers, and we were talking about Instagram, and she sat down with her daughter,
and it was really funny because the school went on a trip to Europe, and they were looking
for her daughter’s Instagram account, and they saw one friend had posted all of these
interesting architectural highlights of the trip and he’s very beautiful pictures, and
someone else posted a bunch of selfies of them moving on a train. They talked about
what is this saying about yourself and what kind of engagement with the world are you
having. It is the same tool, same social-media feed, but a very different way of engaging
with the world. The more we can teach and talk to our children about the experience
of living our lives someone online — I talked to my daughter a lot about what it is to have
public versus private accounts, and are these people I’m having real relationships with
an feeling positive about, or are these people I barely know and are going online elicits
different emotions from me. I think having these conversations as much as you can — if
you have older kids it can be trickier than if they started to do the natural disconnect.
By the way, development of psychology literature says all teenagers disconnect. It is actually
a very important part of the development of process. Often times when we are living in
a technologically saturated age, it is scary for parents, because what are they disconnecting
into? But we tend to blame the technology for the disconnect when the disconnect is
a normal part of growing up. But the role technology is playing might be tricky. Don’t
say, oh, might kid would not have disconnected from me if cell phones didn’t exist. They
would have, or at least they should have. As soon as you can construct having these
reflective conversations with your kids about their experience with technology, about what
it means to be at other people’s beck and call, and how you can avoid that, etc. I have
created a reputation that I don’t take my phone with me everywhere. I’m not kidding
— if colleagues want to get a hold of me, they call my husband on the phone. I’m fine
with that. But I am in a power position where I can do that. But as a kid, you can frame
engagement to your friends so you can avoid some of these expectations that if I don’t
text you back, that means something. There was a woman , Candace Ogders, a psychologist,
who has written quite a lot about the role of cell phones and adolescence and trying
to add Nuance to the narrative that they are ruining a generation, which I actually don’t
agree with. I think they are something we need to make sense of and contextualize, because
they are not going anywhere. I don’t think they are. We might have the next evolution,
but we are not going to go back to a day without technology. Teaching our kids how to engage
with this rather than operating in a culture of fear in which the teams themselves become
— teenagers themselves become deeply afraid of something that is integral to their daily
lives. I have many teens saying I should use of this, I’m an addict, I have a problem with
my phone. But they don’t know what that means. They have just been told that so much that
it is a really kind of challenging come ambivalent emotional state to be in as an adolescent,
and I feel for them. Rutkin: Well, yeah, I feel like a lot of people
you were talking before the call about this notion about addiction and people talking
about they are feeling too connected. Someone here, another anonymous questioner, wanted
to know them is the industry that produces these devices doing any kind of research on
this? Are they changing what they do in response to these kinds of fears that are out and about? Mazmanian: Absolutely. The last maybe two
years in particular, Apple has come out and said we need to do something about technology
addiction. I don’t think that is that demand. The industry does need to think — I don’t
think that is bad. The industry does need to think about the role they are playing.
But I hope it has some nuance. A real simple example — I think it might be interesting
for me to see on my phone not how many minutes I have been on it, but maybe how many minutes
I’ve been on different apps, and maybe some sort of self reflection exercise to be like,
oh, do I feel good about that? Am I glad I spent three hours on ESPN.com or something?
Helping us think through our use rather than just say, all use is bad, because I see a
lot of productive parts of use as long as you personally and with the group around you
manage those expectations and the kind of intention — attention-sucking, grabbing way
that these tools draws in with incredible force and stickiness. I do understand the
nature of my fears, what I want to go beyond just being scared, if that makes sense. Rutkin: OK. Mazmanian: Just as a side note — I have to
say that we did research on past reactions to other new forms of communication and so
forth, and let me tell you, people were so petrified of the effect of the radio on the
children. It is going to turn out generation into antisocial, psychotic murderers. Literally.
Comic books — they were real fears about the rise of novels and how it would make us
not communicate anymore, because the novel would be more interesting than everyday life.
This ongoing concern about whatever the media is that his capture people’s attention is
definitely not new, and again, not unwarranted, is something we should put in context. Rutkin: OK. I want to go back to the workplace
stuff again and I will combine a couple of questions here. One wanted to know what managers
could do to prevent employees from stressing themselves out. Someone noted that they have
a policy of deleting employees’ e-mails while they were on vacation. I personally find it
horrifying. [LAUGHTER] Mazmanian: To step back a second, I think
we have to think about the intersection between technology and e-mail and our norms and ideas
of what it means to be a good worker. There is a lot of research done on the myth of the
ideal worker. This is the kind of worker who is going to be valid-promoted and seen as
being on top of things. This is a worker who is working long hours at home and at the office.
Someone who is at the ready 24-7, ready to move their family for a job — this is the
most extreme. There are lots of ways in which these ideal worker norms and expectations
get seeded into our ideas of how we judge other people and judge ourselves. They are
very subtle. I remember one company I worked at, they were concerned that people were working
very, very long hours. They had a big leaderboard, and they put a big — in big letters everybody
who was working over 80 hours a week, and then I read graph of how much they were working.
What did I do? — what did that do? It became a point of pride, because they hadn’t changed
the culture of incredibly long work hours meeting you were dedicated . Even though this
was my think, and honest attempt by management and leadership to change this, it actually
became something that was a point of pride. What I would suggest for anybody in a management
role is to think about putting your money where your mouth is in terms of how are you
modeling the behavior, how are you spending your time because you are in a power position.
Are you sending e-mails at night? It is easy to send them in the morning and cachet them.
Are you working at putting in long hours? Are you telling people I can’t do that because
I’m busy? Are you lying when you say you can’t go to the kids is 40 event? — kids sporting
event? All those are a million different signs to those around you. I don’t mean to focus
just on parents — maybe it is just that you went to the gym and that is something that
is really valuable and helpful for your mental and physical health. Maybe it is that you
have a strong relationship with a church or religious community. It can be anything. I
think sometimes our policy is punishing those who don’t have families. But what — so what
are you doing to actually modeled is this rather than instituting a policy that either
one be used, because people realize if they take the flexible time or maternity leave,
it will hurt their career — research shows that repeatedly — so a policy that will be
a false policy, or techniques like deleting e-mails or putting up leader boards about
hours that will be these harsh measures that may or may not actually help. In terms of
deleted e-mails, I think that is kind of fascinating. [LAUGHTER] Rutkin: I will have to see what is going on.
Someone else wants to talk about — getting back to that leaderboard, which is wild and
weird, someone wants to talk about — getting back to this term “addictive,” which I know
you have problems with, but is it true that when we get this notification, texting on
your phone, it is triggering some kind of shadow endorphin? When you are playing Angry
Birds online income that is what is going on at your there? Mazmanian: I’m not a psychologist, but there
is research that shows you get the endorphin rush. We have an entire industry that is based
on capturing your attention. A very wealthy and powerful industry. Facebook runs on ads.
The idea that we will have this holistic engagement with these devices and applications — when
the company’s are based on ad revenue, it is a little bit counterintuitive. So yes,
they have become extremely good at capturing our attention. Facebook in particular has
a whole team — look at the different color of the background of this ad vs. that ad in
which we get more clicks. They are very nuanced in which they capture our explicit attention
through the implicit changes. Does that mean we are at the mercy of the color of the background
of the ad on Facebook? There are lots of things that give us endorphins that we have to figure
out how to manage. Food. We all have to eat. I couldn’t tell you to stop eating because
you are eating too much ice cream. Just like I’m not when Italian to never look at a cell
phone again or do — I am not going to tell you to never look at a cell phone again or
do detox or disconnect because you are on Facebook too much — I don’t mean to demonize
Facebook too much. Facebook can be like any other app. You resist ice cream, right, at
least some of the time? Just like we can resist some of these other things. There may be an
orphan component, — there may be an endorphin component, but that does not mean we are at
the mercy. Part of the reason I don’t like the word “addiction” is not that it may or
may not be true, but I think all the conversation is on individual problems. I want to expand
the conversation and talk about collective that makes because that is where we might
get dramatic — collective dynamics, because that is where we might get dramatic shift
in how we use these tools in everyday life. Rutkin: I know you mentioned you look at different
kinds of fields. I don’t know if education is one of them. Someone wants to know how
test scores change or don’t change in these districts were every kid has an iPad, every
kid has a laptop. Does it seem like technology is not going away, this is the world as it
is now, so kids might as well get started early? Is it helpful, is ah armful? Mazmanian: That’s a great question. I’m not
someone who is a studied education component much. There is an interesting — there is
a new professor in my department, and he studied one of these No Child Left Behind iPad for
all students policies in the L.A. school district. It is just a device. It is how it was implemented,
how technology — how classrooms are or are not able to integrate it into a true learning
experience. It is not going to change that much. If you’re going to integrate the capacity
of the technologies into a real learning experience, it might be fabulous. But if you think about
our schools and teachers, they are so overburdened with so much stuff that that is a big ask
of them. He talks about how the relationship between education and technologies is roller
coaster. We think technology is going to do all of these amazing things, and then a dozen
and we get really angry and think that technology is ruining children and education. The next
thing comes along and we think it is going to save it, and then it doesn’t. I think it
is a much bigger structural problem than just throwing iPads at schools. Not a structural
problem, but structural dynamic. There is a lot that would go into an iPad dramatically
helping the learning environment student. And the students in lower social economic
areas have fewer resources in the family and outside the school to engage with the device
in a way that is going to increase their learning capacity. Rutkin: If we think about what you talked
about, the idea of moving from the sense of the individual “oh my gosh them I’m failing
to adequately respond to all of these things in my life,” to this is a bigger system-wide
issue, as one person living in that system, what do you do, how do you act on that? What
is your advice there? Mazmanian: I would say you’re not alone. Every
time I talk to people about this — that’s my life, that’s my life! For a lot of people
living these lights, talk to people. Think about who are the people that you feel the
most beck and call to, probably because you care about them personally and professionally
and their assessment of you matters to you . Is there ways to start having those conversations
in multiple arenas of your life and say — just so you know — it could be friends — I adore
you, I cannot answer your text for three days. Can we put that out there? Blanket understanding
or something. We work it can be trickier, but bringing up the team environment — you
know what, we work together less effectively when we are at each other’s beck and call.
Is there a way to have more predictability so that we can both have individual control
over our time a little bit outside of work, and we can work more effectively as a team?
I would go back to the book about sleeping with your smart phone, because that research
did find that the teams that embraced this change effort and were able to kind of Institute
and carve out the predictable time off for everybody in the team worked together much
better, and they had a much better output. It is hard to implement, but when it is done,
it is a win-win for the organization and the team as well as the individual. I would start
having those conversations, and know that — don’t be angry at the world, because the
world feels the same way you do. If you start attacking your colleagues because we feel
trapped, you have to recognize that they feel just as trapped as you. The more that we can
have these conversations within groups of people who are doing this to each other without
meaning to my think that is just without meaning to, I think that is — who are doing this
to each other without meaning to, I think that is maybe a seed for change. Rutkin: This next question is a good 1 — someone
who notes that we are mostly talking about white-collar work. Mazmanian: Oh, and so glad you brought that
up. Technology has a very different effect on not-white-collar work both with the idea
of what it is to be part of the gig economy, where you are doing contract work based on
little bits of work — driving for Uber of r Lyft. It allows people to do that kind of
work and in that way it could be something — it could be a whole other form of work
that potentially could maintain the freedom and autonomy of workers and give them flex
ability in their schedule while also providing predictable income. That is not how it is
necessarily being in the amended right now. — being implemented right now. Those workers
are being excluded that, right, and center, often through algorithmic management and the
weight of the algorithm determines their life. If you are a service worker and the place
is doing optimization of employees, you could be told 10 minutes to a half-hour before whether
or not you are coming into work that day. It is an incredibly difficult way to live
if you have responsibilities outside the workplace, which are probably do. So right now the algorithms
are designed to optimize effectiveness for the organization, but we really are not bringing
in anything about the well-being of the workers. I think it is kind of a powder cake that is
really unfortunate — powder keg that is really unfortunate. As well as the algorithms underlying
Uber, Lyft, Amazon, etc., they could be worked for appropriate pay for what you are doing.
The algorithms could change. I don’t know how to make those changes until Lowe’s Companies
start to do that. But it is possible. It is not the technology’s fault, it is how we are
implementing the technology in service of some goals and not other goals. I’m glad you
brought that up. Rutkin: Yeah, that was a really good question.
I think I will do one more. Going back to the workplace issue one more time, are there
indices that rank companies that are better or worse at technological — sucking you in,
if you wanted to find a workplace that was better than others? Mazmanian: That’s a good question. There is
always the indices of the best companies to work for, the cavities that have the best
policies that are not — companies that have the best policies that are seen as worker
family — maternity leave, etc. There are some of best places to work. I don’t think
any of those indices are perfect. I have worked for companies on those lists and they spend
a lot of time figuring out how to get on the list. Not that they are totally — not that
they are being totally two-faced, but it is an art form to get on those lists that may
not actually reflected the environment. Be wary of policies, because policies suggest
that someone in charge decided to implement a policy, either for reasons being that they
want the workers to take the policy or they realize it is going to get them on the list.
We need to think about whether or not people actually take advantage of these policies
and what happens to those that do. Part of it — we have a ton of — we have the kind
of websites where people write about the actual expense at work. I forget the name of the
big one. Rutkin: Glassdoor? Mazmanian: I think that can be good data.
People who write are often unhappy, so take it with a grain of salt. But that can be something
you can’t get elsewhere. I don’t think anyone is really measuring the suck-in part, but
I do think that in a job interview process, you will get a sense. If people are not sucked
in, it is such a big deal that they will describe it. Right now we so expect — if someone says
I love working here, I put my phone down at night and go pick — and don’t pick it up
until the money, that is worth commenting on. If they are not saying that the default
is that they are usually . No, I don’t think anyone is measuring it systematically. It
might be tricky to measure systematically. But I think this conversation is happening
in a lot of places, and so hopefully we will just make the conversation more and more visible. Rutkin: Melissa, on behalf of the Alumni Association
, I think we have to wrap up, but I want to thank you so much for sharing your expertise
today. I feel a little bit better about my phone. I want to thank everyone who tuned
into the Faculty Forum Online. Alumni staff will go through all the questions that we
didn’t hit on air. Again, if you want to tweet about today’s check we encourage you to use
— if you want to tweet about today’s chat, we encourage you to use #MITBetterWorld. Thanks,
everyone, for watching. Enjoy the rest of your afternoon. Whitney Espich: Thanks for joining us. And
for more information on how to connect with the MIT Alumni Association, please visit our
website.

Danny Hutson

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