Thursday, July 01, 2010

What does the worker gain from his toil?

Yesterday my friend Janice suggested that we both blog about work. And since in a couple of weeks I'll be preaching, as part of our Ecclesiastes series on work (the heading is Ecclesiastes 3:9), I definitely warmed to the idea. So here's part one of who knows how many...

A few minutes ago I was looking at the side profile of my daughter's laptop. It's sleek, the width of the CD tray, matt black and stylish. It's sitting on the coffee table in our lounge next to my wife's laptop. I'm typing this on my netbook, sitting on the step of the French doors, occasionally looking up at what happening in the garden.

The ubiquity of portable work machines, constantly and effortlessly linked to the web (or should I say, integrated into the cloud?) is something we take for granted. We go to them without thinking to we check our email, update our facebook status, comment on our favourite blogs; we take them with us when we leave the house, not just laptops and netbooks but smart phones and games machines as well.

When I began work as a journalist - one of those professions most transformed by this technology - I used a manual typewriter and my copy was marked up by hand before being biked to a printer for typesetting. It was 1979. We were on the verge - not that we knew it - of a revolution that would touch every aspect of our lives.

When I began work as a minister, I wrote sermons by hand, I used books for research and drew overhead transparency slides using pens and templates. It was 1989. Yes, I had an Amstrad but it was not flexible or clever enough for weekly sermon prep or congregational record keeping.

When I began work this morning, I switched my laptop on at 6:15am, checked emails, what was happening on facebook and in the blogs and checked my diary (part of outlook) to clock the meetings that lay ahead of me today. I opened the documents on 2 Corinthians that I am currently working on - study notes (prepared in MS Publisher), sermon notes (in MS Word) - then went to the library (the University of Wales library, journals section, of which I am a remote user) and down-loaded a paper by a Greek Orthodox theologian from the St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly on Paul's collection for the saints. I was then ready for my breakfast meeting.

Looking at my daughter's laptop, something I see everyday (and pay very little attention to) I realise that boxes like it, now shape my life in ways I couldn't have predicted when I started work in 1979. The question is: 'is all this technology just a way of doing the same job better or has it changed the nature of our work altogether?'

Watch this space?


Anonymous said...

"... by a Greek Orthodox theologian from the St Vladimir's Theological Quarterly on Paul's collection for the saints ..."

Not seen that one on iTunes or Amazon?! Is it something by Lady Gaga?

simon said...

No, it's not made it to iTunes yet. The Lady Gaga cover might but it's a bit wordy...
I downloaded it from the ATLA Serials website, an electronic warehouse of academic journals covering all disciplines.
For the record, the article I was after was by Petors Vassiliadis and is called 'Equality and Justice in Classical Antiquity and in Paul: The Social Implications of the Pauline Collection'.
It's amazing what the web brings to our finger tips!