Social Media, Insecure Work and New Conceptions of Labor Solidarity
stories of solidarity
Social media has become a powerful means for connecting people and supporting social movement organizing. At the
same time, rapid technological change, globalization and volatile competitive conditions have contributed to growing
insecurity in work, in which the workplace is less frequently a site of long-term stability and collective conceptions of
work have been eroded as a basis for solidarity. As a result, on-line solidarity networks have rarely focused on work,
while traditional labor organizations have rarely been innovators in their use of social media. This Working Group
focuses on exceptions, particularly in transportation and food chain industries, where social media have been powerful
tools for connecting people around labor issues across multiple and disparate places. What are the conceptions of work
that underpin these new formations of labor solidarity, and how do they compare with formations of solidarity amongst
similar insecure workers in the past? What role do social media play in shaping the nature of solidarity within these
labor networks, and how do these roles differ from more traditional media in the past? At the intersection of history,
media studies, and labor organizing, this working group brings new insights to our understanding of shifting
conceptions of work and solidarity.

Principal Investigators:

Chris Benner, Associate Professor, Community and Regional Development, UC Davis

Chris Benner is an Associate Professor of Community and Regional Development at the University of California, Davis.  His research focuses on the relationships between technological change, regional development, and the structure of economic opportunity, focusing on regional labor markets and the transformation of work and employment patterns.  Dr. Benner’s forthcoming book, co-authored with Manuel Pastor, is Just Growth:  Inclusion and Prosperity in America’s Metropolitan Regions, which helps uncover the processes, policies and institutional arrangements that help explain how certain regions have been able to consistently link inclusion and prosperity.

Jesse Drew, Associate Professor, Cinema and Technocultural Studies, UC Davis

Jesse Drew is Associate Professor of Cinema and Technocultural Studies at UC Davis, focusing on the intersections of media technologies and democracy, with particular emphasis on the American working class.  His film/video work has been exhibited widely and his writings have appeared in numerous publications and journals, including Resisting the Virtual Life  (City Lights Press), US Labor Organizations and New Communications Technologies (Peace Review), and Reclaiming San Francisco: History, Politics, Culture (City Lights Press).He is the author of The California Heart of Country Music, published in the premiere issue of Boom magazine (UC Press), and San Francisco Labor in the 1970s, published in Ten Years that shook the City (City Lights Press).  His current creative project is a feature-length documentary film called Open Country, that examines the relationship between traditional country music and working class culture.

Participants:

Glenda Drew, Associate Professor of Design, UC Davis

Glenda Drew, Associate Professor of Design, creates visual media projects  that include layers of oral history, image and text and has exhibited nationwide. She is interested in connecting and representing cultural and marginalized voices in visually accessible and appealing ways. She has concentrated her work in the area of media activism and has also worked as a professional web designer for over ten years. A current project is Keep on Truckin’ that investigates the way truck drivers create design ephemera and use it as meaningful self-expression and as effective communication on broad levels. Truckers describe individual processes of choosing graphic styles and embellishments that are both thoughtful and meaningful. The project considers the power of design in the hands of the “untrained.” Although she conducts research at truck stops within the Central Valley, her subjects travel and live across the United States and comprise a work force that is not defined by gender or race.

John Haffner, is Graduate Student in Community Development at UC Davis, and is envisioned to be the Graduate Student Researcher on the project.  He has background working in community media, including serving as community outreach coordinator at the Community Media Access Partnership in Gilroy, and Development Specialist at the community access television station in Monterrey.

Tobias Higbie is an Associate Professor in the UCLA History Department, and the Associate Director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor & Employment. Higbie is the author of “Indispensable Outcasts: Hobo Workers and Community in the American Midwest, 1880-1930” (University of Illinois Press, 2003), which recasts the marginal work force of the early twentieth century–so called hoboes–as central figures in Progressive Era debates about class, race, manly responsibility, community and citizenship. Professor Higbie’s current research explores practices of self-education in American working class communities, and the cultural figure of the “working class intellectual” during the early 20th century.

Jan Reiff is an associate professor of history, statistics and digital humanities at UCLA.  She is the author of Digitizing the Past: The Use of Computers in History (1991), co-editor with Helen Hornbeck Tanner of The Settling of North America (1995), co-editor with James R. Grossman and Ann Durkin Keating of the prize-winning Encyclopedia of Chicago (2004), lead editor with Keating and Grossman of the Encyclopedia of Chicago Online (2005, www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org), editor of the forthcoming Guide to Chicago Business and Industry (2013), and is currently completing a manuscript tentatively titled Manufacturing Communities: Pullman Workers and Their Towns, 1881-1981.

Goetz Wolff, is a Lecturer of Urban Planning at UCLA.  His research and teaching interests center on equity and economic development issues–in particular the reciprocal roles of industries and regions in shaping each other. His current work identifies and promotes economic development policies that address the consequences of economic restructuring in the Southern California region. He works extensively with organized labor, as well as community organizations, public and non-profit agencies, and the private sector.  Wolff was Research Director at the LA County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO for six years  He currently serves on the Board of the Los Angeles-Orange County Organizing Committee, and is the president of his UCLA union local, UC-AFT 1990.  Wolff is closely involved in food policy and labor issues as a member of the Los Angeles Food Policy Council coordinating committee. He recently published “Policy and Community in Los Angeles Economic Development,” a chapter in the APA book Planning Los Angeles.

hackathonThe group kept a very active and engaged blog which can be found here along with information about their public symposium and hack-a-thon. The group has also curated a Zotero bibliography, available here.