Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Work as an Amoral Universe

JPod is a satirical novel by Douglas Coupland about work in an amoral universe at a corporation that makes video games. The main character hopes for love from a coworker in his Pod, all the while also subverting the corporation by creating an Evil Ronald McDonald character in the video game. Along the way, people are killed in the fictional world, much as they would be killed in a video game: matter of factly, and without too much thought or remorse. You're in my way...and now you're dead.

What do we learn about work as an amoral universe? JPod demonstrated to me that many corporate environments are amoral. And that seems to be how the device of satire works. By making fun of an environment and corporate practices, you gain a new understanding. The highest good is always the most money, and, with that in mind, it tends not to matter how many people are used up and then fired as long as the stockholders are happy.

Along the same lines, Hire the Liar: The Role of Deception in the Workplace explores the ethical universe of the workplace in depth (in a non-fiction fashion). In it, we learn the rules of the amoral universe. An excerpt:

To goof off without getting caught requires crafting strategies to create a busy appearance. To do so, successful goof-offs use authentication practices that create a convincing image of busywork. For example:

Nobody really gets up to walk over to the next cubicle. But, you know, they'll just call each other on the phone, and they could be talking about anything. I imagine part of it is laziness, and part of it is to try to look busy. Because if a manager walks by and you're on the phone, you're busy, at least that's what goes through their mind.
I wonder what the long-term effects of working in an environment in which you are constantly pretending or lying in some fashion....I wonder.