Tag Archives: bosses

working for bosses

crossing my screen today

How to give a great man-to-man hug — a hilarious video from the developing world of masculinity studies. I went to it on the off-chance that it was actually funny, and was well-rewarded for my optimism.

Kitty not happy tshirts at work: The salon.com column “dear cary” handles various ethics and manner type issues, and I read it occasionally when spending a leisurely morning catching up on news. Today’s column was out-of-the-ordinary great: a meditation on the nature of work, especially non-democratic work.

Suellen Parker, an artist, was profiled at the NYT Magazine in a little video segment about her recent NYT Magazine cover. My partner1, a reliable spotter of intellectual property issues in the news, called my attention to it. Parker’s art for the NYT cover worked like this: She built a clay model; then shot photos of real life models to sculpt the expression; shot her clay model; then took bits & pieces of real life people photos (lips, eyes), to photoshop her clay model together with a bunch of other stuff. Totally fascinating, and M & I had a fun morning conversation about whether Parker only used her own photographs; had she gotten model releases for the photoshopping use, or just for modeling expression in sculpture; and so on. As far as copyright goes, clearly a fair use, but it’s an interesting example of the sort of thing that causes problems for copyright absolutists. (Like copyright image-recognition filters ….?)

… Our conversation also touched on gender issues. Watching how Parker presents her work, and how the NYT frames it — edits it, what music they choose for the background — and how we receive the video, we wondered how it would be different if the artist were a man. How much internalized sexism do we have in evaluating this artist? Would we see her as more “artiste” and less “craftsperson” if her voice had been his deep tenor voice? Would the NYT have chosen a more dramatic background music? A recent study suggests that we begin absorbing gender roles even as toddlers — how deeply embedded are gender roles in our construction of the world? Pretty damn.

And then there was this cool geekery — a video about new technologies that combine social information (like flickr, tagging, etc.) with new photo viewing & recognition technologies. (seadragon & photosynth). The less cool end of this fabulous flickr futurism: Combining photos from flickr with all the knowledge of the world & 3D visualization sounds fun and all, but flickr censors images for people based on their government. What will it look like when we combine flickr’s image censorship with AT&T’s proposed network filtering with google’s youtube video filtering? I see lots of blank spots in the brave new web 2.0 world.


 
 
 
 
 


1. My partner, legally recognized as such for at least a few more years. Thanks, Massachusetts!

guardsmark & fraternization

Some more thoughts on the recent NLRB decision restricting employees’ off-duty fraternization. Guardsmark, LLC, 334 NLRB No. 97 (2005) (decision in pdf):

The Board majority found the rule at issue here (in Guardsmark): “While on duty you must NOT … fraternize on duty or off duty, date or become overly friendly with the client’s employees or with co-employees” to be similar to a rule in Lafayette Park Hotel, 326 NLRB 824 (1998), enfd 203 F.3d 52 (D.C. Cir. 1999) which stated “Employees are not allowed to fraternize with hotel guests anywhere on hotel property.” A limited dissent felt that Lafayette Park Hotel‘s rule was too broad and so was this one. I see significant differences in the two cases.

  1. Lafayette Park Hotel is about employee-guest relations, and might reasonably implicate questions of adequate responsiveness to guests; Guardsmark is about relations between Guardsmark employees and between Guardsmark Employees and Guardsmark client employees.
  2. The Lafayette rule regulated only conduct at the workplace. The Guardsmark rule purports to regulate on- and off-duty conduct regardless of location.
  3. Lafayette used the phrase “fraternize”, which when used by itself is usually taken to mean “hang out”. The Board felt that “in context, the rule here is reasonably understood as prohibiting personal entanglements, rather than activity protected by the [National Labor Relations] Act.” Actually, it is pretty clear that this rule is meant to sound much stronger than the rule in Lafayette was meant to sound. It is significantly broader in the ways already mentioned, and its significantly broader in its description of the prohibited conduct. The rule says fraternize, adds date, and then adds “become overly friendly”. That phrase in particular is, in First Amendment terms, both overbroad and vague. From reading it, one has no idea of what sort of conduct is prohibited, and one senses that almost anything could be prohibited.

The Board attempts to justify this because of “heightened security concerns”. Yes, I’m sure a security contractor company can increase security by prohibiting friendships. Spartans and every army ever notwithstanding, security forces are just much more secure when their employees barely know the people they work with.

Aggghhh.

Related posts: 8/13

interesting reading, early saturday morning

Up early for my spouse who caught a red-eye. Now she’s resting peacefully and I of course can’t get back to sleep. But that’s okay, because there’s the Internet!

  • Positive outcomes of BlogHer: Mary Hodder at Napsterization is establishing a Speakers’ Wiki.

  • In response to publisher anxieties & thinly-veiled threats of litigation, Google is implementing an opt-out provision in its scan-copyrighted-library-books program, and delaying scans of copyrighted books until November. [google blog] This has been widely reported as Google backing down. See, e.g., “Chilled by Publishers” (BoingBoing), “Google Sells Out Users” (Copyfight). I agree, sell-out, chill, yes, yes, but am taking a moment to appreciate the sweetness of the opt-out option as default.

    Siva Vaidhyanathan had a different take, predicated largely (it seems to me) on the fact that Google is a for-profit corporation. For once, I disagree with Siva, and on two grounds: both with library exceptionalism in this instance and the take on American Geophysical Union.

  • Ed Felten on Freedom to Tinker [8/9] talked about the DRM in Microsoft’s Longhorn-cum-Vista. Copyfight (8/9) summed it up and added this pithy observation: “[T]his isn’t about stopping mass copyright infringement or pleasing Hollywood. It’s about keeping “consumers” locked in and people who develop potentially competing products locked out.” See also Derek Slater at EFF Deeplinks (8/9).

  • On Balkinization, Brian Tamanaha ponders intelligent design, reminding us that the whole kerfluffle is not about debates between religion and science, but about debates between a few modern religious leaders who are picking issues:

    Darwin’s 1859 publication of The Origin of Species incited a wicked backlash from religious quarters in the United States, pitting science directly against religion. But within three decades an accommodation had been achieved, as Richard Hofstadter described in Social Darwinism in American Thought (1944):

    Science, [Le Conte] urged, should be looked upon not as the foe of religion, but rather as a complementary study of the ways in which the First Cause operated in the natural world. Whatever science might learn, the existence of God as First Cause could always be assumed.

    This raises the question: why has a sensible way to reconcile faith and science that has worked for so long become unacceptable to many religious leaders in this country? This is not like the other ongoing battles over religion in the public sphere and the separation between state and church (school prayer, Decalogue displays, funding for parochial schools), all of which raise debatable issues of public and private values.

    Putting it this way helps keep the focus on the small set of religious leaders who are sowing all this unnecessary discord.

    I feel I must document the provenance of this observation: I’m quoting Brian Tamanaha who’s quoting Richard Hofstadter who’s citing Joseph Le Conte who “followed” Asa Gray. I’m just tickled by the lengthy chain, but the observation stands on its own regardless of sources.

  • fafblog has been brilliant recently: two on intelligent design: creation science, creation technology! [fafnir 8/10] and overwhelming scientific proof [giblets 8/2]. Then more on torture: claustrophobic techniques [medium lobster 8/4] … in the kingdom of the one-eyed man, the best wars are blind [medium lobster, 7/28]. Segueing nicely from torture, the democrats: the great divorce [fafnir 8/3] . Last but not least, response to some recent efforts by the American Family Assn to provide gay checklists for childrearing: how to tell how gay your gay son is [giblets 8/9]. How despicable is this fear-mongering checklist in the light of this fearful Christian response? [See queerday 7/18, Tampa Bay Online 7/13] Too much anger. That’s why I read fafblog. I could just do a blog indexing fafblog. And still keep the title, ‘derivative work’.

  • A wretched decision out of the NLRB, restricting employees’ off-duty fraternization. Guardsmark, LLC, 334 NLRB No. 97 (2005) (decision in pdf); more info at american rights at work; linked from tom tomorrow. A bit more from me on this case.

Of course, two hours later, the spouse is still sleeping like a baby, and now “Adelaide’s Lament” is going through my head. It’s my own fault for putting iTunes on random shuffle through my entire 80+G music library last week, but still, I last heard that song over a week ago. Probably at some point this morning I had a low-level meditation on my own minor cold and it triggered a “Guys & Dolls” flashback. Unlike LSD, perhaps “Guys & Dolls” really does hang out in your fat cells waiting to be re-triggered.

people take this IP stuff so seriously

An English IT firm fired a consultant after he commented on Grokster on BBC, and the firm had this to say:

“The decision to terminate his employment was made in order to defend our legitimate business interests. Mr Hanff has declared that he is opposed to copyright and intellectual property laws. Since much of our business is based around the protection of our copyright and intellectual property, we consider our dismissal of Mr Hanff entirely justified and appropriate.”

Techie fired over Grokster comments on BBC [silicon.com]

If the company fired him because he was using their resources to host his bittorrent site, that would be one thing. The article mentions that the MPAA is suing him for hosting a bittorrent site. But no, it appears from the company’s statement that it fired him for his “opposition to copyright and intellectual property laws”.

Based on this statement, it appears that Aldcliffe Computer Systems in Lancaster is “defend[ing] [its] legitimate business interests” by enforcing a thought code. That doesn’t sound like good business practice to me. The company is crafting a workforce of orthodox thinkers and yes-men. Who would want to work for a company that requires its employees to shape their personal beliefs in accord with whatever internal policies are being crafted that week?

Employers have successfully infiltrated the private lives of workers by requiring drug tests and monitoring email. But Aldcliffe Computer Systems thinks employers should also be able to colonize their minds.

I feel a science fiction story coming on …

patents dot bust

Jason Schultz (EFF) has a new article in Salon.com [subscription or ad] about the problems of patents (mostly software or business method, I’ll note) being sold with dot-bust companies. In a nutshell, patents lock up ideas rather closely; when patent-holding companies go bust, those patents are placed in the hopper with all the other “property”, disseminated to buyers, creditors, etc., who may not have the know-how, wherewithal, or interest in using those patents. But nobody else can use the knowledge locked up in those patents, either. In a worst-case scenario, the new “owners” of the patents use them as part of a hold-up scenario.

… My soapbox: If we returned to the good old days, before the advent of automatic-assignment clauses in all employee contracts, then inventors would own the fruits of their own intellect, and companies would have non-exclusive licenses to use those patents. The fruit of an inventor’s genius would not be locked away from all possible public access and use solely because the inventor’s employer had financial problems.

Catherine Fisk (with Chicago-Kent College of Law) has done great work detailing the 20th century trends in taking IP away from authors & inventors, and assigning it to their employers. Removing the ‘Fuel of Interest’ from the ‘Fire of Genius’: Law and the Employee-Inventor, 1830-1930, 65 U. Chi. L. Rev. 4 (1998) is one of several related papers she’s written on the subject.