Apple, Android, Adjunct

For many of the developers not working at traditional companies, moreover, “job” is a misnomer. Streaming Color Studios, a game developer, did a survey of game makers late last year. The 252 respondents, while not a scientifically valid sample and restricted to one segment of the app market, indicated what many people had suspected: the app world is an ecology weighted heavily toward a few winners.

“As Boom Lures App Creators, Tough Part Is Making a Living,” David Streitfeld

Reading this article in the New York Times I had one of those Deja Vu moments that, well, I should probably be embarrassed about because it seems so obvious in retrospect: the so-called “app” economy is the same economic mode as the adjunct economy (and outsourcing and contract labor and the rest of the so-called post-modern casualized labor economy). Like, Duh, dude, what do you think they mean by post-industrial?

I think, in general, they mean the same thing that they meant by industrial. Or mostly, anyway. In Europe, the industrial revolution also meant the rise of the socialist state; to ameliorate the destructiveness of capitalist development, workers organized and won certain rights, including national health care and pension systems, a shortened work week, regulatory protections for people and the environment, and so on.

In the U.S. we were a lot less successful when it came to these goals. We got Medicare and Medicaid and now the ACA, instead of National Health Care; Social Security instead of a national pension system. We managed to shorten the work week– at least nominally– and we got regulations for people and the environment. In Europe, as well as here, thanks to the recession working people have had to once again fight for these gains.

I think the “app economy” is even more serious because it, like the adjunct economy in higher education, re-sets the economic clock to a point before we had any of the securities– and power– of mass organization. (It’s also a horribly ugly phrase, “app”– perhaps this is some sort of poetic justice.) This new economy is built on a kind of lottery myth: maybe I will be the one to design “this year’s model” and make it big. Very few will, of course.

The question, of course, is what the rest of us will do, given that so few get rich on apps (or become rock or sports stars or even tenured professors). How we will be able to keep the social gains of the last century or so, without huge labor organizations? It seems impossible. So in a real sense, Apple’s labor policies in the U.S. are not so different here than they are in China. The domestic labor exploitation is just hidden behind our favorite romantic myth.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Post Navigation