Week 5 Question: What can you do as a knowledge worker to ensure you benefit from rather than are a victim of digital capitalism?
These days everything, in particular every process, becomes faster due to the ongoing globalization and recent changes in the economy. Also, products tend to have shorter life cycles, trends are already out of time before they are fully adapted, and the amount of digital data is enormously growing from second to second.
“Digital capitalism”, also called “advanced capitalism” is a phenomenon that occurred in the 1950s for the first time. When people became aware of the shift from the industrial, hand crafting oriented society to the knowledge working economy, Peter Drucker developed a first concept and stated:
“(our) world is moving
from an economy of goods
to an economy of knowledge
from a society of industrial proletariat
to a society of brain workers”
Today, the so called knowledge workers such as engineers, physicians, scientists, lawyers or architects are (successfully) trying to create wealth with their own ideas and creativity.
The knowledge-based sector is the most profitable and fastest growing sector of all economies. [ The Guardian “What is the knowledge economy?”]
But the digital capitalism leads to many challenges for the knowledge workers in these fields:
“The rise of the Internet, the establishment of organizational knowledge-management systems, and, most recently, the advent of social media provide knowledge workers with a vast array of information from public and private sources.” [McKinsey: “Rethinking knowledge work: A strategic approach”]
Despite the fact that the most important resource is their brainpower, the technology progress is threatening the workers. By 2020 the majority of non-routine career paths will be disrupted by smart machines in different ways. 17% of all knowledge workers will be disrupted within the next three years, while only 49% will stay unaffected by the ongoing changes [see also DMS script week five].
I definitely agree with political economists such as Dan Schiller, Robert McChesney or Vincent Mosco who argued that new media, as well as the revolution of the internet, mark the rise of digital capitalism.
But how can knowledge workers benefit from the digital capitalism rather than become a victim of it?
In 2009 Roberts has already stated that the key components of a knowledge economy include a greater reliance on intellectual capabilities than on physical inputs or natural resources, combined with efforts to integrate improvements in every stage of the production process.
I think as a knowledge worker you need to become aware of the recent developments in information technology, science, communication and media sectors.
Furthermore, you have to stay “awake” so that you do not loose the control of yourself and the control of your power due to the fast growing amounts of data.
While I was doing the research for week five’s topic “the knowledge economy” I came across many articles and stories, published in the last few years, which dealt with different problems and difficulties caused by the ongoing changes in society and digitalism. People describe and blog about the feeling of drowning in the “worldwideweb” and the feeling of loosing their power of themselves. Often it is said that the digital capitalism makes people drown in information but nobody wants to distance him- or herself from being permanently available and online.
Heading back to the actual question, knowledge workers are the key to ensure profit and success for companies. Their creativity and brainpower are essential to participate in the international competition. To not get lost these days, knowledge workers have to set their focus on improving their soft skills and make sure to be better than their competitors. Competition today is stronger than ever in times of outsourcing and the fast growing economy.
In addition to that, nowadays it becomes quite common for companies to replace human workers by “intelligent” robots to save money, to be more independent and to adapt to today’s time.
„You’re sort of like a robot, but in human form (…) it’s human automation, if you like.“ [The Guardian: „Digital capitalism produces few winners“]
One of the biggest challenges we are facing is that everything can be out of time before we even have heard about it. It is not only striking that today product cycles are shorter than they were 20 years ago, but also that adoption processes have changed compared to those in the past.
For knowledge workers it is essential to stay up to date, observe changes in society and to learn how to evaluate possible developments in the future to not become victims of the digital capitalism.
„The Critique of Digital Capitalism: An Analysis oft the Political Economy of Digital Culture and Technology“, Michael Betancourt (2016)
“Handbook on the knowledge Economy”, David Rooney, Greg Hearn, Tim Kastelle (2005)
„Intellectual Economics and Creation of a Knowledge Based Society and Knowledge Economy: New Challenges in the Context of Global Transformations“, M. Borisas (2012)
“Knowledge economics in the Information Age”, Jen-Shan Kao (2004)
Digital Media & Society Script by Jeff Brand (Week 5)
The Guardian: „What is the knowledge economy?“, Patrick Barkham (2008)
The Guardian: „Digital capitalism produces few winners“, John Naughton (2013)
The Guardian: „ Business thinking in the knowledge economy“, Gaynor Aaltonen (2010)
„A Primer on the Knowledge Economy“, John Houghton and Peter Scheerman (2000)
Economist: „The age of smart machines“, Schumpeter (2013)
WTHIV.com: „Digital Depression: Overhwelmed and overworked by technology“, Mike Cleff (2014)
McKinsey & Company: “Rethinking knowledge work: A strategic approach”, Thomas H. Davenport (2011)
Wikipedia: “Knowledge Economy”
Wikipedia: „Knowledge Worker“
Wikipedia: “Advanced Capitalism”