Melissa Gregg – This Productive Life

By in Lectures on April 13, 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015 at 6:00 pm to 7:45 pm

Melissa Gregg, Principal Engineer, Intel Corporation:

Abstract: The rise of personal productivity systems reflects the consumer-enterprise collision underway as work escapes the confines of place to be more flexible, pliant, and ambient. Just as the Quantified Self movement is revolutionizing health care, with tracking devices and wearables monitoring activities that can be turned into actionable data sets, personal productivity tools and services capture a similar interest in quantifying and perfecting activity. These technologies compensate for failures in the affective and material infrastructure of the contemporary workplace. They allow for the performance of composure in the face of ontological precarity and organizational inefficiency.

More than just a metric for efficiency, today productivity is a lifestyle practiced by elite, autonomous workers who manage themselves in transient, adhoc workplaces. Technology is the trusted and reliable companion across multiple domains, contexts and experiences. My account of the software market for personal productivity illustrates the qualities of this aspiring life. Drawing on the ideas of Peter Sloterdijk, I explain productivity as a form of secular athleticism, while also posing the question: are we prepared for a future in which we bring a virtual companion to work?


Video: The Talk


Bio: Melissa Gregg is a Principal Engineer at Intel Corporation researching the future of work. Her forthcoming book, Counterproductive, considers the history of time management as a series of technologies of self-improvement and moral perfectionism in the absence of collective opportunities for ritual. This builds on previous publications including Work’s Intimacy (Polity 2011), The Affect Theory Reader (co-edited with Gregory J. Seigworth, Duke 2010), and Cultural Studies’ Affective Voices (Palgrave 2006). Before joining Intel, Melissa was a faculty member in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney (2009-13) following successive postdoctoral fellowships at the Center for Critical and Cultural Studies, University of Queensland (2004-8).


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