I would like to invite you to participate in a documentation of the places we are working. This is intended as a snapshot of the ‘mundane’ material conditions of academic labour during the pandemic. The place that has become at once our classrooms, our offices, the meeting room, the ‘common room’. I will collate a gallery of images and turn these into an audiovisual artwork at a later date. There is a page that will be the ‘hub’ of the project here.
Many of us remain at home and some of us yo-yo between a ‘COVID-secure’ office and working from home. We ‘see’ one another’s presence in various forms – through the lens of a webcam, through text on a screen – in social media apps and so on – and perhaps meet up outdoors, standing two metres apart. This has affected us in all sorts of ways that may both be predictable and surprising in equal measure. We are almost constantly ‘online’, very often – whether we intend it or not – ‘available’. As Mel Gregg so aptly has it in her wonderful book ‘Work’s Intimacy’:
Presence bleed captures both the behavioural dimensions and professional expectations in communication- and information- heavy jobs. For the middle-class employees this condition affects, […] when online connections allow access to work beyond office hours, the possibility of being willing and able to work can manifest as a compulsion that has to be monitored.Gregg, M. 2011 Work’s Intimacy. Cambridge, Polity, p. 2.
Our ‘presence bleed’ throughout the lockdowns and various forms of working from home has meant that we have all had to variously renegotiate (to varying degrees) how and where we work. Even if we already worked from home, that may have had to change (due to childcare, other people in the house and so on). These arrangements may be temporary, they may endure. However, as we pass the anniversary of the beginning of the first UK lockdown and contemplate the end of a tumultuous academic year, it seems worthwhile at least trying to capture something of the nature of how and where our work has taken place.