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In Clay Spinuzzi’s article about what he calls “distributed work,” he writes: “Zuboff and Maxmin, however, see the beginnings of a Copernican revolution that will reorient this solar system, placing the customers at the center. They envision a distributed capitalism in which control will be just as distributed as ownership—distributed across the customers, that is. Digital technologies are a necessary but not sufficient condition for this Copernican revolution. Other conditions include the individuation of consumption (i.e., the desire for unique identities and unique experiences—customers can have cars in whatever color combination they want—and aftermarket customization thrives); the consequent rise in relationship value; and the desire for deep support (i.e., stable beneficial relationships among consumers and producers that support these individual experiences).”



I can absolutely already find evidence of the aforementioned shift in our current society. A large percentage of the general population in this nation judges social status by the amount of wealth one has accumulated and the value of one’s possessions. In addition to monetary value, a possession is considered of more worth if it is viewed as “one-of-a-kind” as seen in special edition vehicle models, independent designers with elite clothing lines, and special models of purses and other accessories (not that as a female I would know much about purses or clothes). The value of the relationship between consumer and producer rises as consumers depend more upon their producers to manufacture products that may or may not be necessary, but increase their status in the community. However, is this becoming true for consumers that are not among the slim percentage of the population who are of upper-class status and wealthy? It seems to me at first thought that people who do not have as much money do not have access to as large of a selection of available goods. Although the goods they do have access to are still being produced in a variety that allows the consumer to select a style or identity. However, this may be more of an economical issue than an issue involving the distributed work discussed in this article. Digital technology has not only increased the number and types of products available, but it has made people more aware of the products and specifications that are available to them. Also, websites where one can design their ideal vehicle, build their ideal computer, or see what certain clothing styles would look like on a virtual depiction of their body have created a personal inclination toward highly customizable products.


Here is yet another quote from the Spinuzzi article: “In this shift toward distributed work, negotiation becomes an essential skill. Trust becomes an ongoing project. Organizations become looser aggregations held together by alliances, and agility entails constantly having to work to reaffirm and redefine alliances (Alberts & Hayes, 2003; Atkinson & Moffat, 2005). Thus, rhetoric becomes an essential area of expertise; direct connections mean that everyone can and should be a rhetor (Carter, 2005). That is, when we are all potentially in contact with each other, across organizational and disciplinary lines, we must persuade more people coming from different domains—not just our superiors and coworkers, but also service providers, contractors, customers, and amateur enthusiasts of relevant communities.”



This is a somewhat scary thought. Although it is true that practically every person on earth would benefit from possessing better communication skills and as a skilled rhetor, that situation may very likely decrease the value of careers such as the one I aspire to obtain. When there are so many different options of people who have skills in multiple domains, of course people have to compete more closely with each other for jobs and partners. However, I would like to believe in the truth of the statement: no one can be an expert in everything. Therefore, I would like to think that an increased number of people will recognize the importance of developing their communication skills, not everyone will become an expert in rhetoric and the skills of those who extensively study the field of rhetoric will still be needed in our society. As people do realize the benefit of gaining a working knowledge in rhetoric, people within the field could be potentially valuable in the meantime in helping the population develop their skills. This may actually present more opportunities for currently practicing rhetoricians (is that a word?).


To my delight, Spinuzzi offers present-day, easily recognizable, concrete examples to conclude his argument: “We can see the signs of a shift toward distributed work in the service sector, in the outsourcing of technical support, and in places like eBay and Craig’s List. But we can also see it in the rise of homeschooling, the weakening of unions, the shift from stable identity politics to unstable political subsegments, the popularity of automobile customization, the increasing importance of content management systems, and the early success of Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign.We see it in social networking, from the early message boards studied by Zuboff (1988) to later iterations such as blogs, del.icio.us, Flickr, MySpace, and Peerflix. We certainly see it in the open source movement.”



It’s more than enough to make my head spin. In fact, my head was spinning after the first paragraph of Spinuzzi’s article. (Although I think that was because I couldn’t understand what the hell he was talking about or where he was going with it.) But here, by the end, I think he began to make sense to me. (Or maybe I just thought I understood him and he’s really saying something completely different than what I understood…will I ever really know?) This paragraph, however, still made my head spin because of all the expansion and outsourcing and multi-tasking that someone or something is making the population feel is necessary and hip and up-to-date and perhaps, useful. But, personally, I hate that when I call AOL or Delta with genuine, important questions, the answers of which could affect my ability to access my email or my upcoming business trip or vacation, I sometimes end up with service representatives whom I can’t for the life of me understand their speech! I may be behind the times, but I just explored the Facebook website for the first time last night and it’s overwhelming the number of people, the number of networks, and the number of functions one has to learn simply to maintain their personal profile! It’d be neat if I could reconnect with people from high school, and I’m sure some of the extra features may be a real hoot. But, I barely have enough time to go to work, complete my schoolwork, take care of my dog, pay my bills, shower, clean the house, and sleep that I’m lucky to have enough time to read the headlines on Google news…let alone learn the ins and outs of Facebook, Myspace, or other such new developments of technology. I’ve never felt so inefficient!




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