Prophecies 4 the Future of Work – About

Prophecies 4 the Future of Work was produced by a group of digital researchers (Felix Diefenhardt, Aslı Dinç, Katrin M. Kämpf , Nelli Kambouri, Felix Nickel). We got together in the three-day online workshop of the Silent Works project during the pandemic to exchange ideas about silence and precarious work. All of us had done research exploring different aspects of the invisible digital working of contemporary capitalism and had first hand experiences of its silent factory of precarity. We were particularly interested in exploring its intersectional gendered aspects.

What intrigued us was the existence of fortune-telling apps. Aslı told us about her experience as a content producer for one of these apps. We weren’t able to produce such an app in the short time of the workshop, but we tried to imagine what would happen if a silent worker hacked such a fortune-telling app: instead of general and ambiguous, cryptical messages about love, career, and money, the app would come up with phrases that responded to precarious workers’ anxieties about their labour future. Through our text, we simulate the possible prophecies that a silent worker may come up with at the same time as a producer and a user.

Our imaginary fortune-telling app imitates the futuristic scenarios about how work will be transformed, which are common in official reports about the Future of Work, but at the same time subverts them by imitating with a twist of irony the cryptic language of fortune-telling and by addressing the seemingly minor concerns that structure our every day life rhythms.

Contrary to the scientific certainties of official policy agendas, we wanted to enact an app that gives ambiguous answers about silent workers’ love, family, money and past employer anxieties, but also brings to the forefront impossible work-life balance issues and makes unequal labour relations visible. In this context, the imaginary app becomes a vehicle to narrate how work and life become intertwined in workers’ struggles and how desire, fear and uncertainty play a role in making sense of an ever-changing world, especially during the pandemic.