Monday, September 07, 2009

Just Another Labor Day?

United States or Soviet?Image by Jo Peattie via Flickr

Although for most of us it's just another day off or an extended weekend, Labor Day is an excellent time to reflect on those men and women (and children!) who came before us, helped build this country, and whose lives continue to reverberate in this new century.

Think about it in today's context. Even though today's economy is said to be in recovery, according to Bloomberg News, "the average workweek held at 33.1 hours, six minutes...that was the lowest since records began in 1964, [and] the unemployment rate rose to a 26-year high of 9.7 percent."

Perhaps now, more than ever, it would be instructive to closely examine the nature of work in the USA. Toward that end, curators at The National Archives have designed some wonderful virtual exhibitions that pay tribute to American laborers and many others. From their website:
Imagine working in a coal mine.
Or in a steel mill.
Or at a telephone switchboard.

Work and workplaces have gone through enormous transformations between the mid 19th and late 20th centuries. You can view these changes through photographs held by the National Archives and Records Administration.

My own contribution was to download a video from their site, and make it into something new and (hopefully) more compelling. Although the video was completely silent, I changed the work by simply adding a soundtrack. This video now features a soundtrack by Thievery Corporation, who remixed a song from the Doors, a band popular many years ago. See the parallels?



Hopefully you'll understand this "secret" message: don't be afraid to respond to media that usually is intended to be one-way. The internet and computer technology has made it possible for anyone to become a creator and to "talk back" to media. "Work" such as this can be very fulfilling and meaningful. Hopefully, this small "labor of love" will encourage you to think about today as more than "Just Another Labor Day".

Lastly, since we are starting our course with a "Stories and Histories" theme, what narrative do you see being weaved through this video?

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1 comment:

The Winnetka Greaser said...

Speaking of social class, what about Meeks and the protesters coming to New Trier west? On labor day today, I've been reflecting about he unfairness of how schools are funded, and what I can do to do something about it. Hyde Park is a rich neighborhood, but it's economically diverse as well. Most who can afford to send their kids to Lab School, the private school there, will do it without hesitation, while the public schools are good, but don't have nearly as much as New Trier does. Other neighborhoods on the south side are way much worse off, because again, Hyde Park is a wealthy place. There are schools farther south that don't have plays, or huge fields. We should reflect on the people who immigrated here and worked hard jobs so that they could stay in this country, but we should also reflect on how in the present, school funding is unfair, and on the protesters, who care about education, and who would love to go to a school like New Trier. I'm sorry this was long, but this is something i really care about.