Monday, September 03, 2012

Just Another Labor Day?

United States or Soviet?Image by Jo Peattie via Flickr
Although for most of us it seems like 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, "the unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent last month, and has been above 8 percent since February 2009, the longest stretch in the post-World War II era", according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

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 original video was completely silent, I changed the work by simply adding a soundtrack. This video now features a soundtrack by Boards of Canada, an electronic duo from Scotland.

Hopefully you'll understand this "secret" message: don't hesitate to respond to media that is usually 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 emphasizing media literacy as a key component of our curriculum, I wonder what messages you believe are being conveyed by the government that produced this video. Your comments are welcome and encouraged below.


Zach Peltz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laura said...

I totally agree with Zach, I think the messages being depicted through the film is just how much progress we've made and how far we have come by working hard, and that you can achieve so much if you put in the effort and give something your all. I think the idea of hard work and progress is also a big American value. In any difficult situation or time the U.S. has been in, I think their main solution for it is putting in hard work to make it better; and from that hard work brings progress. Like with Zach's example; given the tough economic times we're in, this video serves as a motivation to work hard to get out of it. Such as in our last economic depression, one of the main reasons we were able to come out of it was because of all the public projects that gave people jobs and the opportunity to work hard. It's kind of like the graph Mr. O'Connor had been discussing in class with us (that people base their college essays around); they start off somewhere average, something bad happens, they work hard to get out of the dip, and come out stronger and higher than they did previous to the dip. I think just progress through working hard is a big American value trying to be depicted through the video.