Technology is ever changing and growing ever so rapidly. Wireless communication, once a dream. has become a reality. In essence, the proverbial work station of the immobile cubicle increasingly diminishes. The cubicle represents a fixed location of points that are networked in telecommunication. As telecommunication becomes more wireless, the cubicle leaves the fixed location state and becomes a ubiquitous object of location. It can virtually be anywhere. In this postmodern society, the cubicle can range from a desk at home to an airplane in flight. William Mitchell, author of ME ++, presents these new possibilities as well as reflects on the old through the Dilbert comic strip. By using Dilbert, the author portrays the evolution from the spatially fixed to the mobile worker and he simultaneously shows how technology that was considered outdated into fields of presenceecomes present.
The cubicle farms of the era were grids of such points. Like most office workers of the 1980s and 1990s, Dilbert occupied a cubicle containing a PC. He had to be near the delivery point. His telephone was physically attached to the cubicle. Desktop computers, telephones, and wired networks provided fixed points of presence. As networks became faster and more sophisticated, and as more and more information moved from local storage to servers, it ceased to matter which cubicle Dilbert occupied. He could log in from wherever he happened to be in the building, and he could have his calls electronically redirected. The boss could then make more use of his cubicle space by shuffling cubicle-dwellers around at will, but it did not help Dilbert's quality of life. What the wireless connections enhance is the ever increasing field of presence. These fields can extend throughout buildings, outdoors, and in public and private sectors. [pp. 143-144]
The cubicle in turn becomes mobile and creates Mitchell's mobile worker. Wireless communication is continuous, because the technology can be anywhere. ATM machines are on many street corners, cell phones can be used just about anywhere. Using the internet, people can shop for different items and accessories from any location.
1. If wireless telecommunication means that your cubicle could be any location, what impact your relationships with your fellow workers?
2. Is the mobile worker an advantage or disadvantage to the business world?
3. What are some other examples in narrative or film on the mobile worker?
4. Can there be improvements on the mobile workers way of life?
Mitchell, William J. Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Networked City. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003.
Last modified 13 September 2006