A Job or a Project

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
17 July, 2018
Editorial: 219
Fecha de publicación original: 13 junio, 2000

Jobs come running and leave at a walking pace

While on the most visible surface of the Net some companies give the impression that without thousands of millions in investment a portal is not worth anything at all and is, thus, superfluous, below the surface, the Internet economy is simmering and the pot is boiling and getting hotter and hotter. All the parameters pointing to a modification in the classical structures of employment, as well as training and the internal composition of companies themselves, are increasing. And, the driving force behind it all, to use an old-fashioned term, is information technology. In fact, it is the Internet and information technology which make possible the communication process that transforms information and manages knowledge, that are carrying the heaviest load in this economic situation.

In Spain, according to a report drawn up by Infoempleo de Círculo de Progreso based on more than 185,000 job offers, the sources of a quarter of the qualified labour force are information and communication companies. This indicates a significant quantitative and qualitative departure from tendencies over the last few years. The dominant characteristic of these changes at the moment is the speed at which they are taking place, and the fact that these practices are taking over across practically the whole industrial spectrum. The presence of information and communication companies has generated new processes which are so sudden and so massive that there is almost no time for them to be incorporated into even the most up-to-date studies on the evolution of the economy.

In the field of communication, for example, the labour market has enjoyed a fairly stable (and fairly precarious) structure over the last 20 years. The creation of new media –despite the drawcard of private and autonomic TVs– has been below the supply that came bubbling out of Communications, Journalism or other similar faculties. The consequences of this imbalance between supply and demand have been plain for all to see. The media have been able to manipulate their labour force with relative ease, while, at the same time, they have enjoyed using–and frequently abusing– an accumulated reserve work force coming out of several university faculties.

This situation, while not, as yet, affecting the traditional media, is changing dramatically now. If we look back over the last 40 years, in Spain about 50 newsrooms have been established with more than a hundred journalists and editors in each. Naturally enough, the appearance of any new media of these proportions has been newsworthy in itself. The fact that it didn’t happen too often, contributed to the impact. In Catalonia, for example, we have four newspapers, a couple of TV stations and not much more, with a personnel of professionals such as those we mentioned. And much the same goes for the rest of the country.

However, over the last two years, almost from one day to the next, a similar number of newsrooms have been established, sometimes “hidden” behind the names of big portals, and others under the umbrella of multi-media companies created by corporations of many different kinds with a wide variety of functions related to information and communication. In other circumstances, each of them would have been launched with a bottle of champagne by some glamorous royal or jet-setter. Not now. In fact, now they appear and disappear just like that. All projects for portals involve a staff of over 100 people, who are here today, over there tomorrow and part of the big company that has swallowed them up the penultimate time, the day after.

While the traditional communications sector, especially those deeply rooted in Journalism and Communications faculties, are undergoing a kind of existential crisis about the future of the profession, companies on the look out for communication professionals are popping up like mushrooms all over the place (and possibly disappearing like them too when the dry season comes round). This is inverting relations on the labour market and bringing to light a very different culture to that which has predominated up to now. For example, now it is company owners that are left high and dry and go bankrupt. The workers, the key element in the Information Society, can immediately find somewhere else to work with curriculums that have been enriched by contact with as many companies, initiatives and projects as possible. Out of this chaos come people with the right qualifications and experience to deal with the new panorama.

In fact, the viability of these business projects depends to a large extent on these professionals, who drive them forward as if they were their own. There is no other formula for operating in an economy where the basic commodities are information and knowledge. This is precisely the difference between information and informational technology. In the first case you do what you have to do and in the second you do what you know how to do. For this reason, today during job interviews it is the employer who is put to the test: they have to prove that their company is worth working for, that they are involved in attractive projects and that the working environment is close to that intangible ideal that is shared intelligence in a collective work context. In other words, either they seduce the workers or they are lost. Either they take them on board as part and parcel of the project or their future will be bleaker than a portal for winter woollies in Rio de Janeiro.

Translation: Bridget King