Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Monday, November 4, 2013

iSlave's Web Context

Concentration camp uniforms were just pulled off eBay. Image Source: Daily Mail.

Currently, there is an article on Yahoo about concentration camp memorabilia that was posted on eBay (see also reports here, here and here). This story about enslavement reminded me how the Web has a buried symmetry (see my posts on this here and here), because it led me into tabloid territory, to this story about Steve Jobs.

Image Source: Daily Mail.

Not only does the Web have a buried symmetry, but a vast potential for false associations. Any given news story or marketing campaign will be subliminally interpreted in terms of the other stories which are randomly juxtaposed with it on the same day. The old context in which we used to grasp information - say, regularly at 6 and 11 o'clock p.m. - has disappeared. It has been replaced by the new context of the 24-hour Web landscape of a particular day, which includes new articles from that day and any older material that Web users will unconsciously float to - before, during and after - looking at the given story in question.

But is browsing unconscious? Just by chance, juxtaposed with the nasty and distasteful eBay concentration camp memorabilia story was a piece on Steve Jobs' ex-girlfriend, Chrisann Brennan. Brennan has just published a rambling tell-all about the early years behind the scenes at Apple.

Brennan's memoir is a portrait of how the boy she knew in high school, obsessed with computing, became a corporate mogul, all filtered through her understanding of reality. She mentions Jobs' guru, Kobun Otogawa, and a lot of personal details (see an excerpt here). This dirty laundry led me to two videos which address Apple's Chinese production problems. Oddly, these videos were suggested to me. I wondered how quickly Google tailors your viewing experience on Youtube, depending on your browsing history and which news stories you've just read. Isn't the tailored browsing experience instantaneous? In which case, did Google bring me to the Youtube video about Apple's Chinese outsourcing because I had just looked at a news item about eBay concentration camp memorabilia sales?

In 2010, Apple was embarrassed by news that their outsourcing was handled by the Shenzhen-based company, Foxconn, which puts out suicide nets to catch workers who jump from the upper floors. Demand for Apple products is so insanely high, that only superhuman levels of production can meet that demand. Workers work 20+ or 30+ hour shifts. The nets were installed under Foxconn's windows after a spate of suicides in 2010. Damning reports about Apple's outsourcing continued through 2013, which led to the Web quip: iSlave

Foxconn employee. Image Source: Anonymous Radio Show.

Homer goes to work for Apple in China. Video Source: Youtube.

iSlave commentary. Video Source: Youtube.

Caption for the above video: [The above Youtube video was posted with a cited report from October 2012] "iSlave at FOXCONN Factory - The Truth about how your APPLE Product is Made

Reports early Monday from China suggest that a mass disturbance or riots may have broken out at a Foxconn factory in the Chinese city of Taiyuan.

It is still unclear what exactly happened, but posts on China's popular twitter-like service, Weibo, from users in the area show photographs and video of large numbers of police in and around the factory -- many in riot gear -- blocking off throngs of people.

Other photos show debris strewn around the Foxconn compound and in one case, an overturned guard tower.

According to popular tech blog engadget, the disturbance kicked off after Foxconn security guards allegedly hit a worker around 10 p.m. on Sunday.

Censors in China have reportedly already started deleting pictures from the scene.

This is not the first time that Foxconn has had problems with its Taiyuan facility, which is reportedly responsible for the fabrication of the back plate of the immensely popular new iPhone 5. In March, strikes broke out there after workers did not receive a pay raise they had reportedly been promised.

Meanwhile, Foxconn's Chengdu plant in Sichuan province also has dealt with riots. In June, scores of Foxconn workers there got into a fight with a local restaurant owner that had to be broken up by police.

Foxconn is the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer responsible for much of the current production and assembly of Apple's popular line of products as well as a wide variety of popular tech toys ranging from laptops to gaming consoles.

But Foxconn has been under fire for years for its tough working conditions, including long hours, low wages and strict rules on representation. The company has also dealt with a string of suicides at its plants across China, which led to the company in 2010 installing anti-jump nets to prevent more suicide attempts.

The company has taken steps to improve working conditions in its factories by reducing work hours and raising wages for its front-line workers.

Still, perhaps wary of the continued negative publicity that has plagued one of its primary manufacturers over the years, Apple recently took steps to diversify its portfolio of producers, recently awarding much of the manufacturing of its new iteration of the iPad to another Taiwanese company, Pegatron.

Thousands of factory workers at Foxconn went on strike Friday to protest their working conditions on the iPhone 5′s production lines, according to a report from an independent workers' rights organization.

Workers at Foxconn's plant in Zhengzhou, China, were furious after management enacted 'overly strict demands' for production of Apple's (AAPL, Fortune 500) new iPhone 5, according to a report late Friday from China Labor Watch (CLW), a New York-based advocacy group that works closely with sources in China. ... The work stoppage lasted several hours on Friday and 'paralyzed the production lines,' the group said.

The majority of its participants were from the quality control line for the iPhone 5. Workers and inspectors clashed in fights that sometimes turned physical, CLW said, with some hospitalized as a result.

China's state-run news agency Xinhua also reported on the disturbance. More than 100 quality inspectors refused to go to work Friday 'after one of the inspectors was allegedly assaulted by the workers, who have been dissatisfied with the new inspection standards,' Xinhua said, citing an unnamed regional government spokesman in Zhengzhou.

The work stoppage lasted roughly one hour, according to Xinhua's source, who said that the plant has now resumed production.

'These were isolated incidents and were immediately addressed and measures taken, including providing additional staff for the lines in question,' Foxconn said. 'This is consistent with our efforts to work with our employees to continuously enhance any aspects of our production that can improve the workplace and manufacturing practices.'

Foxconn's Zhenghou complex employs around 190,000 people, according to CNET, which recently visited the area. Apple CEO Tim Cook made an appearance at the plant in March. Both Xinhua and CLW cited tension over iPhone 5 quality standards as the event's catalyst. Workers were given new, impossibly strict standards, demanding precision down to increments as small as two-hundredths of a millimeter, according to CLW."

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