February 21, 2019

Bright Lights, Gig City

‘Gig’ is one of those leftover words from the 1920s speakeasy jazz era. It is a shortened and much cooler way of saying ‘engagement’ and it is what musicians used to describe the short term agreements and arrangements for musical performance.

Now, ‘gig’ has been usurped by the globally connected digital economy and it has been adapted to describe a whole new way of working. 9 to 5 in the office cubicle is fast becoming a relic of the past; passed over in favour of flexible, remote, short-term, casual, and chunked work.

‘Gigs’ allow people to choose projects and work intensively on one thing at a time; whether that one thing is a freelance design project, a niche piece of technical computer coding, or something more simple like driving a passenger from point A to point B.

The down-side to ‘gigging’ is something that gigging-artists have all experienced. You trade the flexibility and lifestyle for the challenges that come with a variable income, a lack of stability, and ultimate accountability for bread winning. If there is not enough work coming down the gig-vine, then there is not enough income making its way into domestic environments which can lead to things like rent or mortgage default, food insecurity, and it also has a way of slowing down spending which is bad news in any economy.

The modern casual lifestyle might be embracing the easy-come-easy-go nature of gigs but modernity has not fully revolutionised some of the institutions of society with more traditional roots. A gig-approach to earning might allow you to surf every day and be free of KPI reporting, but getting a home loan and planning for retirement is not on the scope of most gig work.

Gigs though do offer the Kerouac dream of spontaneous opportunity, even if only for the weekends. These small discrete units of work allow people to augment their permanent work with additional income-earning projects. This type of gig, performed in conjunction with a full time traditional job is referred to as a ‘side-gig’.

The side-gig is often the creative refuge of a beige office worker trapped in world of administrative vanilla; the lawyer who handcrafts aromatherapy soy candles and the marketing executive who never stopped being a drummer in a rock band on weekends.

It can also be a way for veterans, pensioners and people living with disabilities to approach work in a way that is accessible and manageable for them and to supplement their government benefits which often don’t stretch as far as they need to.

Platforms like Amazon’s Mturk is taking the concept even further by connecting a non-stop global marketplace of ‘giggers’ to perform small virtual tasks called ‘micro-gigs’ that can be very small and take no more than 2 or 3 minutes. Things like completing surveys, validating data, or describing pictures. It is actually a global human workforce helping artificial intelligence learn by human labelling…but for university students or low income workers; it is a means to earn your bus fare back in the time it takes to ride to your destination.

The world of volunteer work is embracing the gig economy too. In a busy world, even the most altruistic folks can’t commit to a rigid schedule of philanthropy. Gigging for good allows people to plug in flexible units of downtime to short term initiatives that connect and do good for communities. For example, if you have some downtime this weekend, you can head up to Binna Burra lodge and plant koala-friendly eucalypts to help our furry friends with their real estate needs.

Here are the details:

Koala Tree Planting Morning Working Bee Hosted by Bangalow Koalas

WHEN: February 23rd from 9am – 11am

WHERE: 990 Friday Hut Rd, Binna Burra