Generations And The Future Of Distance Workers

080212BeckerFrontA distance worker performs his work at the ‘production position’. The results of his work emerge at the ‘outcome position’, at a distance from the production position. An example is a series of guest lectures I presented at the University of Johannesburg. I lectured in Utrecht in a video conference center. The students were located in South Africa. After a few minutes, I forgot that I was speaking to a glass screen. I could see and hear the students’ reactions to my presentation. The male students participated a bit more actively than their female colleagues. To support my lectures, I had distributed a set of handouts in advance.

In this essay, I will first discuss the dynamics of the Pattern of Generations. These dynamics will structure the future of distance workers substantially. I will base this discussion on my research program on generations, active since 1983. Secondly, I will present several examples of distance activities. Thirdly, the future of distance workers will be discussed in detail.

The Pattern of Generations and its Dynamics
The concept of generations has been a part of our cultural heritage for many centuries. We can define a generation as: ‘the clustering of a set of birth cohorts as an effect of one or more major events in society’. [1] The impact of major events is particularly strong during the formative period of the life course. The formative period is from around age twelve to seventeen. In this period intelligence and memory capacity reach their highest level in the life course. [2]

In 2015, the pattern of generations can be represented by a number of idealizations. [3] The ‘Silent Generation’ is birth cohorts from 1930 to 1945. The ‘Early Babyboom Generation’ is cohorts born from 1945 to 1955. The ‘Late Babyboom Cohorts’ go from 1955 to 1980. The ‘Pragmatic Generation’, also called ‘Generation X, is situated between 1980 and 1990. ‘Generation Y’ goes from 1990 to 2000’, and ‘Generation Z’ starts in 2000.
The dynamics of generations are represented by the changes over time that each generation experiences. Take the ‘Early Babyboom Generation’ for instance. In its formative period it experienced the emergence of ICT. In its formative period, ‘Generation Z’ will experience the impact of substantial improvements in ICT, combined with a substantial increase in command of the English language.
Generations can be discussed with the aid of idealizations. Another type of generation consists of the results of empirical research in sociology and related social sciences. Third, we are confronted with the images of generations in everyday life. [4].

Examples of Distance Workers
First of all, distance workers in education demand our attention. At the start of this essay, I mentioned a series of guest lectures delivered from the University of Utrecht and received at the University of Johannesburg. This is one example of the many kinds of education being provided at a distance. Nowadays, many universities offer their lectures on the Internet. Institutes in higher education increasingly offer online courses. Professors’ discussions with students are held by e-mail or virtual conferences. In most cases the English language is used.

More and more education takes place within developed countries and from developed countries towards developing countries. We also encounter distance workers operating within developing countries, or from these countries towards other developed counties. Often, high level distance workers teach in cooperation with low level distance workers.

Second, we encounter consultation and coaching by distance workers towards their clients. This is provided by e-mail or virtual conferences for instance. In this case also, distance workers operate within a developed country or towards a developing country. And again, developing countries may act internally or towards developed countries.

Third, distance workers are engaged in creating and distributing products and services. Products are created online more and more. Increasingly, the products and services offered can be ordered on the Internet. Distance workers are responsible in these cases for the creation and distribution of these products and services. As a rule, these products and services are accompanied by the availability of a ‘call center’. An experienced distance worker will generally be available at a call center.

Fourth, health care is part of the distance worker phenomenon. This occurs within or from a developed or a developing country. This health care is provided by high or low level distance workers. Cooperation between high and low level specialists is often involved. Care for hospital patients is frequently provided now by large numbers of health robots supervised virtually by a team of distance workers.

As a fifth example, we can mention supervision. For instance, supervision by cameras. What is registered by the cameras is analyzed virtually. The outcomes of the virtual analyses are supervised by distance workers. If required, these distance workers take action.

Distance Workers in the Next Decades
In order to discuss the future activities of distance workers we will start by summarizing the assumptions behind this discussion. Our first assumption is the prediction that the members of younger cohorts, born after 1990, are highly skilled in handling ICT and using the English language. Second, we assume that members of cohorts born before 1990 are able to handle ICT and English as well, but at a lower level. Third, we assume that the members of all cohorts concerned show interest in employment as distance workers. Fourth, we assume that over the next decades the number of safe regions will have increased. These developments can be predicted as a result of military actions against terrorist organizations like IS.

Next we will take a look at the hypotheses that predict the outcomes of policy activities in developed and developing countries. First, we predict that inhabitants of safe regions will be effectively motivated to stay in these regions. This primarily because political and economic refugees will largely be disappointed about staying in the countries they are living in. Second, because European countries will successfully refuse economic immigrants because they would do better staying in their original area. Third, because European countries will successfully refuse most political migrants because they would do better going to safe areas in developing countries.

These hypotheses are primarily based on the behavior of distance workers. The working lives of these distance workers involve a great deal of ‘hidden resources’. They could decide on a much larger scale to participate in distance work, as we have argued in the second paragraph and also in the third paragraph.

Final Remarks
This essay is supported by ‘existential proof’ (Existentsbeweis, in German). Distance work in education already takes place on a large scale in many countries. As a next step, more distance work can be explored in other areas, such as commercial activities, health care, etc.
The emergence of distance workers is already on its way, although at a low speed. National and international governmental strategies could substantially speed up the rise of distance work. Nevertheless, it will be many years before the reduction of economic and political immigration towards European countries is sufficiently reduced. [5]

Henk A. Becker
January 2016

[1] Henk A. Becker (2012). Generaties van Geluksvogels en Pechvogels: Strategieën voor assertief opgroeien, actief ouder worden en intergenerationelesolidariteit tot 2030. Amsterdam: Rozenberg Publishers. Periodieke aanvulling met bonushoofdstukken. Zie: Paperback and e-book. Also, Henk A. Becker (2012). Generations of Lucky Devils and Unlucky Dogs: Strategies for assertive growing up, active ageing and intergenerational solidarity up to 2030. Amsterdam: Rozenberg Publishers. Periodically supplemented by bonus chapters. See Paperback and e-book.
[2] Shu-Chen Ki, Ulman Lindenberger Bernhard Hommel, Gisa Aschersleben, Wolfgang Priz, and Paul B. Baltes. ‘Transformations in the Couplings Among Intellectual Abilities and Constituent Cognitive Processes Across the Life Span’.Psychological Science, Volume 15-Number 3, 2004.
[3] Henk Broer, Jan van de Craats en Ferdinand Verhulst (2008). Chaostheorie: het einde van de voorspelbaarheid? Utrecht Epsilon Uitgaven. Page 141 e.v.
[4] See Note 1.

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Life-History Of A Workaholic ~ Autobiography Of Henk A. Becker

beckerWorkaholic as a self-image
This autobiography revolves around the question of how the development as a workaholic has proceeded. It also discusses how this pattern of behaviour has persisted. This autobiography mentions family members only in passing. This should protect their privacy.

My roots (around 1880 – 1932)
The figurehead of my ancestry is Simon de Vries. He was the son of a carpenter from Westzaan. At the VU University he became ‘mr. in de rechten’, Master of Laws. He graduated during a time when the VU could not yet give academic titles. So he continued his studies with the University of Amsterdam, where he became a Doctor of Laws. Dr S. de Vries Czn founded a law firm at Keizersgracht in Amsterdam. From 1916 to 1920 he was the Minister of Finance for the Anti-Revolutionary Party. That was during the second cabinet of Ruys de Beerenbroek.

My grandfather opted for a systematic existence. Parsimony, thrift and ambition were the pillars of his life. His first wife was ‘Dikkie’, an unmistakable Burgundian. Two sons of the couple were also strongly Burgundian. The youngest son resembled his father in that he was a clear conformist. This means that he observed the rules of parsimony, thrift and working hard. The two daughters, including my mother, were only slightly Burgundian.

Shortly after the First World War the De Vries family was hospitable to a number of German pale-faces. Some time later the daughters of De Vries were invited to stay with the parents of these children in Wesel. One day a neighbour stopped by. My mother, Doppie, and the neighbour, Hans, fell in love at first sight. Many years later they were married.

Early youth (1933 – 1945)
I was born in 1933 in Greifswald. My father was a doctor of theoretical physics and at that time he worked with the University of Greifswald. In 1935 my brother Peter was born. Shortly after, my father was offered a position with the Siemens firm in Berlin. The family moved to an apartment in the district of Berlin-Siemensstadt.

Across from our apartment building there was a primary school. When I was six, I started my educational career there. From the first day on my father always warned me: ‘One wrong word and we’ll all end up in a concentration camp’. He called the then-head of state ‘der Wahnsinnskandidat’. My father has never been in the military and he was not a member of the political party that dominated the scene at the time.
During my whole life at school there was an air alarm every night. Every time we had to hide in the underground shelter below the apartment building. When we heard the whistling of falling bombs, we knew they wouldn’t fall on us. If they’d fall on us, we would not hear them coming.
For several months my mother, my brother and I resided in a village in Bavaria. My fellow classmates hated people from the north. They called me ‘du Saubub du dreckiger’.

Some years later we were evacuated to the village of Bernstein, east of the Oder in what is now Poland. Towards the end of the war this area was occupied by Russian forces. The victors behaved in a horrible way, especially by raping. I still think back occasionally to the local apothecary wife. She and her children had committed suicide. After they drugged themselves, the 16-year-old daughter was the only one to wake up. She hid with a group of women and children to which we also belonged. She was disguised as well as possible as a very young girl. A couple of Russian soldiers discovered it. In my mind I still hear the desperate sobbing of the girl as the soldiers dragged her away. We never saw her again.
I also remember the rape of a woman by a Russian officer. Panicked, she tried to jump down from a second floor window, but she was caught up in the bars. Screaming loudly she was pulled back in. The further course of the encounter is not hard to guess.

Finally my mother, my brother and I returned to Berlin. We travelled partly by foot, partly by train. At one point Russian and Polish soldiers were shooting at each other, right through the train. Despite everything, we managed to reach Berlin. In the middle of the night we stood before our apartment building. In our flat at the first floor, a light was burning. When we reached the front door and knocked, strangers answered. We were told that my father wasn’t there anymore.
My father had been at work with Siemens when in the room next to his a colleague was tortured by Russian soldiers. Later that day my father committed suicide in our flat. The colleague was taken away by the Russians shortly after that. No one has ever heard from him again. These events have led me to conclude that my father was wise to commit suicide.

After we returned to Berlin, we returned to our apartment. We lived there for some time. My mother worked as a secretary with the Dutch Military Mission with the ‘Allied Control Council’. Some months later we could go to the Netherlands. My grandfather had been remarried and lived in Wassenaar. ‘Oma Betje’ was not a Burgundian, but a conformist, like my grandfather.

My school years (1946 – 1953)
Just after the war it was wise to hide that you were German. To have my brother and me integrate as quickly and thoroughly as possible, my grandfather came up with a trick. He kept us off the streets in Wassenaar for a few months. During those months we were taught Dutch every day. The texts we read discussed the Dutch language, Dutch history and Dutch topography. Finally we had to copy the corrected texts. This allowed me to learn the Dutch language well enough to pass as a native within a few months. After about half a year my brother and I were sent to the Christian MULO in Wassenaar. I graduated within four years.

One day my grandfather told two of our uncles: ‘My grandchildren are not worth anything’. This made me furious. It was a frustration that had me in its grip for a long time. I see this remark of my grandfather’s as the first seed for me becoming a workaholic. My direct response was that I started looking for a job. First I became the youngest assistent ever in a large law firm in The Hague. Just a month later I worked my way up to solicitor clerk. Many more jobs followed in the administrative industry. In evenings and on weekends I followed a course for the national HBA-A exam. In the classroom I sat all the way at the back. When I was about to fall asleep, my head would knock against the wall. I passed the national exam in 1953. It was a result that hooked me.

Studying years (1954 – 1959)
After that my life changed dramatically. I moved to Leiden to study law. My mother and a cousin of hers provided me with the necessary monetary means. My new life included membership with one of the main students’ association of Leiden, the Leidsch Studentencorps. I started with participating in the so-called green time. Unfortunately the evenings in the Minerva Society displayed quite some similarities to my time under Russian occupation. A relatively high percentage of senior society members divulged in drunkenness and sadism. There was a ‘committee of support’ to represent the greenlings, but it didn’t do much. One specific evening springs to mind. The members of the committee were completely drunk and dancing on a table. One of the members waved about wildly with his walking cane. He hit me with the iron tip of the stick, right above the eye. So I just barely dodged being blinded in one eye. To be able to defend myself after my green time, I took boxing lessons. When I completed the course, I could have defended myself against the sadists. Instead I started to wonder: do I actually like this? My answer to that question was negative. I stopped my membership of the LSC.

One time my brother, Peter, gave me a snippet with an English article on ‘the silent generation’. This article made me curious. I attended lectures by Van Heek, a professor in sociology. In a sociology class I wrote an essay on an aspect of generations. One of the assistants noted: ‘It’s almost as if Henk Becker has been studying sociology for years.’ This experience made me decide to switch from law to sociology. After four years I completed my doctoral exam in sociology with a cum laude assessment. Some years before, I had already accepted a job with the Ministry of Social Work in The Hague. At the Binnenhof I worked with the Research and Policy department.

During my study period I met Johanna Enzlin, a sociology student. In 1959 we married. At Rapenburg we became the managing couple of a house of the Student Housing Association. Every workday I travelled to The Hague by train to fulfil my job as a policy consultant.

The Rotterdam Bank Association had gifted a hundred thousand guilders to the Netherlands School of Economics in Rotterdam to conduct research on the professionalisation of management. The Social Faculty of the School named me the project leader of this study. After four years the project was finished and I was given the opportunity to complete my doctoral degree with the final report. By then I had already been appointed lecturer of policy sociology.

At that time the Utrecht University released an advertisement in which they were looking for a professor of sociology. I gathered the courage to apply for this position. I was incredibly happy to be appointed professor at that university.

Professorship (1968 – 1998)
My title was ‘professor of sociology, especially social research methodology’. So I was given a content-related and a methodological position. I added a third task to this list myself: ‘the state-of-the-art in sociology’. I called this construction a tripod, which had the goal of preventing a one-sided specialisation. I started my professorship during a period that allowed professors quite much space to play around. In a book by Helmut Schelsky this construction was described as ‘Einsamkeit und Freiheit’.

I started my professorship in a turbulent period. The radical left-wing students fought the establishment of professors. Newly appointed, relatively young professors had nothing to do with it and could do little about it. And there were quite many of those. The Netherlands has fought the student revolution of the late sixties of the last century with a relatively costly extinguisher: appointing many relatively young professors.
My first lecture was disrupted by revolting students. In those years I was energetic enough to have strong mental armour. Enthusiastically I helped construct a new course programme for sociology. Many international textbooks were ordered.

My home situation also saw some changes. My wife and I moved to Doorn. We had two daughters. It was easy for me to reach the university area of De Uithof by car. From my office on the thirteenth floor I had a great view of the university buildings and the meadows around them.

When it comes to research, my first major project focused on the careers of academics in university education and research positions. I myself conducted a part of the research with thirty case studies. The second researcher managed a large-scale quantitative research. The sociologist Peter de Rooij was responsible for the third part of the research: a comparative study. He achieved his doctoral degree for his work on this project.
The results of the thirty case studies have been published. But the findings of the large-scale quantitative study have unfortunately remained unused. The researcher responsible faced a writer’s block and refused to publish the data. He didn’t even want to make the data available for processing by third parties. The failure of the second part of the project is the main failure of my empirical activities. Unfortunately I could not prevent this.

At the start of the 1980s I focused on the study of the generational pattern of society. In 1983 my first article was published in an academic journal. In 1992 I published the book ‘Generaties en hun Kansen’ (‘Generations and their Opportunities’). The book was a success. It was the first widely known book on a relatively new topic in our country. The topic of ‘generations’ has occupied a central position during the rest of my professorship in my academic work. I did not just publish on the topic in Dutch, but also in English and in German. In 1997 I was appointed Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion because of my work.

In 1998 my farewell lecture was titled ‘Discontinuous Changes’. The lecture addressed both discipline-focused and policy-focused research. In the academic world it was intended to break the overvalued preference for explanations based on constant variables and variables changing linearly. In the real world it was intended to break the tradition of not responding or responding too late to a turbulent social environment. The new form of research would be able to take these two hurdles best by presenting examples of successful changes. To this, it also applies that nothing breeds success like success.

Emeritus (1998 plus)
When I entered my emeritus period I continued my activities in academics. In 2012 my book, ‘Generations of Lucky Devils and Unlucky Dogs: Strategies for assertive growing up, active ageing and intergenerational solidarity up to 2030’, was published. It has a preface by Paul Schnabel. Available as a paperback and as e-book, in its original Dutch version as well as translated into English.

With its bonus chapters this book has transformed into a ‘living document’. On the publisher’s website there regularly appear complements to the book. The website is easy to find. ( generations)

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The Greek Program “SPUR” ~ Towards A New Spur For EU Democracy Building Learn And Engagement

SpurThe Greek PROGRAM “SPUR” – Towards a New Spur for EU Democracy Building learn and engagement

The project is an initiative of Nea Smyrni municipality, a municipality located about 4 km southwest of central Athens, Greece, named so after the city Smyrna (today’s İzmir in Turkey), from where a large number of refugees arrived and settled in the Nea Smyrni area following the 1922 population exchange between Greece and Turkey.
The municipality implements this project with the support of the “Europe for Citizens” programme of the European Union.

The main goal of “SPUR” program is to highlight and assess both the value of solidarity and volunteering in the current context of economic and humanitarian crisis inside United Europe as well as to improve the conditions for civic and democratic participation of citizens providing them, as a New Spur, New forms of Societal and intercultural engagement for the enhancement of civic and democratic participation at national and European level.

These forms, away from extremist or populist movements and radicalized behaviors and beyond xenophobia, intolerance and any discrimination against the vulnerable or excluded people within EU societies and underprivileged and disadvantaged populations, which often include youngsters and people of non – EU origins:
a) Stabilize the social welfare, health, employment, education, environment, culture,, which brutally affected in times of economic recession and poverty
b) Protect further the fundamental rights, in particular of minorities,
c) Help restore law and civil parity for a decent living,
d) Promote and foster the economy and the development and finally,
e) Consolidate the faith, to the principles and values on which the European ideal is founded, in particular of the different types of Eurosceptics, and to put forward the achievements of the United Europe and the cost of no Europe creating a new positive narrative for Europe and Europe integration.

For more information: Vanessa  Kavvada ~

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Peter Vale & Steven Karataglidis ~ Pressure To Publish Is Choking The Academic Profession

MAThe southern hemisphere’s cold weather is a certain signal that winter conference season is upon us.
In the coming weeks academics – from many disciplines – will be spending freezing nights in student dorms and days exchanging disciplinary gossip on the plight of the universities and on what is new in their chosen field.
But after these issues, the single most important conversation between them will be how to negotiate the regime of publication that pervades contemporary academic life not only in South Africa but across the world.

The obligation that academic staff must publish is invariably presented as a virtuous thing. It is right and proper for academics to expand and extend the boundaries of their respective disciplines by publishing in outlets, as approved by their peers.
Moreover, a public that is often sceptical of the usefulness of universities is often told that academics publish in “the public good”.

But if academic publishing is so significant in the profession, why is it that the young and talented in the academy increasingly resist it, calling it formulaic, at best, and, at worst, a sweatshop? And why is it that old academic hands are simply no longer interested in contributing to the peer-review system that is at the heart of the system and without which the standing of the entire industry will falter?

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D-PLACE –The Database Of Places, Language, Culture And Environment

D-PLACE_LogoFrom the foods we eat, to who we can marry, to the types of games we teach our children, the diversity of cultural practices in the world is astounding. Yet, our ability to visualize and understand this diversity is often limited by the ways it traditionally has been documented and shared: on a culture-by-culture basis, in locally-told stories or difficult-to-access books and articles.

D-PLACE, which stands for ‘Database of Places, Language, Culture, and Environment,’ represents an attempt to bring together this dispersed corpus of information. It aims to make it easy for individuals to contrast their own cultural practices with those of other societies, and to consider the factors that may underlie cultural similarities and differences.

So far, D-PLACE contains cultural, linguistic, environmental and geographic information for over 1400 human ‘societies’. A ‘society’ in D-PLACE represents a group of people in a particular locality, who often share a language and cultural identity. All cultural descriptions are tagged with the date to which they refer and with the ethnographic sources that provided the descriptions. The majority of the cultural descriptions in D-PLACE are based on ethnographic work carried out in the 19th and early-20th centuries (pre-1950).

In linking societies to a geographic location (using a reported latitude and longitude) and language, D-PLACE allows interested users to simultaneously consider how cultural practices relate to linguistic ancestry, practices of neighbouring cultures, and the environment. D-PLACE makes visualizing these relationships easy, with search results available as a table, on a map, or on a linguistic tree.

While D-PLACE is designed to be expandable, most of the initial cultural data in D-PLACE were originally compiled by two anthropologists, George P. Murdock and Lewis R. Binford, each relying on hundreds of individual references. Murdock and Binford’s core datasets are described in more detail in the Data Source section.

The D-PLACE team is made up of scientists with a broad range of interests who share a passion for interdisciplinary inquiry.

More information on: citing D-PLACE, related publications, and the technology and source code.

D-PLACE is a work in progress. We welcome suggestions for corrections and/or for additional data.

D-PLACE was developed with generous support from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center ( and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (

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Julie Gould ~ What’s The Point Of The PhD Thesis?

PhDOn the morning of Tom Marshall’s PhD defence, he put on the suit he had bought for the occasion and climbed onto the stage in front of a 50-strong audience, including his parents and 6 examiners. He gave a 15-minute-long presentation, then faced an hour of cross-examination about his past 5 years of neuroscience research at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. A lot was at stake: this oral examination would determine whether he passed or failed. “At the one-hour mark someone came in, banged a stick on the floor and said ‘hora est‘,” says Marshall — the ceremonial call that his time was up. “But I couldn’t. I had enjoyed the whole experience far too much, and ended up talking for a few extra minutes.”

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