Corporate control of staff personal life

News that Deakin University lecturer Martin Hirst was stood down without pay over three tweets, caused ripples of concern in the twittersphere and in the academy. Since the story first broke, Hirst has been sacked pending a decision to appeal. His employer’s position is that Hirst has breached the university’s code of conduct. The university had received a complaint from a Deakin University student that Hirst tweeted to the complainant in a threatening way. When the University inspected Hirst’s private account – that did not identify Hirst as a Deakin employee – it found two further offending tweets and suspended him. Hirst maintains that he did not know the complainant was a Deakin student.

This is not the first time an employee has had their job threatened by a social media post. In 2015, SBS reporter Scott McIntyre lost his job following a controversial tweet about the ANZACs. He has since settled his unfair dismissal case against SBS. More recently, La Trobe academic Roz Ward was  stood down for comments on her private Facebook page. Her comments did not relate to her work at La Trobe. She has since been reinstated after a massive national campaign.

The merger of public and private has never been so stark it seems. So, where might the boundary lie?

Continue reading

Fertility tracking: women’s lib?

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 10.34.49 amA recent article in The Guardian profiled the rise of fertility tracking software and devices. It left me uncomfortably attempting to reconcile the obvious benefits with what are likely to be the costs of such technologies.

For some time, apps have been available as a means to record your menstrual cycle. The one I use, Period Tracker, allows you not only to input the date of your period, but to record a variety of symptoms (bloating, headache, night sweats) and moods (‘flirty’, anxious, sad), and even when a woman is sexually active. The app calculates your likely cycle, which for those who menstruate other than on a 28 day cycle, is very handy. The deluxe version, I believe, can be shared with your partner to identify your window of fertility.

Fertility trackers are an updated version of this. Like Fitbit, they can be tuned into your body’s physiology and work with that data to alert you to your fertility. Some suggest that this data might also be able to predict underlying medical conditions. This has implications both personally and population wide – implications that are both potentially liberating and chilling.

Continue reading