Pandemic Organizers Are Co-opting Productivity Software

Mutual-aid groups are distributing groceries and spare air conditioners via tools designed to turn labor into money as efficiently as possible.

The workplace chat app Slack is where you go to do any number of things throughout the day: announce “I am busy”; pop into a conversation to clarify “I am paying attention”; submit a photo of your cat to the #cats channel to declare allegiance to your office’s cat people, for whatever reason. All the stuff of work, and of updating others on your work, and of taking short, performative breaks from work to look at a funny tweet and then get back to the grind.

In 2017, Slack published a paid post on the New York Times website about how it was reinventing the office-worker experience, mostly by bending “time, space and knowledge for the better.” The company was valued at $23 billion when it went public last year. In March, it reported a record number of new sign-ups for paid versions of the software, as more and more offices reoriented around remote work. “The week of March 9 was the most productive in our company’s history,” Slack’s CEO, Stewart Butterfield, told MarketWatch.

Meanwhile, the week that the United States reported its first 1,000 coronavirus cases, Slack was also being used for the exact opposite of what the start-up world might call productivity: not for optimizing time and human capital to create more money for businesses, but for redistributing resources, with no profit goal.

[Read more from The Atlantic]