The 21st Century Human at Work

Shown in this exhibition is one production setting that was common on the cusp of the 20th and 21st century. This setting was chosen to give a survey of methods of sustenance and survival during that time period. The objects in this exhibition were used as tools for fulfilling labor requirements to meet economic needs. This exchange of skills and time provided the laborer with the resources necessary to ensure their own survival as well as that of their offspring.

Exhibition Images

Cultural Relevance of "The Office"

Early 21st century humans spent much of their time in the workplace —often referred to as "the office"— and it was here that many vital social roles and relationships developed. The average workplace of this time period was representative of the hierarchical distinctions of their society. In this setting, the dominant/submissive roles of supervisor ("boss") and laborer ("employee") paralleled and often defined societal power systems. A person's role in this environment often played a large part in how they identified socially and culturally and determined the economic class to which they belonged. Additionally, it served as a means to meet the basic requirements of living: workers traded their time for financial compensation which was then used to purchase the food and material goods necessary for daily life.

Common Social Customs

The 21st century workplace not only contributed to the workers' understanding of culture and their place within it, but a unique set of social standards emerged in this climate. In this environment rituals, dress, behavior, and rules and regulations all developed. For instance, although many social circles developed and revolved around the workplace, it was often considered socially unacceptable to mate with a fellow worker. While this could initially be seen as counterintuitive, the complexity of this type of relationship had the potential to disrupt the established hierarchy and customs of "the office". Ritualistic behavior of this environment included "business lunches", "meetings" and "conferences". These activities were aimed at cultivating inter-workplace relationships and to communicate ideas to members of similar labor group. Certain sections of the workforce often dressed homogeneously, as was frequently the practice in the "office" setting. This convention allowed for easy identification of other members of the same group, as well as developing a sense of community.