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Bond links with EU to study the 'virtual workplace'

A Bond University expert on the impact of the internet on society has been invited to take part in a newly established European Union policy group looking at how the virtual workplace will impact the labour market and in the future.

Marcus Breen, Professor of Communication and Creative Media in Bond's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, will travel to Darmstadt, Germany later this month to participate in a high level  European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Concerted Research Action, looking at the emerging field of the virtual workplace.

The invitation is a significant accomplishment for Bond University, not only involving one of its academics in a major international collaborative discussion on an important global issue, but also establishing a formal connection between Bond and the European Union.

Professor Breen’s participation is funded by the Australian Academy of Science under a special non-member agreement with the COST Secretariat in Brussels.

Professor Breen said the first meeting of the action group would be defining how it planned to operate and which areas of the international workplace it would cover.

"It will be trying to recommend effective strategies to harness the power of technology and communication businesses to generate new employment and economic development in Europe," he said.

"But we may also be looking at aspects related to the cost of labour and questions which arise about where low cost centres are located.

"It will be making a contribution to the development of policies for the European Union on what governments can and should be doing to regulate the virtual movement of labour from one country to another or one economy to another.

"It will look at how struggling economies are affected by the virtual movement of labour internationally and across borders."

The EU COST group has been formed to consider the impact technology has had on the content and location of the workplace, with digital information transforming labour processes and telecommunications enabling jobs to be relocated globally.

Professor Breen said the deliberations of the action group would have a major impact on government policies in Europe and the rest of the world within the next decade.

He said it had particular implications for the future of the workplace, the future of education, and for economic development, skills and innovation policies.

"These issues have not been studied in a cohesive way, and this group will distil knowledge to enable policymakers to establish facts and develop effective strategies to generate new employment and economic activity," said Pro Breen.

"The public debate has already started on questions about taxation that should be paid by major transnational technology firms and service providers such as Google and Yahoo and the impact of the virtual players on the real, material economies.

"Regional and national governments are already trying to work out how to regulate and manage labour and employment opportunities for working people.

"The objective of this project is to begin the process of delivering recommendations and ideas to the governments of Europe and other parts of the world about the best way to manage the impacts of virtual work."

Professor Breen is about to embark on his own virtual workplace, having been invited to be the editor of the International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, a US based publication which examines innovative theories and practices relating technology to society.

The journal provides a meeting point for technology researchers with a concern for social issues. Professor Breen's involvement as editor will complement his participation in the EU research group.

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