Microcredentials are a hot new topic in the roiling debate between those who want to make credentials more meritocratic and those who want to make them less relevant. I haven’t taken sides in that debate, but I want microcredentialism to be more than a passing fad. I want to see microcredentials produce results that impact the real world, as I think it’s a Capital idea.
Basically microcredentials, like credentials in general, are supposed to serve as proof of attainment of skills by individuals. Microcredentials aim to document single, specific skills, rather than bundles of skills that are taken to comprise all the skill requirements of an occupation, which is the typical intent of occupational credentials such as journeyperson cards, occupational licenses and professional degrees. A microcredential, on the other hand, might certify someone for one specific task, and that one task might be a tiny fraction of their overall job description.
Of particular interest to me is the question of how microcredentialing might fit into a strategy for implementing an anagora, or non-market non-state economy. So far, I have proposed two schemes for implementing an anagora. I call these Angel Economics and VACIMET. Angel Economics is an idea some anonymous other came up with that I decided to expand on and adapt to the anagorist cause. VACIMET is something I made up in jest as a satire of Jeff Graubart’s Capital idea called AFFEERCE. Both Angel Economics (AE) and VACIMET are strategies to create a third way which is neither a market nor a command economy; a planned economy which is not centrally planned. VACIMET is basically AE presented in a style that imitates that which Graubart uses to present AFFEERCE, so they’re basically the same thing. AE/VACIMET makes some use of credentialism as it classifies the performers of tasks in economic production in a three-level hierarchy (in the bootmaker sense) as apprentices, journeycritters or masters. Apprenticeship in AE/VACIMET differs markedly from apprenticeship in the actually-existing economy in that AE/VACIMET apprenticeship does not seek to create artificial scarcity, and does not seek to be a guardian of trade secrets. Exclusion from economic production, even via “natural” market competition, is anathema to anagorism. So is institutional secrecy, as one of the principles on which anagorism rests is thick individualism, or an unconditional privileging of the agendas of individuals over those of institutions. Apprenticeship in AE/VACIMET is similar to apprenticeship as we know it in that there is a desire for on-the-job training, because we want a real-world focus, and because the inventor of anagorism (yours truly) has a burning desire to make the school-to-work transition less intimidating, and believes the existing protocols for that are so (if you’ll pardon my French) fucked that an overhaul of society itself is needed, including a brand new economic system.
Here are the blog posts so far about Angel Economics and VACIMET, of which I wrote all but the first:
My approach to workforce training and development in the Angel Economy is as follows:
One way to start this project would be to spread the word about your idea of angel economics. Attract as many people (or angels) as you can. The first thing to ask of your participants can be to use matrices and graph nodes to model their own jobs. Hopefully their jobs aren’t so monotonous that the whole workday isn’t built around a single process operation. In any case any person’s current actual job in meatspace should be able to be modeled by listing materials used in each on-the-job activity, as well as internal and external ‘customers’ dealt with, etc. Additional information to obtain from each participant would include jobs or trades they would be interested in learning, as well as any for which they are expert enough to teach. This lends itself to creating a many-to-many relation mapping participants with occupations, in which each instance of person-in-an-occupation can be preliminarily tagged as ‘apprentice,’, ‘journeycritter,’ or ‘master.’ Sure this brings rank, and potentially rankism, into the equation. Consider it the kind of ‘authority’ that implies expertise and nothing else. In the angelic social structure we are modeling of course, apprenticeship is more purely for the purpose of instruction, and undertaken without the usual emphasis on bondage, servitude, entry barriers and trade secrets. On-the-job training, of course can be seen as another process to be modeled.
In incorporating microcredentials into Angel Economics, I think the operative words above might be “instance of person-in-an-occupation.” Replace “occupation” with (narrowly-defined) “skill” and retain the apprentice-journeycritter-master ranking, and we have a system that, if nothing else, is combinatorially interesting. As the job-modeling process is described in my first Angel Economics proposal (emphasis added):
The first thing to ask of your participants can be to use matrices and graph nodes to model their own jobs. Hopefully their jobs aren’t so monotonous that the whole workday isn’t built around a single process operation. In any case any person’s current actual job in meatspace should be able to be modeled by listing materials used in each on-the-job activity, as well as internal and external ‘customers’ dealt with, etc.
In a microcredentialed AE/VACIMET, single processes would be sought out; not avoided. If the process at a particular workstation involves some constellation of micro-skills, it could conceivably be staffed by a group of one or more people who have the full micro-skill-set between them. Note that AE or VACIMET, by definition, involve no proprietary information technology and no proprietary data. Without this precondition, breaking work down into microtasks and microskills can only produce nightmarishly dystopian outcomes. Consider the proprietary platform called WorkFusion (h/t Manna subreddit on Reddit):
WorkFusion lets users standardize knowledge processes into online workflows comprised of microtasks, the simplest unit of work. WorkFusion provides an extensive library of both machine tools and human worker instruction templates which users can drag-and-drop into workflows using a graphical design tool. WorkFusion comes equipped with pre-built knowledge process workflows, which users can customize.
This is actually pretty much how I would describe the combination of AE/VACIMET with microcredentialing. The key difference is that in AE/VACIMET, the “users” are not a separate entity from the “human workers.” To get an idea of just how diabolical WorkFusion is, consider the following (from the same page):
WorkFusion is integrated with the leading online talent marketplaces, including Amazon Mechanical Turk, Craigslist, Elance, oDesk, and uSamp. WorkFusion sources and qualifies workers from this combined market by posting microtask job listings onto these marketplaces simultaneously, selecting the best applicants across all markets based on a user’s demographic and qualification requirements and on the results of qualification tasks administered by WorkFusion. WorkFusion then databases each worker, creating a vetted, on-demand, dedicated workforce for the enterprise.
This is the current trend in work under capitalism, and is the sort of dystopian nightmare our descendants can look forward to if we don’t effect a major overhaul of economic allocation and coordination.