Emotional labor is a kind of work we often don’t recognize as work: the need to appear friendly, deferential, or attentive at a job. Fast food restaurant Pret a Manger is famous for holding its employees to exacting friendliness standards, and emotional labor’s overall importance is becoming a more and more pressing question. It’s frequently, for example, implicated when talking about the supposed American “crisis of masculinity” and the growth of the service sector.
As Google continues to stoke excitement for its Glass smart-eyewear, a Japanese researcher has developed a radical alternative. Rather than focus on what the owner sees, Prof Hirotaka Osawa’s kit shows computer-generated eye animations in place of the wearer’s real ones. Special lenses let the user see out or take a secret nap if they prefer. The professor said the glasses could be used to simulate emotional reactions when users are distracted or busy. He added that the idea of creating an “emotional cyborg” was inspired by the work of an American sociologist who had coined the phrase “emotional labour” to refer to the use of facial expressions and body movements to show feelings. This, Prof Osawa noted, could be a requirement for nurses, waitresses, teachers, therapists and others working in interaction-intensive professions. “Our developed society requires workers to behave more socially,” he told the BBC.