Work

Mr. Litwak is finally getting online.

Digital Divide

At the beginning of the movie, Mr. Litwak installs a Wi-Fi router for the arcade. Giving the arcade internet access will improve his business. Many important parts of the modern Internet (YouTube, eBay, etc.) already exist by the time Mr. Litwak installed the Wi-Fi router, suggesting that he’s a late adopter to the Internet. This introduces the topic of the digital divide, which describes how certain groups of people are less likely to use or have access to the Internet than other groups of people. The digital divide most often refers to different rates of Internet access and use between rich and poor, but it can also refer to the different rates of Internet use between young and old. We see this illustrated in the movie near the beginning when the steering wheel breaks. Mr. Litwak thinks that he won't be able to buy a replacement wheel, because the company that made the game went out of business. However, the younger arcadegoers whip out their phones and find the wheel on eBay in seconds. According to Professor Carol McDonough of UMassLowell, as of 2013 just 60% of older adults in the United States used the Internet compared to 86% of Americans as a whole [1]. The rate of Internet use for older adults has increased over the years, but it’s still much lower than the rate for younger people, leaving older people at a disadvantage in the modern world. Mr. Litwak is an older man, and him getting online was a conscious decision that clearly required some effort on his part. This is in stark contrast to his younger customers who are online without a thought. They whip out their phones to find the steering wheel on eBay in a matter of seconds. This dichotomy represents the digital divide between young and old.

Online Distractions

Later in the movie, when Ralph is trying to earn money through the online video platform BuzzzTube, there’s a scene showing a group of office workers watching Ralph’s videos instead of working. This represents how workers can easily get distracted and waste valuable time. According to business research firm Basex, "unnecessary interruptions" cost businesses around 650 billion dollars every year in terms of lost productivity [2]. Watching BuzzzTube videos would be considered an unnecessary interruption. To stop their employees from wasting time doing these kinds of tasks, businesses have started using technology to monitor what their employees are doing online. According to the Brookings Institute, employers have started using products like keylogger software which can record what employees type on business computers and email that information to supervisors [3]. These technologies let employers ensure that their employees are staying on task. In the movie, employee monitoring technology might have prevented the office workers from wasting time watching Internet videos instead of doing something more productive.

Office workers are captivated by Ralph's viral videos instead of doing their work.
Spamley hopes to be the middleman in the "theft" and sale of Shank's Car

Gig Economy

Ralph and Vanellope travel to the Internet world to purchase a new steering wheel for Vanellope’s arcade game. After unintentionally raising the price of the steering wheel too high, they’re approached by a clickbait salesman named J.P. Spamley who offers them a lot of money to retrieve a car from a popular video game. If they bring the car to him, Spamley will then sell it to someone else. Spamley’s role in this transaction is very similar to the role of Gig Economy apps like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash. The Gig Economy refers to service workers who do short-term labor for clients. To get work, the workers use certain apps to connect with potential clients [4]. In the movie, Ralph and Vanellope need money quickly, so they take a short term job offered by J.P. Spamley. Spamley then connects the two with a possible client who wants the pair to do a job for him, in this case retrieving an item in a video game. As with Uber and DoorDash, Spamley serves as the middle man between a client and people who need work.

Sources

[1] McDonough CC (2016) The Effect of Ageism on the Digital Divide Among Older Adults. J Gerontol Geriatr Med 2: 008.
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/91b9/8455ddbd097334add36b0ca611d572738dd6.pdf. Accessed April 30, 2021.

[2] Lohr, Steve. “Is Information Overload a $650 Billion Drag on the Economy?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Dec. 2007, https://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/20/is-information-overload-a-650-billion-drag-on-the-economy/. Accessed April 30, 2021.

[3] West, Darrell M. “How Employers Use Technology to Surveil Employees.” Brookings, Brookings, 26 Jan. 2021,
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/techtank/2021/01/05/how-employers-use-technology-to-surveil-employees/. Accessed April 30, 2021.

[4] Manyika, James, et al. “Independent Work: Choice, Necessity, and the Gig Economy.” McKinsey; Company, McKinsey; Company, 21 May 2019,. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/employment-and-growth/independent-work-choice-necessity-and-the-gig-economy. Accessed April 30, 2021.