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Dealing with Digitization Boredom

by on August 30, 2012

With all the fancy technology, and expensive equipment, and interesting materials, from the outside looking in Digitization seems very exciting. We have people come in our lab all the time and Ooo and Ahhh over our scanners and our computers, but the truth of it is that the work is repetitive and consistent and utterly boring.
Our student assistants, at most last two years before they can’t take the mindless scanning and editing. At worst, we loose them after a few days because they realize right off that this isn’t the job for them.
Digitization Burn Out is a real thing. The hard thing about it is that there’s not a good method for dealing with it. If you have to digitize a mountain of stuff, there’s no way to make that more interesting. I have a few suggestions:

If your the person doing the digitization:

  • Take breaks. Get up and move around every hour at least. Get your eyes off the scanner, off the screen. Think about something else for five minutes.
  • Have a full and active life outside of the digitization. The best defense against boredom is contrasting it with a life well lived. Physical activity can help alleviate the stress of sitting at a scanner or computer for hours in a dark room.
  • Get lots of sunlight or take Vitamin D. When you work in a cave-like place, this is important.
  • Turn it into a game or challenge your mind by experimenting with different ways to make the work go by faster.

If your the person managing people who are doing the digitization:

I’m going to be honest. Most people are fine with sitting down and working at a computer for hours. The problem comes when SOMETHING else is going on in their life, and the boredom of their work makes it worse, and it pushes them over the edge. Maybe they’re having family problems, or relationship problems, and having hours a day to sit and do mindless work just gives them time to stew on their problems. The point is, they start changing. Some jobs can make people feel better when they get stressed, but digitization is a lonely dark monotonous job that provides little comfort if someone is already not feeling well.

  • Be aware of signs of stress. Are they missing work? Are they gaining or losing a lot of weight?
  • Has the quality or quantity of their work changed?
  • Are they over-reacting to being corrected?

These might be signs that they need to change tasks, if that’s possible. In our lab, we offer students to work in other departments for a time to give them something different. We also recognize that at some point, nothing is going to make the job better for them, and we recommend that they find a job that aligns with their interests.

Scanners are great, but people often forget that someone has to be there to run the scanner, and people aren’t machines.



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