What exactly John Biggs attempting to clarify with his series on Foxconn, currently running on TechCrunch? Like so many pieces of tech journalism about the giant corporation which manufactures the shiny devices we hold so dear, it seems first and foremost to be an apologist for the terrible conditions in which these products are produced.Mr. Biggs points out that FoxConn’s big problem its image in the West. He notes the work of Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, which, through interviews and plant investigations, found the workers are often made to stand for ten hours during work shifts, six days a week, and even longer during run-ups to large shipments.
Mr. Biggs refers to these reports as “inflammatory,” “paternalistic,” “propaganda,” noting that while he would never want to work under those conditions, many poor Chinese must, since they are after all, working there. What he doesn’t bother to do is talk with any workers himself, at least for the first three parts of his four part series.
The investigation here amounts to little more than a guided tour. For anyone who has seen the work of Mike Daisey, the playwright behind the Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, who managed to talk with workers, underground labor activists, and, while masquerading as a Western businessman, the factory owners themselves; this is a painful reminder that the American tech press, firmly in the thrall of Apple, has little interest in highlighting the grim realities of how are smartphones are made.
Unless you are prepared to discuss child labor and the crippling effects the human assembly line at FoxConn has on workers bodies’, as Mr. Daisey does, you are doing the public a disservice by offering up a shallow “investigation” of FoxConn.