The Working Lives Project is catalyzing and enriching discussion about work across Wisconsin. Through public events, radio programs, exhibits, and online resources, the project promotes reflection and action about what work means for each of us, and for all of us together.



Planning programming for 2019? Our ShopTalk catalog has new presenters! With 39 topics, there truly is something for every community. And as always, it is free to host, free to attend.

And be sure to check out our special new collection of ShopTalks about Immigration in Wisconsin. Book an event for FREE today!

History of Work infographic

Unfounded fears and wildly optimistic predictions

An infographic created by data journalist Miriam Quick and information designer Piero Zagami, published on the BBC website, gives us a humorous look at where ‘hope’ and ‘hype’ diverge in our attempts to predict the ways technology will impact our jobs. Read More


Studs Terkel & Great Stories from Working People

The Studs Terkel Radio Archive is now available online, thanks to in part to a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Louis “Studs” Terkel (May 16, 1912 – October 31, 2008) was an American Pulitzer Prize-winning author, historian, and broadcaster. He is best remembered for his work collecting the personal stories of thousands of working Americans, and for hosting a long-running radio show in Chicago, where he interviewed people and got them talking about their jobs and lives.

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Listen to WI Life Radio Essays about Work


A migrant dairy worker, an ER nurse, a trapper, a guitar maker, a mechanic, a pro angler, an arborist, and the foreman for the state’s tallest building.  These Working Lives radio stories from our partners at Wisconsin Public Radio are a treat to listen to. Get to know some of your fellow Wisconsinites and the work they do.

In the News: Teachers

Kudos to our ShopTalk presenter Jon Shelton, who was recently quoted in a LA Times article on teacher strikes in Oklahoma.  

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~ from an essay by Mike Perry written for the Working Lives Project.


Burn-Out: Is it a modern crisis?

Physical fatigue and emotional exhaustion is a natural part of being human. But can the cultural perception of burn-out have a history? According to author and researcher Anna Katharina Schaffner, it does.

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Juggling Career and Motherhood? Let’s talk about it

Data on Motherhood The Atlantic Monthly

Number of Births Per 1,000 Women, by Age Group, from The Atlantic (May 2018)

Over the centuries, Western culture has both idealized and scapegoated the image of mothers in society. In the U.S. today, the percentage of American women who are mothers is lower than it has been in a quarter-century.  There is much to be said about the choices, and challenges, of motherhood. This is a conversation for everyone, not just parents. We have several ShopTalk presenters ready to enrich the discussion with history, research, and contemporary realities of motherhood.

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Jim on FB Love WI

Have we got a story for you!

Jim Leary is a native of Rice Lake who has been nominated for a Grammy for his exploration of the music and cultures of the state. Jim says, “These days my heart is in writing and ethnography, but I will always be a laborer.” As part of our ShopTalk, Jim brings some of his stories and music to audiences all over the state in a presentation called “What Folksongs Tell Us About Work in Wisconsin.”

We are proud to have partnered with Love Wisconsin to bring you a story told by Jim.  Love Wisconsin shares positive, inspiring stories of everyday Wisconsinites on Facebook. Together we use online tools to get to know the many faces and voices and perspectives that make up our state.

Here’s an excerpt from Jim’s story! Read More

Let’s get some perspective. 

Some predictions paint a bleak dystopian picture of a future defined by global mass unemployment due to automation. Others suggest innovation will lead to  economic progress and prosperity, a future where robots and computer algorithms free people from unsafe, unhealthy, or tedious work. Let’s break it down…

Who has leisure time?

To most of us in the Modern era, leisure time is understood as a break from work. We tend to identify more with our ‘productive’ side and place a higher value on our work identity than we do on the time spent off the clock. But according to the 20th century German philosopher Josef Pieper, leisure time is deeply meaningful and may even define us more than we realize.

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