[-empyre-] Introduction Trebor Scholz (The Internet as Playground and Factory)
trebor at thing.net
Wed Nov 25 09:04:23 EST 2009
Thanks so much to Timothy and Renate for inviting me to join you with a
report of The Internet as Playground and Factory conference, which I
convened at The New School two weeks ago. I'll try to boil down the many
months of discussion to a few paragraphs and some links to resources. Viral
modes of design and hacktivism are somewhat related to the event and I hope
my bridge to -empyre's- theme of the month is not too illusive.
How did I come to the issue of digital labor? In April 2007 I wrote a short
essay "What The MySpace Generation Should Know About Working For Free."
Consequently, I was invited to many universities to speak about distributed
labor. In 2008, I was part of a panel at The New School with Danah Boyd and
Ethan Zuckerman that, for me, highlighted the problem with non-transparency,
data portability, and dominance of one singular social networking service
(http://twurl.nl/alpl65). Over and over I realized that students shut down
when I talked about Internet users being exploited. Later, this experience
became the leitmotif for the introductory trailer of the conference. Labor?
However, when asked if they feel used online frequently the answer was
"Yes." The next question was often what keeps them from calling it quits and
we realized that the social costs of withdrawal from or refusal of the
Social Web are steep. Exiting sites like Facebook feels almost impossible to
them. Conversations about expropriation rather than exploitation, however,
opened students up to considerations about shifting labor markets and the
changing sites of value creation. A large conference about digital labor
would perhaps give credibility to what some thought of as outrageous
"communistic" claims of corporate expropriation on the Social Web- that was
my hope. Today, years later, more and more people recognize the issues
raised by this conference as urgent. Many scholars discussed labor in the
context of the networks of networks at least a decade ago, of course, but
this event set out to re-invigorate this critical discourse and I think that
Alex Rivera's sci-fi thriller Sleep Dealer kicked off the conference by
describing a near-future scenario where American corporations can extract
all the work without having to deal with the worker
I felt strongly that the discussion about the expropriation of digital labor
should be accessible to more than a small circle of media scholars. I
requested that nobody should simply read aloud their however brilliant
papers. Consequently, some 100 artists, media theorists, students, legal
scholars, programmers, social media experts, and activists joined to
re-evaluate what constitutes free labor, value, and play in an economy that
is increasingly driven by the expropriation of social participation online.
Substantive cross-disciplinarity was definitely a strength of the event.
Beyond accessibility, the struggle for tangible alternatives was another key
objective and several speakers exclusively focused on that.
We discussed the meaning of labor and value in the context of today's
network society. Financial value was discussed in terms of its direct
financial as well as speculative properties. A few questions: What are the
possibilities of political consciousness among Internet users? With hundreds
of millions of people flocking like moths to the light on one single social
networking service, is not there an opportunity for a collective
self-becoming, an understanding of the complex tradeoffs in that social
milieu? What about unionization of net users? How can we rethink class and
demand a stake in the wealth that we are generating? Where does the real
power reside? "How much power do you want to give to major sites on the
internet?" "Whose interest is our fun ultimately serving? Is there any
escape from the kingdom of fun?" We outlined the tension between clever PR
by enterprises, contributions to the commons, expropriation of users,
individual self-interest, and corporate profits. What can you say about your
participation in these social milieus? What about the future of public media
and non-profit infra structures? Are we falling victim to a fetishization of
the Internet that takes away from a realization of the real places of
exploitation such as slums with their more 1 billion inhabitants?
1200 people registered for the conference. All 20 sessions were well
attended, rooms were mostly filled to the last seat and even beyond that.
More than 800 people watched the live stream. Several publishers are
interested in publishing the book. The Internet as Playground and Factory
was the inaugural conference in a series of biennial conferences about the
politics of digital media at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal
Arts. As a proposed entry point for this week's discussion on -empyre- I
will add some documents that resulted from this conference. It's so much
material, let's just kick off the discussion somewhere in the middle...
R. T. Scholz
The New School University
66 West 12th Street
New York, NY 10011
Conference web site/introduction
Download the program -including acknowledgments-
(http://digitallabor.org/program) or flip through it in your browser
Abstracts and bios of all participants:
We tweeted short quotes from in-depth discussions on the IDC list to provide
an entry point.
Conference Twitter hashtag: #IPF09
BackChatter: the Twitter Conference Game by Local No. 12
We comprised a bibliography on digital labor from submissions by conference
Discussion Mailing List
We are in the process of filming short video statements, "Voices from
Christiane Paul (http://vimeo.com/7404991), Pat Kane
(http://vimeo.com/7698029), Jonathan Beller (http://vimeo.com/7404991), Mark
Andrejevic (http://vimeo.com/7697188), Thomas Malaby
(http://vimeo.com/7697806), Jonah Bossewitch (http://vimeo.com/7446992),
Frank Pasquale (http://vimeo.com/7529987) Fred Benenson
(http://vimeo.com/7426157), Jonathan Beller (http://vimeo.com/7449081),
Patrick Lichty (http://vimeo.com/7280996), Melissa Gregg
(http://vimeo.com/7696032), Gabriella Coleman (http://vimeo.com/7122412),
Stephanie Rothenberg (http://vimeo.com/6942119), Brittany Chozinski
(http://vimeo.com/6901224), Fred Turner (http://vimeo.com/7696221),
Catherine Driscoll (http://vimeo.com/7509706), Catherine Driscoll
(http://vimeo.com/7509706), Orit Halpern (http://vimeo.com/6895034), Prelude
Discussion Terranova, Wark, Ross (http://vimeo.com/6941506), Tiziana
Terranova (http://vimeo.com/6882379), Andrew Ross (part 1:
http://vimeo.com/6880896, part 2: http://vimeo.com/6881391), Patricia Clough
(http://vimeo.com/6797762), Ursula Endlicher (http://vimeo.com/6789940) Ken
Wark (http://vimeo.com/6428602), Dominic Pettman (http://vimeo.com/6428435),
Alexander R. Galloway (http://vimeo.com/6527166), Hector Postigo
(http://vimeo.com/6428745), Jonah Brucker-Cohen (http://vimeo.com/6461344),
Saskia Sassen (http://vimeo.com/6789940)
[and from different vimeo channel Paolo Carpignano
Yes, there is a video mashup (http://vimeo.com/7581938).
Paolo Carpignano introduction and response to Tiziana Terranova and Andrew
Some conference speakers shared their presentations online. Please note that
many of these slide shows, videos, mind maps, and texts are still in
progress. They are listed here in random order.
Mark Andrejevic "Estranged Free Labor"
Ivan Sigal "Global Voices. Volunteerism and building an international online
McKenzie Wark "Ideologies of Praxis"
Quote: Those who can't do, consult.
Sean Cubitt "After Tolerance"
Thomas Malaby "Performing Value: Labor and Contingency in Virtual Worlds"
Trebor Scholz "The Expropriation of Digital Labor and What to Do About It"
Jodi Dean "Whatever-Blogging"
Laura Forlano "Writing for the Algorithm: Digital Labor and Mobile Work"
Darren Wershler "Uncreative Class Slides"
Melissa Gregg "Affective Labor: Past and Present"
Jonathan Beller "The Digital Ideology"
Chris Kelty "No Fun. Work, Labor, Action in Free Software"
Burak Arikan "User Labor"
Jonathan Zittrain "Minds for Sale"
David Golumbia "The Digital Securitization of Labor"
Alex Halavais "Factory Schools"
Frank Pasquale "Distributive Justice Online"
Scott Kildall and Victoria Scott "No Matter"
James Grimmelman "The Ethical Vision(s) of Copyright Law"
Ellen Goodman "Public Media: From Broadcast to Broadband"
Pat Kane "The Play Ethic: Play, Potentiality and the Constitution of the
TwitVid of Howard Rheingold's Presentation
Brian Holmes "Global Finance, Precarious Destinies"
(This is not Holmes' talk at IPF but a related blog post.)
Jesse Drew "Work and Play from the Factory to the Brave New Workplace"
Geoff Cox "Software Art-Work For-Itself"
Luis Nunez "1989: the Wall and the Web Body, and the Tyranny of
Robert Mitchell "Ends and Means: Digital Labor in the Context of Health"
Abigail De Kosnik "Fan Labor as Paid Labor?"
Julian Kücklich "Work Hard, Play Harder. Labour, Plabor, and the Ideology of
Lilly Irani "Agency and Exploitation in Amazon Mechanical Turk"
Kenneth Rogers "Capital Implications Part II: From Labor to Human Capital"
Martin Roberts "Productivity Is Fun"
Brittany Chozinski "Digital Bodies, Digital Labor"
Hector Postigo "Free Labor and Digital Networks America Online Volunteers"
Michel Bauwens "The Politics of Peer Production"
Paul Hartzog "Panarchy: Politics, Production, and Polycentrism"
Christian Fuchs "Class and Exploitation on the Internet"
We recorded all sessions and streamed some of them. The live streams are
already archived. The rest of the video documentation will be available
VIRTUAL WORLDS, CIVIL RIGHTS, AND SLAUGHTER
Lisa Nakamura, Alexander Galloway, Timothy Pachirat, Jodi Dean
(moderated by Ferentz Lafargue)
EXPROPRIATING LABOR IN VIRTUAL WORLDS
Christiane Paul, Geoff Cox, Stepahnie Rothenberg, Scott Kildall,
Victoria Scott, Thomas Mallaby,
(moderated by Amanda McDonald Crowley)
GOVERNANCE IN THE AGE OF VULNERABLE PUBLICS
Laura De Nardis, Jonathan Zittrain, Brian Holmes
THE CHANGING SITES OF VALUE CREATION
Melissa Gregg, Orit Halpern, Patricia Clough
THE EMANCIPATORY POTENTIAL OF PLAY
Gabriella Coleman, Fred Turner, Chris Kelty, Ben Peters
(moderated by Ted Byfield)
Conference Reports IPF09
"Overall, the conference 'The Internet as Playground and Factory' has
shown that Critical Internet Studies is alive and well and is a subfield
that is growing in size and importance of the transdiscipline ICTs and
The practical hope for the future is that Internet scholars
will continue to work in the critical spirit that has shaped this
conference and thereby will try to contribute to bring about a
participatory Internet in a participatory society."
Report from Prelude Event "Crowdsourcing Labor Distributed Democracy or
More information about the empyre