[iDC] On some themes and questions related to the forthcoming Conference

Marta Roldan imartharoldan at arnet.com.ar
Wed Nov 4 21:30:49 UTC 2009

Dear Trebor and List. Thanks again for inviting me to share an enriching  experience of peer to/ with  peer practise of knowledge construction on a variety of subjects linked to a common endeavour: the creation of a better, non-alienating world society. Also my thanks to the participants for suggesting reading material pertinent to different topics. The Conference is about to start and much has been said already since I started reading the contributions to the List in mid September However, as I am not going to be present in the event,  I would like to point out a few themes and ask some questions related to my past and present research experience and interests that I would have liked to raise if I had had a direct participation in the forthcoming discussion. I believe these questions address different threads of Trebor's thought- provoking Introduction and subsequent mail debate. 

Let me start with reference to the themes of capitalism, labour theory of value and related sub-topics. This has been a very stimulating discussion, but in some cases it shows lack of awareness of __or perhaps of information on__ the economic and political history of the relationship among "developed" regions __ North America, Europe, and Asia, nowadays comprising not only Japan, but China and India__ as well as between centre-periphery countries themselves. Both are reflected, in my view, in conceptions related to technology, socioeconomic growth, the romantic and dangerous idea that colonized oral people of the world have a crucial role to play in first world struggles against literate capitalism's ecocide, (as first victims?, please be careful you have a Conference involving education in two years time!); the possibility of constructing a global revolutionary labour force made up of digital workers or referring  to a global labour's revolutionary social agency /potentiality, among others. I find this state of affairs very difficult to understand indeed. "Only virtual" revolutions are not enough. To be effective they require that people, who have bodies as well as minds, act together, i.e. that they mobilize and (physically) occupy public spaces in support of their ideals. This, alas, does not often happen. 

I believe the above themes are related to the periodization of capitalism each one of us adheres to. It is not the same to go back to Marx's Capital only__and to specific volumes in collections that perhaps do not include the Resultate__ or to explore, in addition, some parts of the Grundrisse with the help of Rosdolsky's opus, if possible;  or to study Kondratieff's waves in isolation from the former literature (I find non-orthodox economists Freeman and Louça's work very useful in this regard); or to quote Harvey, Moulier-Boutang, Rullani etc. without clarifying their affinities /disagreements with specific works of Marx and other classical writers. I mention the above authors because their work may be related to different conceptualizations of value, surplus value, value vs. rent appropriation, and so forth. What are we selling to capitalists, our labour power, or an already- made informational artefact, the product of our creative labour display and the subject of current patent, and copyrights wars? By the way, thank you Prof. Zittrain for making your recent book available via Creative Commons. 

In connection to themes such as networked publics, Web 2.0, and Internet  in general I agree with  Trebor's contention that "Networked publics, drawn in by the promise of free services, benefit, congregate on a few centralized social platforms, and produce large monetary value for their owners". . However, does anybody have an idea of how to fight this trend (successfully) without a simultaneous interpellation of decisions  relevant to the subject and approved at supra national levels be they the WTO, the IMF, the G-20, or the World Bank to name a few, and including the ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ? The latter, a non- profit corporation created in 1998 to oversee Internet -related tasks previously performed directly on behalf of the US government by other organizations, includes managing the assignment of domain names and IP addresses. One seldom finds any literature on the possible profitable derivations of such chains, connections to telephone trans-national companies operating world wide, etc. so I will be grateful for the suggestion of material concerning this topic, if available.

That international level of analysis I argue, is, in turn, articulated in real life situations to different conceptualizations of "creative" content production organization ("mezzo" level) of Cultural /Entertainment industries /Digital media, but not restricted to them; and, at the micro  level,. to work organization, its divisions, and  time economies (that I call the Work Code) as well as to workers' subjectivity and its dimensions (that I call  the Labour Code). This exercise requires concepts and indicators of what we mean when carrying out fieldwork research, be it on information, communication, communities, codes, "digital sociality".... Remember Patricia Claugh's insistence on counting with statistical information to approach certain topics. 


Last but not least, it seems to me that although gender is mentioned in many discourses in this List it is seldom addressed in actual research articulated to class, ethnicity, and other structural asymmetries found in real societies, be they located in the North or in the South. Laura Liu's Sweatshop City book (which I intend to order) seems to be an exception.  The same applies to reproductive labour. Thank you Rozalinda for this reminder. 


I wish you all a very successful Conference and hope to remain in touch after the event. Saludos cordiales. Martha  Roldán


Martha Roldán Ph.D

Senior Researcher of CONICET, the National Council 

of Scientific and Technical Research of Argentina and 

FLACSO (the Latin American Faculty of  Social Sciences) 

Buenos Aires. E-mail imartharoldan at arnet.com.ar 

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