[iDC] conference summary part 2: the internet as playground and factory

nathan jurgenson nathanjurgenson at gmail.com
Wed Nov 18 05:28:26 UTC 2009

my post at Sociology Lens about the conference. see the original text,
hyperlinks and all, here:

Following PJ Rey’s excellent summary of the Internet as Playground and
I offer a few additional observations from the conference this
past weekend, focusing on Web 2.0 capitalism, and Google as the primary
target. The roughly 100 presenters were not joined by Google, as the company
said that the conference content seemed “slightly anti-capitalist.” Much of
the content, indeed, took the corporate ownership of our productive labor
online to task.

A common theme was how to discuss Marx’s Labor Theory of
respect to Web
2.0 <http://oreilly.com/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html>. Clearly,
companies are exploiting our free labor, but they do not have to
coerce us. Julian
Kucklich <http://digitallabor.org/speakers1/julian_k_cklich> argued that we
now have exploitation without alienation. That is, our unpaid labor is used
for corporate surveillance and profit, even if the labor is not alienating
or “foreign to ourselves.” Simply, we like using Facebook, Twitter and so
on. However, Kucklich further argues that we are taught to think Facebook is
fun, that companies use the “ideology of play” to seduce us into producing
(or better, prosuming). Martin
in, ironically, perhaps the conference’s most entertaining presentation,
also took to task the culture of “fun”, arguing that we have been trained to
see our work as “fun”, making us more productive for the capitalist
system. Christian
Fuchs <http://digitallabor.org/speakers1/christian_fuchs> most forcefully
argued for a communist Internet, stating that exploitation on Web 2.0 is
infinite because users are not being paid material wages. A good Marxian, he
downplayed the importance of immaterial value gained through sites like
Facebook because we live in a capitalism system based on the material.
And Ulises
Mejias <http://digitallabor.org/speakers1/ulises_mejias> takes Web 2.0 to
task for the creation of corporate
where we have seen Facebook, Amazon, eBay, YouTube, Google and so on become
corporate titans of Web 2.0 capitalism. He argues that using these corporate
Monopsonies is dangerous and irresponsible, calling for open-source and
public versions of these types of services.

Thus, it is clear to see why Google was reluctant to join this
conference. Frank
Pasquale <http://digitallabor.org/speakers1/frank_pascale> forcefully called
on Google to be more transparent. Given what was discussed above, as well as
Google’s central status in our day-to-day knowledge-seeking life, Pasquale
leaves us with questions to ponder: should its
page-rank<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PageRank>algorithm be public?
Should Google be allowed to up-rank or down-rank links
based their relationship to the company? Should Google be able to simply
remove pages from its listings? Should Google be forced to let us know when
they do these things? ~nathan
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