[iDC] Digital Labour: thoughts on the conference theme

Mark Deuze mdeuze at indiana.edu
Sun Oct 11 15:20:53 UTC 2009

dear all,

what is the free produsing/prosuming/co-creating/reproducing/remixing 
work people do online and offline?

ultimately, that is what seems at the heart of the conference and much 
of the excellent debate on this list.

it seems to be a lot of things: fun, exploited/exploitative, 
capitalist, work, labor, play, private, public.

it is an example of human agency as well as a product of structural 
constraints. it is tactical as well as strategic (or can be).

and even if all of it is to some extent (re-)appropriated by 
capitalism, does this necessarily mean capitalism is [1] a coherent, 
uniform, one-dimensional apparatus, and [2] successful in its 
colonization attempts?

what to make of new media workers who are effectively exploited under 
the guise of the "work as play" doctrine, but sometimes also enjoy some 
of the best labor perks one can think of, just not those we 
traditionally associate with labor?

to be honest, i'm not sure (which is why i should attend the 
conference, but unfortunately, i cannot).

what i do think, is that our understanding of all these amazing issues 
might progress most by working with, talking about, and respectfully 
observing what (individual and small groups of) people actually do - in 
"work as play" situations, when online, as they publicly break up on 
Facebook or MeinVZ. if we understand what this means to the people 
involved, we may get better at determining what it means for society as 
a whole (rather than the other way around, which point of view often 
pervades academic analysis).

Christian, in his work (of which i am a huge fan), passionately 
advocates the need for a co-operative, grassroots, participatory 
society - both in theory and praxis. perhaps capitalism is just as much 
a product of that view of society as it is its oppressor, and ICTs are 
just the vehicle for both of these (and numerous other) expressions of 

in my own work on the "media life" perspective (see some links below 
FYI), i try to recognize that the strangely disorienting experience of 
reality we all share (especially those of us deeply immersed in media, 
which means, increasingly, all of us) has productive potential. if 
"society" can be seen as constituted through communication, what 
communication would make for a different/better/open/equitable society? 
and would such a society be a giant Silent Disco (where we all dance 
and have fun, but only listen to and experience our own version of 
reality)? and is that a bad thing?

with apologies for the long post,

yours sincerely



Media Life presentation: http://www.slideshare.net/mdeuze/media-life-2009

Media Life working paper: https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/3764

Mark Deuze
Department of Telecommunications
Indiana University
Journalism and New Media
Leiden University
www1: deuze.blogspot.com
www2: twitter.com/markdeuze
E-mail: mdeuze at indiana.edu

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