[iDC] "Exploitation only partly explains today's anxiety with online services."

Kiko Mayorga kiko at escuelab.org
Wed Nov 20 12:42:09 UTC 2013

Dear all,

I received this message a few days ago, 8 hours away (south) from Cuzco (in
Perú), while being in Chumbivilcas doing work at rural schools, while there
was no electricty around, where you needed to climb up a hill to get your
cellphone/gsm to work. Being there, it was really cool and interesting to
read this. I thought: "Lucky me to be disconnected this week".

I recommend: Get yourself a true disconnection sometimes and enjoy : D

@kikomayorga <http://twitter.com/kikomayorga>
(+51) 998 543 527

2013/11/18 Bernard Roddy <roddybp at yahoo.com>

> Isn't the topic a manifestation of the problem it identifies?
> And the length of the replies?  How could anyone have time for this?
> Bernie
>   On Sunday, November 17, 2013 8:16 PM, Adam D Trowbridge <
> atrowbridge at saic.edu> wrote:
>  Three points on a map of history of constant employment analysis,
> listed chronologically
> 1. Postscript on the Societies of Control (1992), Gilles Deleuze
> http://www.nadir.org/nadir/archiv/netzkritik/societyofcontrol.html
> "In the corporate system: new ways of handling money, profits, and
> humans that no longer pass through the old factory form. These are
> very small examples, but ones that will allow for better understanding
> of what is meant by the crisis of the institutions, which is to say,
> the progressive and dispersed installation of a new system of
> domination. One of the most important questions will concern the
> ineptitude of the unions: tied to the whole of their history of
> struggle against the disciplines or within the spaces of enclosure,
> will they be able to adapt themselves or will they give way to new
> forms of resistance against the societies of control? Can we already
> grasp the rough outlines of the coming forms, capable of threatening
> the joys of marketing? Many young people strangely boast of being
> "motivated"; they re-request apprenticeships and permanent training.
> It's up to them to discover what they're being made to serve, just as
> their elders discovered, not without difficulty, the telos of the
> disciplines. The coils of a serpent are even more complex that the
> burrows of a molehill."
> 2. The Brand You 50 : Or : Fifty Ways to Transform Yourself from an
> 'Employee' into a Brand That Shouts Distinction, Commitment, and
> Passion! (1999), Tom Peters
> http://www.amazon.com/The-Brand-You-Distinction-Commitment/dp/0375407723
> Note: This book described the sensation as Ian Bogost's essay
> describes, in the most positive, pro-corporate terms possible, 14
> years ago. See also: "The Brand Called You" (1997)
> http://www.fastcompany.com/28905/brand-called-you
> "In The Brand You50, Peters sees a new kind of corporate citizen who
> believes that surviving means not blending in but standing out. He
> believes that "90+ percent of White Collar Jobs will be totally
> reinvented/reconceived in the next decade" and that job security means
> developing marketable skills, making yourself distinct and memorable,
> and developing your network ability. Hislist-filled prescriptions
> cover everything; for example, "You are Your Rolodex I: BRAND YOU IS A
> TEAM" (no. 22), "Consider your 'product line'" (no. 25), "Work on your
> Optimism" (no. 35), "Sell. SELL. SELL!!!" (no. 47). While the book is
> overwhelming at times--its hyperactive typography pretty much shouts
> at you--any baby boomer thinking about his or her career will find
> much to consider." --Harry C. Edwards
> 3. The Coming Insurrection (2007),  The Invisible Committee
> http://tarnac9.wordpress.com/texts/the-coming-insurrection/
> "The order of work was the order of a world. The evidence of its ruin
> is paralyzing to those who dread what will come after. Today work is
> tied less to the economic necessity of producing goods than to the
> political necessity of producing producers and consumers, and of
> preserving by any means necessary the order of work. Producing oneself
> is becoming the dominant occupation of a society where production no
> longer has an object: like a carpenter who’s been evicted from his
> shop and in desperation sets about hammering and sawing himself. All
> these young people smiling for their job interviews, who have their
> teeth whitened to give them an edge, who go to nightclubs to boost the
> company spirit, who learn English to advance their careers, who get
> divorced or married to move up the ladder, who take courses in
> leadership or practice “self-improvement” in order to better “manage
> conflicts” – “the most intimate ‘self-improvement’”, says one guru,
> “will lead to increased emotional stability, to smoother and more open
> relationships, to sharper intellectual focus, and therefore to a
> better economic performance.” This swarming little crowd that waits
> impatiently to be hired while doing whatever it can to seem natural is
> the result of an attempt to rescue the order of work through an ethos
> of mobility.  To be mobilized is to relate to work not as an activity
> but as a possibility.  If the unemployed person removes his piercings,
> goes to the barber and keeps himself busy with “projects,” if he
> really works on his “employability,” as they say, it’s because this is
> how he demonstrates his mobility. Mobility is this slight detachment
> from the self, this minimal disconnection from what constitutes us,
> this condition of strangeness whereby the self can now be taken up as
> an object of work, and it now becomes possible to sell oneself rather
> than one’s labor power, to be remunerated not for what one does but
> for what one is, for our exquisite mastery of social codes, for our
> relational talents, for our smile and our way of presenting ourselves.
> This is the new standard of socialization. Mobility brings about a
> fusion of the two contradictory poles of work: here we participate in
> our own exploitation, and all participation is exploited. Ideally, you
> are yourself a little business, your own boss, your own product.
> Whether one is working or not, it’s a question of generating contacts,
> abilities, networking, in short: “human capital.” The planetary
> injunction to mobilize at the slightest pretext – cancer, “terrorism,”
> an earthquake, the homeless – sums up the reigning powers’
> determination to maintain the reign of work beyond its physical
> disappearance.
> The present production apparatus is therefore, on the one hand, a
> gigantic machine for psychic and physical mobilization, for sucking
> the energy of humans that have become superfluous, and, on the other
> hand, it is a sorting machine that allocates survival to conformed
> subjectivities and rejects all “problem individuals,” all those who
> embody another use of life and, in this way, resist it. On the one
> hand, ghosts are brought to life, and on the other, the living are
> left to die. This is the properly political function of the
> contemporary production apparatus."
> On Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 12:33 PM, Trebor Scholz <scholzt at newschool.edu>
> wrote:
> > Here in New York, it's a beautifully clear and frosty morning and I am
> > excited to see the list coming back to life a bit. It's so great to hear
> > your voices again. And there are still some 2300 of us on this list.
> >
> > Hey, a year from now, we will kick off a conference at The New School
> > that will build on some of the questions that we raised in 2009
> > (http://digitallabor.org), a discussion that continued in many venues
> > since then. You might have seen that we dropped "Digital Labor: The
> > Internet as Playground and Factory" book earlier this year.
> > (Get it now: http://tinyurl.com/lkr2m9v). I'm quite keen on
> reactivating a
> > moderated exchange between artists, labor historians, designers, legal
> > scholars, and media theorists about these topics. But for more
> > information about the 2014 event, you'll have to wait until next week.
> >
> > For now, I am posting a short article by video game designer, critic and
> > researcher Ian Bogost. Yes, the author graciously granted me
> > permission to post his text here. What about his idea of hyperemployment?
> > Are we all hyper-hustlers now? For me, at least when
> > narrowly thinking about the crowdsourcing industry, the term is
> > contradictory because of the very fact that workers in that industry
> > are defined as independent contractors and platform owners stubbornly
> > refuse to recognize them as employees (e.g.,
> > http://tinyurl.com/bhxohqk). But then, he is really talking more
> > broadly about exploitation, and there is so much more going on in that
> > article.
> >
> > A more inclusive definition of employment
> > (http://tinyurl.com/pewx54k), a closer look at the meaning of
> > exploitation online, or the Swiss Unconditional Income Initiative
> > could all be entry points that could help us to reboot the discussion
> about
> > various forms of invisible labor on the iDC.
> >
> > best,
> > Trebor
> >
> > =
> > Trebor Scholz
> >
> >
> > ...
> >
> > Hyperemployment, or the Exhausting Work of the Technology User
> > Feeling overwhelmed online? Maybe it’s because you’re working dozens of
> jobs
> >
> > In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes famously argued that by the
> > time a century had passed, developed societies would be able to
> > replace work with leisure thanks to widespread wealth and surplus. “We
> > shall do more things for ourselves than is usual with the rich
> > to-day,” he wrote, “only too glad to have small duties and tasks and
> > routines.” Eighty years hence, it’s hard to find a moment in the day
> > not filled with a duty or task or routine. If anything, it would seem
> > that work has overtaken leisure almost entirely. We work increasingly
> > hard for increasingly little, only to come home to catch up on the
> > work we can’t manage to work on at work.
> >
> > Take email. A friend recently posed a question on Facebook: “Remember
> > when email was fun?” It’s hard to think back that far. On Prodigy,
> > maybe, or with UNIX mail or elm or pine via telnet. Email was silly
> > then, a trifle. A leisure activity out of Keynes’s macroeconomics
> > tomorrowland. It was full of excess, a thing done because it could be
> > rather than because it had to be. The worst part of email was
> > forwarded jokes, and even those seem charming in retrospect. Even junk
> > mail is endearing when it’s novel.
> >
> > Now, email is a pot constantly boiling over. Like King Sisyphus
> > pushing his boulder, we read, respond, delete, delete, delete, only to
> > find that even more messages have arrived whilst we were pruning. A
> > whole time management industry has erupted around email, urging us to
> > check only once or twice a day, to avoid checking email first thing in
> > the morning, and so forth. Even if such techniques work, the idea that
> > managing the communication for a job now requires its own self-help
> > literature reeks of a foul new anguish.
> >
> > If you’re like many people, you’ve started using your smartphone as an
> > alarm clock. Now it’s the first thing you see and hear in the morning.
> > And touch, before your spouse or your crusty eyes. Then the ritual
> > begins. Overnight, twenty or forty new emails: spam, solicitations,
> > invitations or requests from those whose days pass during your nights,
> > mailing list reminders, bill pay notices. A quick triage, only to be
> > undone while you shower and breakfast.
> >
> > Email and online services have provided a way for employees to
> > outsource work to one another. Whether you’re planning a meeting with
> > an online poll, requesting an expense report submission to an ERP
> > system, asking that a colleague contribute to a shared Google Doc, or
> > just forwarding on a notice that “might be of interest,” jobs that
> > previously would have been handled by specialized roles have now been
> > distributed to everyone in an organization.
> >
> > No matter what job you have, you probably have countless other jobs as
> > well. Marketing and public communications were once centralized, now
> > every division needs a social media presence, and maybe even a website
> > to develop and manage. Thanks to Oracle and SAP, everyone is a
> > part-time accountant and procurement specialist. Thanks to Oracle and
> > Google Analytics, everyone is a part-time analyst.
> >
> > And email has become the circulatory system along which internal
> > outsourcing flows. Sending an email is easy and cheap, and emails
> > create obligation on the part of a recipient without any prior
> > agreement. In some cases, that obligation is bureaucratic, meant to
> > drive productivity and reduce costs. “Self-service” software
> > automation systems like these are nothing new—SAP’s enterprise
> > resource planning (ERP) software has been around since the 1970s. But
> > since the 2000s, such systems can notify and enforce compliance via
> > email requests and  nags. In other cases, email acts as a giant human
> > shield, a kind of white collar Strategic Defense Initiative. The
> > worker who emails enjoys both assignment and excuse all at once.
> > “Didn’t you get my email?”
> >
> > The despair of email has long left the workplace. Not just by
> > infecting our evenings and weekends via Outlook web access and
> > BlackBerry and iPhone, although it has certainly done that. Now we
> > also run the email gauntlet with everyone. The ballet school’s
> > schedule updates (always received too late, but, “didn’t you get the
> > email?”); the Scout troop announcements; the daily deals website
> > notices; the PR distribution list you somehow got on after attending
> > that conference; the insurance notification, informing you that your
> > new coverage cards are available for self-service printing (you went
> > paperless, yes?); and the email password reset notice that finally
> > trickles in 12 hours later, since you forgot your insurance website
> > password since a year ago. And so on.
> >
> > It’s easy to see email as unwelcome obligations, but too rarely do we
> > take that obligation to its logical if obvious conclusion: those
> > obligations are increasingly akin to another job—or better, many other
> > jobs. For those of us lucky enough to be employed, we’re really
> > hyperemployed—committed to our usual jobs and many other jobs as well.
> > It goes without saying that we’re not being paid for all these jobs,
> > but pay is almost beside the point, because the real cost of
> > hyperemployment is time. We are doing all those things others aren’t
> > doing instead of all the things we are competent at doing. And if we
> > fail to do them, whether through active resistance or simple
> > overwhelm, we alone suffer for it:  the schedules don’t get made, the
> > paperwork doesn’t get mailed, the proposals don’t get printed, and on
> > and on.
> >
> > But the deluge doesn’t stop with email, and hyperemployment extends
> > even to the unemployed, thanks to our tacit agreement to work for so
> > many Silicon Valley technology companies.
> >
> > Increasingly, online life in general feels like this. The endless,
> > constant flow of email, notifications, direct messages, favorites,
> > invitations. After that daybreak email triage, so many other icons on
> > your phone boast badges silently enumerating their demands. Facebook
> > notifications. Twitter @-messages, direct messages. Tumblr followers,
> > Instagram favorites, Vine comments. Elsewhere too: comments on your
> > blog, on your YouTube channel. The Facebook page you manage for your
> > neighborhood association or your animal rescue charity. New messages
> > in the forums you frequent. Your Kickstarter campaign updates. Your
> > Etsy shop. Your Ebay watch list. And then, of course, more email.
> > Always more email.
> >
> > Often, we cast these new obligations either as compulsions (the
> > addictive, possibly dangerous draw of online life) or as necessities
> > (the importance of digital contact and an “online brand” in the
> > information economy). But what if we’re mistaken, and both tendencies
> > are really just symptoms of hyperemployment?
> >
> > When critics engage with the demands of online services via labor,
> > they often cite exploitation as a simple explanation. It’s a sentiment
> > that even has its own aphorism: “If you’re not paying for the product,
> > you are the product.” The idea is that all the information you provide
> > to Google and Facebook, all the content you create for Tumblr and
> > Instagram enable the primary businesses of such companies, which
> > amounts to aggregating and reselling your data or access to it. In
> > addition to the revenues extracted from ad sales, tech companies like
> > YouTube and Instagram also managed to leverage the speculative value
> > of your data-and-attention into billion-dollar buyouts. Tech companies
> > are using you, and they’re giving precious little back in return.
> >
> > While often true, this phenomenon is not fundamentally new to online
> > life. We get network television for free in exchange for the attention
> > we devote to ads that interrupt our shows. We receive “discounts” on
> > grocery store staples in exchange for allowing Kroger or Safeway to
> > aggregate and sell our shopping data. Meanwhile, the companies we do
> > pay directly as customers often treat us with disregard at best, abuse
> > at worst (just think about your cable provider or your bank). Of
> > course, we shouldn’t just accept online commercial exploitation just
> > because exploitation in general has been around for ages. Rather, we
> > should acknowledge that exploitation only partly explains today’s
> > anxiety with online services.
> >
> > Hyperemployment offers a subtly different way to characterize all the
> > tiny effort we contribute to Facebook and Instagram and the like. It’s
> > not just that we’ve been duped into contributing free value to
> > technology companies (although that’s also true), but that we’ve
> > tacitly agreed to work unpaid jobs for all these companies. And even
> > calling them “unpaid” is slightly unfair, since we do get something
> > back from these services, even if they often take more than they give.
> > Rather than just being exploited or duped, we’ve been hyperemployed.
> > We do tiny bits of work for Google, for Tumblr, for Twitter, all day
> > and every day.
> >
> > Today, everyone’s a hustler. But now we’re not even just hustling for
> > ourselves or our bosses, but for so many other, unseen bosses. For
> > accounts payable and for marketing; for the Girl Scouts and the Youth
> > Choir; for Facebook and for Google; for our friends via their
> > Kickstarters and their Etsy shops; for Twitter, which just converted
> > years of tiny, aggregated work acts into $78 of fungible value per
> > user.
> >
> > Even if there is more than a modicum of exploitation at work in the
> > hyperemployment economy, the despair and overwhelm of online life
> > doesn’t derive from that exploitation—not directly anyway. Rather,
> > it’s a type of exhaustion cut of the same sort that afflicts the
> > underemployed as well, like the single mother working two part-time
> > service jobs with no benefits, or the PhD working three contingent
> > teaching gigs at three different regional colleges to scrape together
> > a still insufficient income. The economic impact of hyperemployment is
> > obviously different from that of underemployment, but some of the same
> > emotional toll imbues both: a sense of inundation, of being trounced
> > by demands whose completion yields only their continuance, and a
> > feeling of resignation that any other scenario is likely or even
> > possible. The only difference between the despair of hyperemployment
> > and that of un- or under-employment is that the latter at least
> > acknowledges itself as an substandard condition, while the former
> > celebrates the hyperemployed’s purported freedom to “share” and
> > “connect,” to do business more easily and effectively by doing jobs
> > once left for others competence and compensation, from the convenience
> > of your car or toilet.
> >
> > Staring down the barrel of Keynes’s 2030 target for the arrival of
> > universal leisure, economists have often considered why Keynes seems
> > to have been so wrong. The inflation of relative needs is one
> > explanation—the arms race for better and more stuff and status. The
> > ever-increasing wealth gap, on the rise since the anti-Keynes,
> > supply-side  1980s is another. But what if Keynes was right, too, in a
> > way. Even if productivity has increased mostly to the benefit of the
> > wealthy, hasn’t everyone gained enormous leisure, but by replacing
> > recreation with work rather than work with recreation? This new work
> > doesn’t even require employment; the destitute and unemployed
> > hyperemployed are just as common as the affluent and retired
> > hyperemployed. Perversely, it is only then, at the labor equivalent of
> > the techno-anarchist’s  singularity, that the malaise of
> > hyperemployment can cease. Then all time will become work time, and we
> > will not have any memory of leisure to distract us.
> >
> > This article available online at:
> >
> >
> http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/11/hyperemployment-or-the-exhausting-work-of-the-technology-user/281149/
> >
> > Copyright © 2013 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved.
> > _______________________________________________
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> --
> Adam Trowbridge, Assistant Professor and Wired Coordinator
> Department of Contemporary Practices
> School of the Art Institute of Chicago
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