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Free Labor

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Brandon Peacock

on 2 July 2015

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Transcript of Free Labor

Free Labor
Tiziana Terranova
Ephemeral Commodities & Free Labor
Collective Minds
Networked, immaterial labor is collective in its nature.
Media scholar Pierre Levy argues that it is enabled by Ethernet cables and iPads, but that it is a result of a
collective intelligence
Digital Economy
"describes a formation
that intersects...with
the postmodern cultural
economy and...the information industry." (Terranova pg. 36)
"...a specific mechanism to internally capture larger pools of social and cultural knowledge," (Terranova pg.38).
Collective Intelligence
"It is a form of universally distributed intelligence, constantly enhanced, coordinated in real time, and resulting in the effective mobilization of skills."
- Pierre Levy
collective knowledge work
, then, really knowledge work?
Collective Knowledge Work
Italian Autonomist-Marxists argue that capitalists actively "valorize" knowledge labor in order to extract as much capital from the collective intelligence as possible, when, in fact...
All knowledge work is collective ("a result of a collective and social production of knowledge") => Collective knowledge work is not limited by employment - especially not employment in the knowledge industry.
..."Often the unemployed are such only in name, in reality being the lifeblood of the difficult economy of under-the-table, badly paid work,
some of which also goes into the new media industry
"...an important area of expermentation with value and free cultural/affective labor," (Terranova pg. 38).
Three Elements


Management Theory
Knowledge Work
Human intelligence provides the much-needed added value, essential to the economic health of the digital economy
It cannot be managed in the same way as more traditional types of labor
Digital Economy Revolution

"Digital economy
is not a new phenomenon but simply a new phase of this longer history of experimentation," (Terranova pg 39).
Old media is also heavily reliant on free labor. Historically, it's been more strict in its usage of free labor, in terms of "economic organization and moralistic judgement."
One example is the social cost of moralistic scaremongering attributed to reality TV programming. (i.e....
"Criminals are running amok on the freeways and must be topped by tough police action; wild teenagers lack self-esteem and need though love; and selfish and two-faced reality TV contestants will eventually get their comeuppance."
Treat these as primary evidence...
Free Labor in Old Media
The public also provides accountability measures to the TV industry - much more so than it does the news media. This implies some form of collective labor. The unpaid work is performed in exchange for the technology to construct national identities.
Unfortunately, the internet is already following suit in its use of free labor.
Free Labor in New Media
It's important to understand that the internet could have looked very different...
Richard Barbrook theorized that the internet could become, almost exclusively, a gift economy. Instead, capital and the internet are becoming increasingly intertwined, and all signs point towards an acceleration of capitalist logic in online production.
The Dangers of Obsolescence
The digital economy requires internet companies to produce new products and fads
ad nauseam
. This often necessitates high staff turnover rates. This has resulted in an
overabundance of product
- an inefficient way of satisfying real social needs.
The Net and the Set
In 1999 the old web was gone
and the new web came to be

The new web was founded upon
making the audience work.Tv and
the web relied on their audiences

People Shows
"there is no difference between the ways in which people shows rely on the inventiveness of their audiences and the ways in which websites rely on users input". (Terranova 51)
"accelerated rhythms of obsolescence"
also makes
"creative, innovative labor as the grounds of market value"
a crucial part of the digital economy.
Both tv shows and websites rely on audiences/users to create a capitalist economy and make profit

Different Scale Economy
TV shows have a relatively small economy scale comapared to the millions of web pages that are out there
Open Sourcing
The traditional media that television follows does not allow them to turn people's productions into pure profit. TV also has morals that they must follow.

The internet is the opposite. The content is so dispersed and almost anything goes. No real rules.
"The digital economy cares only tangentially about morality. What it really cares about is an abundance of production, an immediate interface with cultural and technical labor whose result is a diffuse, nondialectical antago- nism and a crisis in the capitalist modes of valorization as such".(Terranova 52)
A New Conclusion: The Liberation of
Free Labor February 2012

Two Propositions
1. Future of the internet will be driven by the centrality of users' activity and participation
2. such process could be productively explained by means of the autonomist Marxists thesis of the social factory and concurrent notions of immaterial labor and the social factory.

Internet companies have already recognized the value of the this form of collective labor. Netscape, for example, open-sourced its website browser code to allow hobby programmers the opportunity to better the product. The work was performed in exchange for the excitement of participating in the digital economy (another example of capitalism's "valorization" of this type of labor).
Before this trend emerged, open sourcing was seen as a way to shape the internet into more of the gift economy about which Barbrook theorized. Instead, it has been absorbed by the capitalistic process.
At this point,
the interned requires a massive amount of labor to remain sustainable, and it's safe to say that a substantial amount is free labor.
The digital economy is still booming even during the global economic recession.
"The idea that the value of such corporations is given by users participation has become common business sense". ( Terranova 53)
Living labor is doubly exploited
"asking for the liberation of free labor means asking for two things: that such profi ts be returned to those who actually produce themthat is, to living labor and that social networking platforms should be deprivatized that is, that ownership of data should be returned to their rightful owners as the freedom to access and modify the protocols and diagrams that structure their participation".
(Terranova 54)
Paying free laborers does not mean paying the individual user. The wealth generated by free labor is social and so should be the return.

Investing the mode of return into new forms of welfare.
"It is within these media that we are witnessing the formation of social and political movements that question not so much the specifi c domain of social media use but the overall economic structure that supports them" (Terranova 54)
The Arab Spring and Occupy movement are some examples of this

"It is not clear at the moment whether such struggles will manage to accumulate enough social energy not only to reverse the current trend but also to generate their own structures and political rationali- ties, which are truly alternative to the no-alternative diktat. The liberation of free labor cannot demand anything less" (Terranova 54)
pg. 43)
pg. 43
pg. 45
pg. 45
pg. 46
pg. 46
pg. 46
pg. 46
pg. 46
pg. 47-48
Cultural and technical work is central to the Internet, a widespread activity throughout advanced capitalist societies.
"Netslaves," would run chat rooms and be unpaid for their services. These individuals embodied a complex type of labor with qualities of a capatilistic society.
Work processes have transcended and changed from the factory to society, concept called the
society factory.
Building websites, modifying software packages, and much more activities of free labor in this concept.
Internet Intelligence
Internet is not only a site of ease and knowledge information but a flexible, collective intelligence coming into being.
"Cultural and technical work is central to the Internet but is also a widespread activity throughout advanced capitalist societies." (Terranova pg. 35)
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