In the fourth session of the seminar Six Contradictions and the End of the Present, Trebor Scholz and Tiziana Terranova will explore the radical transformation of labour in the digital economies. The session will include a public lecture and a debate workshop led by both theorists.
In the posit-industrial world, paid work is becoming and increasingly scarce and privileged good that has nonetheless expanded in such a way that it encompasses any gesture, attitude or form, thus blurring the distinction between fixed-schedule jobs and the existential tasks of continuous duration – that is, life. Nowadays, work is permanent, subjective and cumulative. The business aspect prevails and every banal interaction is interpreted as a desire and therefore analysed, classified and, eventually, sold. This paradigm has brought about a new social class called “cognitariat”, which refers to those working on the basis of a highly specialised knowledge but who are also caught up in the structural precariousness of the new digital economies. Always connected, always impoverished.
Though the Internet was initially considered a public space based on the free interaction among equals, it is now conceived as a huge factory without walls where any aspect of the day-to-day life can be valorised, produced and commoditised. Is there any alternative to this scenario? This will be question posed in a seminar aimed at highlighting the power technology has to foster social emancipation at a huge scale when it is released form the logic of economic profit. For instance: automation could bring about release from work and, consequently, an unprecedented availability of time. Answering to the question, Trebor Scholz advocates for a “platform cooperativism” – as opposed to “platform capitalism” – that helps create a more just and equitable network. For her part, Tiziana Terranova argues for democratic re-appropriation of the Internet that entails a different way of governance. Working from different perspectives, both theorists agree on the necessity of re-inventing the Internet and its creative, productive and social ecosystem.
Trebor Scholz is Associate Professor of Culture & Media Studies at The New School, where he organizes conferences on digital labour since 2009. He has researched the uses of digital technology in the new protocols of production and their potential to create models and environments for productive and cooperative labour within financiarised and deregulated digital capitalism. He is a member of the Barcelona Advisory Council on Technological Sovereignty of Barcelona City Council, and author, among others, of Uberworked and Underpaid. How Workers Are Disrupting the Digital Economy (2016), Platform Cooperativism. Challenging the Corporate Sharing Economy (2016), Ours to Hack and to Own: Platform Cooperativism. A New Vision for the Future of Work and a Fairer Internet (co-edited with N. Schneider, 2016), Digital Labor: The Internet as Playground and Factory (2013), and From Mobile Playgrounds to Sweatshop City (co-authored with Laura Y. Liu, 2011). His articles have appeared in The Nation, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Le Monde, and The Washington Post.
Tiziana Terranova is an activist and Associate Professor in Sociology of Communications in the Department of Human and Social Sciences at University ‘L’Orientale’ (Naples). She has also taught in the University of Essex, the University of East London and Goldsmith’s College. Her research focuses on knowledge economy; immaterial labour and cognitive capitalism; cultural studies and cultural politics in new media; social web and Web 2.0; and Italian post-operaismo (post-workerist) thought. She is author, among others, of Hypersocial: A Genealogy of Digital Social Networks (2018), Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age (2004), and Corpi nella rete. Interfacce multiple, cyberfemminismo e agora telematica (1996).