Digital Labor

Brittany Paris


Brittany Paris recently finished her M.A. in Media Studies at The New School where her work focused on evolving media landscapes and their intersection with human subjectivity. Her research now centers on temporal aspects of networked communication technologies that affect value creation. She is currently a PhD student in Information Studies at UCLA.

Sensation, Speed and Crisis: Constructing the Individual
This talk expands upon the differences and similarities between two types of work occurring on Web 2.0 platforms by applying Stiegler’s framework of individuation and retention, which are functions of what he calls “speed”. Speed, as Stiegler uses the term, is experienced as sensation and embodiment, which constitute consciousness. This concept of speed can, in part, explain the emergence of the idea that practices blur boundaries between labor and leisure in the milieu of networked communication technologies. The categories so often prescribed to life—especially the notion that a person is a contained individual who exists in external relation to others and who is at a distance from non-organic technologies—become complicated.

The talk will focus on studies I performed with two groups involved with work online—workers in Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and undergraduate Facebook users—to support the argument that the design and use of these platforms affect the speed and difference of life, resulting in the possibility for behavior modulation. The ways these two platforms work to intervene in individuation, speed, sensation and crisis are often very similar. They differ in the way they illustrate Stiegler’s notion of crisis, with respect to the way capital uses them as two distinct forms of capturing value. These two platforms both capture this surplus value by blurring boundaries between self and other, as well as blurring concepts of internal and external that enable sense-making, and presenting an open online world suggestive of a similar physical world in which one can “move freely” when in fact, these platforms impose very real restrictions on the user.

The approach of this study as a whole suggests the necessity of a form of critical cultural analysis that can address the precognitive or embodied knowledge, because, as I will discuss, capital is interested in modulating with just this component of our subjectivity. As users engage these technologies, their affective perception constantly performs and imputes difference in these interactions with networked communication technologies.

Digital Labor in the Circuits of Value Capture
Sat, November 15
01:30 PM - 04:00 PM