Digital Labor

Dan Greene


Dan Greene is a PhD candidate in American Studies at the University of Maryland and a University Flagship Fellow. His ethnographic research focuses on the origins and effects of the hope that internet access and internet industries and will lift up people, cities, and countries. He is drawing on years of fieldwork among Washington, DC’s tech start-ups, public libraries, and charter schools, in order to build a political economy of the so-called digital divide and show how wealth and poverty are produced and understood in cities trying to kickstart their tech sectors. Other current projects look at the economic geography of digital labor and the ethical arguments of drone warfare memes. Dan is a dedicated teacher interested in digital learning spaces who currently acts as the graduate mentor for his department’s pedagogy training workshop and trains local high school teachers in social media literacy. He teaches courses on cultural studies, the information society, globalization, and media activism. He tweets @greene_dm.

Digital Labor and Geographies of Crisis
Capital, as value in motion, often leaves local labor behind in the search for higher profits. But capital must be fixed into place for production to occur, creating a whole sociotechnical infrastructure whose form changes with the mode of production: Ford’s factories and Facebook’s platforms, Ma Bell’s wires and Equinix’s server farms. Over time this spatial fixity becomes a barrier to higher profit rates and so leads to overaccumulation and devaluation. Capitalism is constantly seeking a ‘spatial fix’ to these local problems before they can bloom into full-blown crises: A move to new geographies is sought, where new sociotechnical infrastructure can be built to elicit consumption, outsource production, or accumulate cheap labor (Harvey, 2007). This roundtable debates how these geographies of crisis are formed within digital spaces, and how digital labor is segmented, distributed, pushed and pulled across digital spaces in the lead-up to and fallout from crises. Social media may provide new spaces and times of accumulation, but free labor is often pushed elsewhere (e.g., from MySpace to Facebook) while the platforms remain, in a manner analogous to white flight (boyd, 2011). Communications infrastructure allows for financiers to trade billions of dollars across the globe in seconds, but crashes can spread just as quickly (Golumbia, 2013). Questions we’re interested in include: What does a bubble feel like from the inside and how does that experience resonate across networks? How does the primitive accumulation of digital labor compare to the industrial experience? How do digital technologies open up new modes of resistance to the speed-ups and outsourcing which capitalists use crisis to justify?

Daniel Greene will respond to the five other speakers, offering links between their fields, and then moderate the ensuing debate while taking questions from the audience.

Digital Labor & Geographies of Crisis
Sat, November 15
10:00 AM - 12:30 PM