Digital Labor

Henry Warwick


Henry Warwick is an artist, composer, writer, archivist, dj, and assistant professor in the RTA School of Media at Ryerson University in Toronto, and is a research fellow at the Infoscape Lab at Ryerson. An active artist in a variety of media, his visual art work is in collections in a variety of locations in California. His earlier music can be downloaded for free at his website, His latest CD, “Something Borrowed” can be acquired in iTunes or directly from Auricular Records website. His latest book, “The Radical Tactics of the Offline Library” is published at This summer he performed concerts across North America of Terry Riley’s “In C” using software he designed.

The Enclosure of the Internet
In this presentation, which will use a variety of audio and visual media, I use a Frontier Model of the Internet, and how it has guided previous ideations of the internet, and how it can be extended to understand present conditions of the internet. A dimensional extension I use is from a flat horizon(tal) orientation of the standard “Frontier Model” to the vertical extractions of Enclosure: a conceptual “space” of extraction in an age of vectoral capitalism. This Frontier Model of the Internet mimics the process of the invasion of Europeans and their descendants in their murderous march across the North American continent, and we examine how this model is mimicked in the creation, expansion, intensification and enclosure of the internet itself.

FJ Turner’s study on the frontier, The Significance of the Frontier in American History, inspired American culture and internet theorists and activists, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Wikipedia and others. With the closing of the internet / frontier, the direction of exploitation ceases to be horizontal, and shifted to a vertical extraction mode. This vertical extraction mode also mimics the development of the closed American western frontier and the Enclosures of early Modern Europe. It is this shift to a vertical extraction mode that can change internet theory rhetoric, from one of boundless power and freedom to one of wealth extraction by a vectoral class of capitalists.

As an enclosure is an exercise of asymmetric power relations, we can also expect interventions and nodes of resistance. These forms of resistance are many and varied, sharing a number of interests and clear needs for organisation on intellectual property, digital enclosure, the rhetoric of the internet, censorship, the Anthropocene, cross-shoring of labour, and similar related topics. This presentation is part of that resistance.

InC Performance
“In C” is a landmark composition – it and works by Steve Reich basically invented Minimalist music. It consists of 53 short repeating melodies played by 11 to 35 performers and one eighth note pulse. Written by Terry Riley in 1964, 2014 is the 50th anniversary of this piece. I have contacted Terry Riley and he has given me his blessing and support. I have designed software that will allow a user to perform all 11 parts at once, as well as control their pitch center, volume, and tempo. The timbre would be controlled using synthesizers. By using this software to control the speed, volume, and timbre of multiple virtual instruments, I can do the work of a large ensemble, and be able to push the limits of the piece – I can do things in an improvisational manner than no ensemble could hope to accomplish. (for example, I could have all my “instruments” decelerando in perfect unison and then stop/start perfectly at different volumes, in unison…this could be done with significant rehearsal, but not in as an improvisation and certainly not with the level of precision.) In using MIDI based synthesizers, I divorced the note data of In C from its timbres. A melody could turn into a drum beat or any set of sounds. This would compound both minimalist compositional practice and my own texturalist audio practice into a single object. As the app would be free of cost, it could be performed by anyone with an iOS device, it thusly democritises the music. Riley concluded his liner notes for A Rainbow in Curved Air with “The concept of work was forgotten”. As a free concert of free software, I am contributing to the commons of the conference, as a gift – work is thusly forgotten.

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

"In C" Performance
Sun, November 16
12:00 PM - 12:30 PM