Digital Labor

Kara Van Cleaf


Kara M. Van Cleaf has a PhD in Sociology from The Graduate Center at the City University of New York. Her research focuses on narratives of motherhood in online spaces and considers the implications of our attachments to digital networks and devices. She works as an Instructional Technologist at Macaulay Honors College, CUNY and teaches in the Social Sciences department at the Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY.

The CUNY Digital Labor Working Group Roundtable: The Place, Politics, and Function of Measure
What are the metrics that measure the “success” and “failure” of neoliberal subjects and which allow them to determine whether a life has been truly made a living? Part of the process of becoming a “worker” in a capitalist economy has generally been the transposition of activity done outside of a wage relation into activity done within a wage relation. The wage itself operates as the universal abstraction of labor activity. However, in the case studies of digital labor that we are exploring here, it is not free activity transposed into waged activity but the mundanities and passions of everyday life transposed into a form of labor most often not waged. Without the universal metric of the wage, we argue that what makes it “work” or “labor” is that it builds value for someone (at times the laboring the subject, but more often than not an entity

that is not the laboring subject) through diffuse processes of measurement. Indeed, these processes of measurement are built into the architecture of web 2.0 and, as Clough points out, such “open processes of computation are becoming resources for culture, politics, and the economy” (Clough 2013).

Our work unpacks specific online places and practices behind such “open processes of computation” to better understand how such processes incite subjects to labor. The datalogical turn folds previous labor/gender/political strategies of resistance, psychic mechanisms, and care into digital production where everything becomes yet another source of content. Our panel carefully considers how such a digitizing of experience feeds back on subjectivity leading to the creation of an enterprising, risk bearing subject who recognizes themselves as such. But, we argue, it is not these subjects who become valuable but the processes of computation themselves that are producers of value through the constant modulation of the metrics of success and failure.

Kara Van Clear will present a talk entitled, “The Neoliberal Princess and the Blog: The Benevolent Blogger and Networks of Care.”