Digital Labor

Laurel Ptak


Laurel Ptak works across curatorial, artistic, and pedagogical boundaries to address the social and political contours of art and technology. She is co-editor of the book Undoing Property? (Sternberg Press, 2013) which explores artistic practices in relationship to immaterial production, political economy, and the commons. Ptak teaches in the department of Art, Media and Technology at Parsons, The New School. She is initiator of Wages For Facebook, which draws on the 1970s feminist campaign Wages For Housework to think through the relationships of capitalism, class, and affective labor at stake within social media today. Debated widely via social media, at universities, and in the press, the project has framed a broad public conversation about workers’ rights and the very nature of labor, as well as the politics of its refusal, in our digital age.

Wages For Facebook
As soon as it launched in January 2014 the manifesto website was graced with over 20,000 views (and counting) and rapidly and internationally debated—clearly touching a collective nerve and beginning a broader public conversation about worker’s rights and the very nature of labor, as well as the politics of its refusal, in our digital age.

The project has been discussed widely on social media platforms, message boards, mainstream, left and art press, and taken up by activist groups. It is being taught in universities across disciplines including foundation courses at M.I.T., in the curriculum of labor scholar and activist Andrew Ross at NYU, and to artists at the San Francisco Art Institute.

The first half of the presentation will introduce the background of the project, include visual documentation detailing its reception and diverse responses in the world, and discussion of how the project is being used to build momentum for imagining what a digital justice movement would look like—connecting aligned causes of digital labor with privacy rights, anti-gentrification organizing in San Francisco, environmental issues and more.

The second half will include participatory small group discussions where audience members form IRL social networks to debate specific questions such as: Is what we do on Facebook work? Do we want wages for it? How would we calculate our value? How would we make this demand? The dialogue concludes with report backs from groups about what was discussed and concludes with Q+A.

The presentation will touch directly on a range of concerns, including: Who and where are the workers and how do they understand their situation? How and where do they act in political terms? How do gender and class play out in the diverse fields of digital labor? How do we conceptualize digital work that is underwaged and often coded as feminized? Are there artistic works that respond to contemporary labor? What policy proposals might be developed and put on the table now?

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