Digital Labor

Terri Senft


Terri Senft teaches in the Global Liberal Studies Program at New York University. Her writing focuses on how digital technologies shift cultural notions of the private, the public, the pedagogic and the pornographic. Terri is the author of Camgirls: Celebrity & Community in the Age of Social Networks, co-editor of The Routledge Handbook of Social Media, currently c-editing a special section on “selfies” for the International Journal of Communication, and writing a monograph titled Fame to Fifteen: Social Media and the Micro-Celebrity Moment. Terri has written for The New York Times, and spoken at venues including Arcadia Missa/The Institute of Contemporary Art, TED Salon London, Saatchi & Saatchi. She also featured in the award-winning documentary Webcam Girls

The Internet’s Impact on Sex Work
I am Terri Senft, and I teach in the Global Liberal Studies program at NYU. My work considers how digital technologies shift notions of the private, the public, the pedagogic and the pornographic. For this conference, I consider the internet’s impact on global sex work, a category of emotional labor largely ignored at most academic gatherings on digital capitalism (save the occasional paper on the pornography industry.) In true sex worker fashion, I plan to entertain the organizers’ request for something more experimental than the “usual”: my presentation involves a series of “outcalls” with women currently working as webcam girls, escorts, global tourist ‘coordinators’, and labor organizers. Using the rhetoric of mutually negotiated seduction rather than the language of pure exploitation, I combine the insights of Friedrich Engels and Christian Fuchs with those of Melissa Gira Grant, Melissa Ditmore and Lara Augustin to argue that digitally mediated sex work constitutes an ideal site for labor theorists considering the collapse of virtual and actual bodies as they desire, play, exploit, abuse, teach, learn, and yes: work.