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Immaterial Labour Biopolitical Power and the Web 2.0
UNDER THE INSTRUCTION OF DR. BRIAN BROWN, THE UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO
Hear the call of independence: “waged labour and direct subjugation (to organization) no longer constitute the principal form of contractual relationship between capitalist and worker. A polymorphous self-employed autonomous work has emerged as a dominant form...”(Lazarrato 138)
PREFACE “...part of our role as theorists is as inventors of concepts adequate to our times... we need ‘words to talk about what is happening to us’” (Brophy 620) The emergence of immaterial labour has revealed the continuous presence of capitalism resonating from the post-Fordist industry, however, the system that immaterial labour is founded on, the communication network made possible by the Web 2.0 is there for the taking. Now and in the coming years there will be a shift in power among the worker-employer relationship either allowing capitalists to subsume the individuality of the immaterial labourer under the production process, or the immaterial labourer will realize their independence and branch out from the neo-classical capitalist system, recomposing themselves and creating a new, revolutionary economic system. The conflict I am describing is very real and has already begun to have it’s affect. The problems I will be referring to are of my own, my colleagues and of all future labourers. I very much wish to emphasize the importance of this recognition and inspire the socialized worker to take appropriate action in securing their own individuality. INTRODUCTION Unlike the mass worker, where “the mass worker had been conceptualized and had become a reality just when it’s period of existence was in fact about to end,” (Negri 75) the socialized worker has acknowledged their presence and potential in the midst of evolution: “We have gone beyond Marx, and the socialized worker has become a reality... we... experience the actuality of the concept” (Negri 84). Rather than wait for capital to further impose it’s force on the Web 2.0, socialized workers must rise to the occasion, and use their collective force to re-appropriate power, diminish the control of capitalism and better the quality of life. I have witnessed capitalist tradition in the lives of my parents and grand-
parents and even in today’s Web 2.0. It’s presence must be seen as a barrier to economic evolution. In a world where $700 billion has been given to feed and repair the errors of capitalism, rather than use that money to train individuals for the future they’ll occupy, and better a way of life that has not been changed for over a century, I make it my goal to make known the presence of capitalism in the Web 2.0 and the steps we must take to get rid of it. I emphasize that, as Antonio Negri boldly states, “destruction is as important as innovation” (Negri 79). To make this clear, I shall explore the exploitation of a socialized worker in regards to the freelancing professional and several websites that both help and hinder their work process. I shall complement my observations with examples that I find to be successful and productive, outside of the capitalist model. By noting the features and implications of websites that do and do not represent the Web 2.0 initiative, I hope to inspire my readers to interpret websites with a new lens, one that can distinguish the limitations of capitalism and the rising force of the collective intelligence. Ultimately, I want for them to use that intelligence in changing the wage relationship and on a broader magnitude, to better the quality of life for all of humanity. A BRIEF HISTORY
“Men are much more likely to discover easier and readier methods of attaining any object, when the whole attention of their minds is directed towards a single object” (Smith 6)
I will begin by describing the history of the industrial worker, the division of labour and the cycles of struggle that have taken place in the last century. In the early nineteen hundreds there began a series of economic transitions and three major cycles of struggle for the working class. As Negri points out, the cycles of struggle represent a shift in thought where ”an adequate theory of value can be reconstructed,” where the worker evidently had “an important element of class
consciousness” (Negri 76-77). Understanding the past two struggles will help frame the struggle workers face today. The first struggle was a result of industrialization and the factory that transformed professionals into mass workers. Professionals, considered masters of their craft, were made obsolete as capitalists absorbed them into the factory confines and effectively deskilled them by divorcing the product they made with the manufacturing process itself. Success was found in “decomposing the working class power by destroying the technical base of the professional worker’s power and cutting them off from the growing mass of industrial labour” (Dyer-Witheford, 73). Workers no longer needed to be professionals, but only required the knowledge to perform simplified and repetitive tasks. The new born mass worker became confined to the factory, which “spatially concentrate[d] huge quantities of de-qualified labour subjected to the brutality of continuous automated machine pacing” (Dyer-Witheford, 73). As Frederich Engels puts it, “the victory of machine-work over hand-work... was won” (Engels 41) and consequently, “the population reduced to the two opposing elements, workers and capitalists” (Engels 50). At this point in time, “the mass worker fights not to uphold the dignity of a trade, but to make capital pay for lives vanishingly meaninglessly down the assembly line” (Dyer-Witheford 73). To maximize capitalist efforts, work needed to be divided. As Harry Braverman points out, “the most common mode of cheapening labour power is exemplified by the Babbage principle: break it up into it’s simplest elements” (Braverman 57). The mass worker called for a very definitive division of labour where “not only are the operations separated from each other, but they are assigned to different workers” - what Braverman calls “the creation of the detailed worker” (Braverman 54). Such division of labour required strict management, a system that eventually formed with the research done by Frederik Winslow Taylor. His work amounted to a system called Scientific Management: “an attempt to apply
the methods of science to the increasingly complex problems of the control of labour in rapidly growing capitalist enterprises” (Braverman 59). Further, “it’s core is the organized study of work, the analysis of work into it’s simplest elements and the systematic improvements of the worker’s performance of each of these elements” whereby its results are visible and readily measured (Braverman 61). In detail, Scientific Management, or Taylorism, was “the gathering together of the workers in a workshop and the dictation of the working day; the supervision of workers to ensure diligent, intense, or uninterrupted, application, the enforcement of rules against distraction [and] ...the setting of production minimums” (Braverman 62). Scientific Management boils down to three necessary principles: 1) the dissociation of labour from skill 2) the separation of conception from execution and 3) the use of knowledge to control each step of the labour process and it’s mode of execution (Braverman 78-83). These three principles, while in effect, solidified the presence of the mass worker and the scientific management that was required to maintain such workers. Despite the success of Scientific Management, there eventually came an end to such intimate control over the worker. The reason was that “when large capital had become necessary for carrying on work independently, the working class came, for the first time, an integral, permanent part of the population” (Engels 51). Put simply, the working class held collective power and that power was recognized: “mass workers increasingly refuse[d] to restrain wage demands within limits functional to capitalist growth or to tolerate conditions accepted by their unions” (Dyer-Witheford, 75). Astonishingly, “an enormous exfoliation, diversification, and multiplication of demands, created by the revolt of previously subordinated and superexploited sectors of labour” caused “a destabilization of the entire capitalist organization of society as a mechanism of surplus extraction” (Dyer-Witheford 75 – 76). In response, “information revolutionaries” emerged creating “a reorganization of production based on new models of universal communication, launching a new phase of development subject to manipulation
over the flows of information,” or what some call “cybernetic command” (DyerWitheford 77). Lazarrato defines two different schools of thought in obtaining cybernetic command: “one is the extension of neo-classical analysis; the other is that of systems theory” (Lazarrato 138). The first is rooted in a “general equilibrium” whereas “in more developed systemic theories, organization is conceived as an ensemble of factors, both material and immaterial, both individual and collective” (Lazarrato 138). On one side, “mass media and new communication techniques are deployed in depth to measure, massage, poll, and propagandize public opinion preparatory to policy change” (Dyer-Witheford 78). At the same time, workers go through a third transformation from the “working class massified in direct production in the factory, to the social labour power” (Dyer-Witheford 80). The socialized worker is born, situated in “the factory without walls” and is held account for an array of social responsibilities: “The activities of people not just as workers but as students, consumers, shoppers, and television viewers are now directly integrated into the production process” and ultimately, “the whole of society is placed at the disposal of profit” (Dyer-Witheford 80-81). We are witnesses to “the struggle in cyberspace between activists who have diverted global computer networking into an unprecedented form of collective intellect, and capital’s attempt to colonize it for commercial purposes” (Dyer-Witheford 87). Hardt and Negri have illustrated this idea very well using the term ‘Biopolitical power’: “In the biopolitical context capital might be said to subsume not just the labor but society as a whole or, really, social life itself, since life is both what is put to work in biopolitical production and what is produced” (Hardt & Negri 142). To better demonstrate this, a more thorough definition of immaterial labour – the work made by the socialized worker – is in order. It is important to understand both the disadvantages immaterial labour faces and also the advantages it benefits from the Web 2.0.
THE BURDEN OF THE SOCIALIZED WORKER Immaterial labour is the labour that is being wrongfully ignored, or rather subsumed by modern capitalists. It is “the labour that produces the informational and cultural content of the commodity” (Lazzarato, 132). As mentioned, we live in an age of “cybernetics and computer control,” whereby the immaterial labour done by the socialized worker involves “a series of activities that are not normally recognized as ‘work’... the kinds of activities involved in defining and fixing cultural and artistic standards: fashions, tastes, consumer norms, and more strategically, public opinion” (Lazarrato, 132). To accomplish such activities, “workers are expected to become ‘active subjects’ in the coordination of the various functions of production, instead of being subjected to it as simple command” (Lazzarato 134). Socialized workers change “the recognition of the centrality” and are now heavily involved in decision making (Lazzarato 133). The emergence of the socialized worker has changed the way in which work is to be done: capitalists are now mere “facilitators” of the increasing burden taken on by that of the socialized worker (Lazarrato 135). The burden being described should be understood as all of the social aspects that contribute towards a product or service, most notably for digital freelancers, the requirement of communication. To put it clearly, “jobs now require cooperation and collective coordination... the subjects of that production must be capable of communication – they must be active participants within a work team... The subject becomes a simple relayer of codification and decodification, whose messages must be clear and free of ambiguity” (Lazarrato 134). In sum, the socializer worker produces multiple social relationships, and “only if it succeeds in this production does it’s activity have an economic value” (Lazarrato 137). Communication then, is an imperative asset for the socializer worker. But that is not all the socializer worker must excel in. The socialized worker must posses intellectual skills, manual skills, and entrepreneurial skills to compete in “the basin
of immaterial labour” (Lazarrato 136). As these skills extend outside any sort of factory, “it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish leisure time from work time. In a sense, life becomes inseparable from work” (Lazarrato 137) - and this is the burden a socialized worker must face and challenge; we must recognize the effect immaterial labour can have and the ways in which it is wrongfully being subsumed by the wage relation. THE CONDITIONS OF THE SOCIALIZED WORKER Recall, “...work has become diffused throughout the entire society... it is carried on both within and outside the factory” (Negri 77) and the diffuse factory “represents a massive operation... which facilitates coordination and integration over the entire surface of the earth” (Negri 77). Within this system the socialized worker forms ‘cooperative networks’ whereby “...it is by virtue of the high degree of cooperation that this person is productive” (Negri 79). But just as there is a heavy burden placed on the socialized worker, there is also a new advantage that allows them to cope with such difficulty: the socialized worker is his or her own boss (Negri 81). Scientific management is now largely something of the past mainly because “the productivity of biopolitcal power, and specifically the creativity involved in biopolitical production, requires the freedom of the producers to organize their own time” (Hardt and Negri, 147). Independence has allowed “information workers [to]... better able navigate intermittent employment” for “they are largely self taught... self motivated, and [posses] very individualized skills” (Brophy 629). Negri optimistically declares, “revolutionary theory and the utopian appeal are not only possible but present and increasingly effective” (Negri 83). This idea of revolution can be realized in Marx’s autonomist theory: understanding that the labourer is free to be independent. Acknowledging autonomy is key to succeeding as a socialized worker.
After all, much like the professional worker and the mass worker, the socialized worker too faces their own capitalist conflict. Independence is indeed comforting, although being independent comes with it’s problems as immaterial labour is made to be precarious labour. Capitalist use precarity as “a mechanism of control that determines the temporality of workers... requiring workers not to work all the time but to be constantly be available for work” (Hardt & Negri, 146). Hardt and Negri define precarity as a kind of “temporal poverty” where “workers are deprived control of their time” (Hardt and Negri 146). Brophy describes how precarity incorporates “a range of different relationships to labour and subsistence: informal and part-time work; short term contracts – or not contract at all; self employment; little, if any, job security; volatile shifts; lack of unionization; no benefits; and more” (Brophy 621). It is the “the insecurity brought on by the flexible management of the global work force...” - a capitalist attempt in controlling intellectual and immaterial labour (Brophy 621). Enda Brophy notes in regards to the precarity found in the ‘perma-temp’ culture of Microsoft employees during the late nineties that there is an exclusion between contract workers and FTE’s (full time employees) where there are certain benefits that contract workers are denied such as health care, paid vacation and sick leave (Brophy 624). The success in solving this problem as seen by union aid from organizations like TaxPayer and WashTech must be seen as progressive efforts in securing the individuality of the socializer worker. While some believe that “the constant change in jobs can have advantages... including new challenges, less chance of boredom, and a set limit of hours worked per week,” independence actually means that “you’re constantly having to pitch yourself” (Brophy 630). Some precarious workers wish to unionize, however, as Brophy explains, given current law, that is much easier said than done.
THE CONFLICT OF THE SOCIALIZED WORKER
“Intellectual labour has become subjected to the norms of capitalist production” (Lazzarato, 133)
Michel Foucault, in his studies on the subject and power, makes known that “what we need is a new economy of power relations” (Foucault 328). To do this, he argues, we must “bring to light power relations, locate their position, find out their point of application and the methods used” (Foucault 329). The problem is that “power relations are rooted in the whole network of the social” (Foucault 345). I aim to seek out such problems faced by the socialized worker so that we may integrate new power relations. Specifically, the problems I will refer to are those referring to the digital freelancer and are pertaining to capitalist intervention in the Web 2.0. To begin with, it is important to understand that, as Dyer-Witheford states, “capitalism persists in paying only for a tiny segment of the life activity it expropriates” (Dyer-Witheford 81) and yet “what modern management techniques are looking for is for ‘the worker’s soul to become part of the factory’” (Lazzarto 133). In other words, the capitalist does not recognize the extent of the socialized worker – the work that is completed outside of the wage relationship. I wish to demonstrate this in my own experience as a freelance web developer. As a web developer, I have a rate attached to different design and development services, which in effect, is a representation of a number of things. In a literal sense, one is paying for the actual time I am taking to complete the project and the rate must reflect that, as it is expressed in an hourly unit (this is the basis of the wage relation). But there is so much more involved in the process. The web designer must learn development coding languages and software. This requires time, effort and often paid training. More so, the web designer must be creative
in a very competitive market. The aesthetic of a design is very subjective, and in that sense, it is an art with infinite definitions and indefinable success rates. The person hiring must rely on the artistic ability of the freelancer and while creativity is largely considered natural, it is often inspired by many other aspects of life and work. In other words, it can be learned. It is only reasonable then to assume that the more initiative a freelancer takes in exposing him or herself to their work field, whether that involves completing tutorials, reading magazines, contributing and practising design work, or simply being actively passionate and aware of the design community, the more creative, versatile and consequently, successful the freelance designer will be. The more life experiences they have - the more social connections they make) and even better, the more directly relevant experiences to design one has, the more the freelancer is able to offer. Consequently, it must be understood that immaterial labour can only be defined by taking into consideration every facet of life. The rate then must account not just for the time of the web designer to complete the work, but for their technical skill, education (directly relevant and transferably relevant), ability to communicate and individual creativity – all of which are highly subjective and difficult to calculate. The rate is essentially summing up several components of a socialized worker, where the work involved is very complex and is composed of various skills and personality traits that cover a range of life experiences. Since this is the case, freelancing professionals are often undermined and quite frankly, vulnerable to exploitation. To make this idea more clear, I wish to explain a real life scenario in which I have witnessed the opportunity to exploit a freelancer and lessen the credibility of the profession all together. To focus on what I do best, front-end web design and development, I thought it would be beneficial to find a freelancer specializing in back-end development - someone I could exchange work with in making a more whole product (clients often request both front-end design and back-end functionality working
together). To do this I posted an ad on Craigslist in the Toronto Arts/Media section. To my surprise, within 24 hours I had received over 30 replies. Even more surprising was who they were from and what they could offer. More than half of the responses came from offshore companies and individuals most notably from India. The biggest surprise however was the range in rates being offered for the same type of work (PHP development). While residents from Toronto and other parts of Ontario listed a rate around $40-45/hour, offshore companies listed a rate 50% lower than that, falling in the $20-25/hour range. I should be clear that this type of work involves writing code. There is very little creativity in this type of work (depending on the instruction given) and for the most part, it is often considered objective, material labour because of the strict limitations coding languages possess. As treasurer for WashTech, Margaret Bartley notes, technical skill has gone from being an asset of a scientist to the mere academic achievements of a routine technician (Brophy 629). If this work is to be considered so objective, there should not be any difference in rates being offered. It is obvious then that the results given from my Craigslist ad describe a major difference in thought. One must realize that this objective work does involve a type of subjective, immaterial labour, something that perhaps the Canadians I encountered and myself understood more so than the offshore companies. This kind of work involves communication (primarily email and phone calls), organization, outside research, and various forms of problem solving (social, cultural and technical). Additionally, the worker must endure temporal poverty made necessary by the nature of the job. The difference in thought then is that the offshore companies view the end product as the total service, whereas those with the higher rate recognize the process - the immaterial labour - as part of the product. This is presumably what the higher rate takes into account and rightfully so. To make things worse, defining the totality of the service being offered by a digital freelancer extends to a
much larger capacity and is much harder to regulate on websites such as getafreelancer.com. CASE ANALYSIS: GETAFREELANCER.COM Getafreelancer.com is “a global outsourcing solution and freelance jobs website.” I wish to make known the current way in which the model of work it promotes is being practised (the ways in which it is failing), but more importantly, the solution, the way it ought to be used. The website primarily functions on the idea that digital freelancers bid on potential work completely online and without strict regulation. At first, it sounds fair and resourceful. The problem is, is that by having users bid on the projects, it has, in one way, become a race to the bottom, whereby the capitalist is inclined to hire the freelancer with the cheapest rate. Competition has a twofold effect: it allows for the survival of the fittest, as in privatization of the free market, but also simultaneously compels freelancers, often argued amateurs, to sway the balance of capital and output, devaluing the work and complicating the market. The person hiring, if in accordance with capitalist techniques, is searching for maximum efficiency in obtaining the most output while using the least capital, something that is reflected in the balance of the quality of work and accompanying rate of the freelancer. This often encourages other freelancers, not to excel or better their craft, but to degrade their work and lower their rate for the sake of having work at all, and in this sense, the employer has the advantage of competition in the global market. Instead, users should be increasing their rates to new standards collectively recognizing the skills required of the socialized work they do – the time, effort and money that encompasses the ‘macro skill-set’ being used to execute their trade in providing individualized results. This process requires an ‘all or nothing’ strategy, for if one group of freelancers insist on devaluing the quality of their work, then the capitalist will seek out this opportunity to exploit them and inevi-
tably encourage others to fall into the same trap. Seeing as this would be a difficult task, I believe the website itself needs to impose certain standards and define the lowest possible rate as one that is reasonable; the website needs to act as an informal union. Bids over the lowest rate will be considered true reflections of the better quality being offered by the individual and that will be made obvious to the buyer. In addition to the basic rate, the website could integrate Creative Commons licenses to ensure rightful ownership of the media being produced. This will standardize a rate equivalent to the maintenance of subsistence and also lend the opportunity to gain future royalties on cultural commodities. I am confident there will be those that hire at the standardized lowest rate, a reasonable rate for tolerable design and development process, but also those that wish to hire for a much better work relationship and product and who are willing to pay a better rate for it. THE ADVANTAGES OF THE WEB 2.0 I mentioned that just as socialized workers who produce immaterial labour face their disadvantages seen by biopolitical power (precarity, temporal poverty, exploitation, competition, etc.), they also have their advantages. The advantages I speak of are those made available by the Web 2.0 and the first is found in the new business models it promotes. Tim O’Reilly writes of new design patterns and business models in the Web 2.0, first stating the trend seen in the dot come bubble of 2005: what the success of all surviving companies had in common was this kind of turning point (O’Reilly 1). He emphasizes that the Web 2.0 is often misunderstood and that some people understand it to be a mere “marketing buzz word.” Instead, he describes it as “a set of principles and practices” where “many ideas radiate out from the Web 2.0 core” (O’Reilly 4). He gives one example of the success in Google over Netscape. While Netscape built a business model based on “the web as a platform”, Google
had “no scheduled software releases, just continuous improvement. No licensing or sale, just usage” (O’Reilly 4). Consequently, Google’s business model helped prove that “the value of the software is proportional to the scale and dynamism of the data it helps to manage” (O’Reilly). We must understand that indeed “Microsoft has successfully played the platform card” but ultimately, “Windows represents the pinnacle of proprietary control via software API’s” (O’Reilly). As one editorial noted, “Microsoft’s business model depends on everyone upgrading their computing environment every two to three years. Google’s depends on everyone exploring what’s new in their computing environment every day” (O’Reilly 12). Simply put, the Web 2.0 has no room for platform computing. O’Reilly also learns from Google the power of Chris Anderson’s long tail, “the collective of the small sites that make up the bulk of the web’s content” (O’Reilly). Essentially, the long tail argument states that smaller, less popular products can become, collectively, more popular then the most popular products themselves. Google used this methodology to acknowledge the company’s power held in the usage it received; the amount of websites it could aggregate and the amount of users that used their system to get to those websites. In an age of customization, people seek to find new products that will help individualize and distinguish them apart from others. Amazon.com, the original inspiration behind the long tail argument, has a feature enabling users to view related products that the user might be interested in. This is a complex data management system that collects personal information; online behaviour is recorded and used to accurately display products of interest. Another example of long tail success is in the videogames industry. At this year’s DIG conference (Digital Interactive Gaming) in London, Ontario, Jesse Divnich, Director of Analyst Services at Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR), discussed the current ‘fad and hit’ methodology in the vide-
ogames industry. In sum, one popular game is all it takes to spawn a trend in thematically similar games to be made and made popular (the last part being most important). This too is the long tail argument at work: the spin off titles becomes as popular as the hit title. Examples such as these demonstrate O’Reilly’s urge to “leverage customer self service” because “the service automatically gets better the more people use it” (O’Reilly). It is in our best interest then to “decentralize” the internet acknowledging that “every client is also a server”, “users are treated as co-developers” and companies must “engage users as real-time testers” (O’Reilly). The success of companies in the both Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 “have embraced the power of the web to harness collective intelligence” and in this model, socialized workers make up “the architecture of participation” (O’Reilly). Realize that the Web 2.0 has forced capitalism to re-evaluate the working class made up of socialized workers and has developed a system of capital based on user behaviour and content. The socialized worker benefits from these new business models because they are given power to help dictate the market: “user contributions are the key to market dominance in the Web 2.0 era” (O’Reilly). In addition to the advantages found to having Web 2.0 business models, socialized workers are able to use these companies to better their own work. Part of this process involves taking advantage of the blogosphere. BLOGGING
“...with each transformation of the technical composition of labor, workers use the means at their disposal to invent new forms of revolt and autonomy from capital... today we are arriving at another such moment of crisis” (Hardt & Negri 144)
The next advantage of the Web 2.0 I will encourage my readers to acknowledge is the power of blogs. The profit model blogs have created is based on the Web 2.0 business model described by O’Reilly: it is a system that realizes it’s power is held in the data it manages and the users that use it. Blogs “drive an entirely different delivery, advertising and value chain” (O’Reilly 7). It is a system where the user receives free content, the supplier is financially encouraged to have quality content and the advertiser is exposed to a highly relevant, receptive and large audience. Websites like buysellads.com and alexa.com can make this system clear, as they help to determine the audience a blog receives. Essentially, buysellads.com connects bloggers to advertisers. The site allows the user to make their own rates, however, on their profile is listed their audience in quantitative terms. Alexa.com is one website that gathers traffic and search results data on websites such as blogs and ranks them in relation to every other website. The Alexa rank a website has can help determine the value of the website, along with the number of RSS subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook followers it has and as well as how many people Digg, Tweet or reference their articles in any way or form. This information is listed at buysellads.com to regulate blog audiences numerically. Although the numerical ranking in audience isn’t perfect, as it may not take into consideration niche blogs that have quality material but just aren’t popular, it does give a sort of majority rule that is worth something. Most important in this system is the the blogger who is encouraged to maintain rich content. At rapid rates, bloggers are uploading quality information, such as software tutorials that can help educate individuals in bettering their trade for free, or contributing to political discourse and changing the way a country operates. There has traditionally been understood an idea of the common, “the bounty of nature available to humanity” (Hardt & Negri 139). Blogs belong to everyone and are considered part of the common for “the common is not only the earth we share but also the languages we create, the social practices we establish, the modes of sociality that define our relationships and so forth” (Hardt
& Negri 139). As Neoliberal accumulation involves expropriation of the common, O’Reilly believes that “mainstream media may see blogs as competitors” and that really, there remains “a competition of business models” (O’Reilly 9). My conclusion: the power of the Web 2.0 must be harnessed to put forth the kinds of business models employed by blogs. O’Reilly writes about how blogs on the Web 2.0 are successful. Part of their success can be seen in RSS, the permalink and trackbacks. RSS allows users to subscribe to content and receive notifications of when that content is updated (desktop applications are available to collect and view subscribed content). Permalinks and trackbacks “turned webblogs from an ease-of-publishing phenomenon into a conversational mess of overlapping communities,” and essentially created the two-way link (O’Reilly 8). These kinds of features have proved that a bloggers true success is “paying attention to other bloggers” as that will “magnify their visibility and power” (O’Reilly 9). The more a blogger interacts with other users and blogs (using permalinks and trackbacks and commenting on other blogs), the more attraction they will generate towards their own blog. An active participant is a successful blogger. As Adam Smith remarked, “man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self love in his favour... the charity of well disposed people, indeed, supplies him with the whole fund of his subsistence” (Smith12). Cooperation becomes a necessity. O’Reilly maintains this idea by saying that “users pursuing their own selfish interests build collective value as an automatic byproduct” (O’Reilly). Web 2.0 is the grounds for cooperation and we must realize that cooperation is in the best interest of everyone, independently and collectively.
The ways in which we should use the Web 2.0, that is, the best ways we are to communicate and collaborate to employ new power relations, is best best understood using Hardt and Negri’s idea of ‘the multitude.’ THE MULTITUDE
“...all forms of labor are today socially productive, they produce common, and share too a common potential to resist the domination of capital... Think of it as equal opportunity of resistance” (Hardt and Negri Multitude, 107)
Hardt and Negri explain that there is a distinction between calling a population ‘the people’ and calling them ‘the multitude’: as the people is one, the multitude, by contrast, suggests plurality. The multitude is a term implying a collective of individuals who negate their differences and work together to refuse the rule of capital and ultimately, to rule themselves (Hardt & Negri Multitude, 106). As we have learned, “capital wants to make the multitude an organic unity, just as a state wants to make it into a people” (Hardt & Negri Multitude, 111). We must acknowledge this distinction as Hardt and Negri declare that only ‘the multitude’ can achieve true democracy (Hardt & Negri Multitude, 100). We must use the idea of the multitude to save our individuality. We must, on common ground, fight for better working conditions, and more so, a better social life. I will reiterate that the struggles of the past must be acknowledged to understand the present struggle found in the socialized worker: similarly to how how mass workers needed to be industrialized, “today labor and society have to informationalize, become intelligent, become communicative and become affective” (Hardt & Negri Multitude, 109). Just as in the industrial era, “the essential role of the capitalist in the production process... is to provide cooperation... bring workers together in the factory, give them the tools to work together, furnish a
plan to cooperate, and enforce their cooperation” (Hardt & Negri 140). The socialized worker is autonomous working outside of the factory but communication and cooperation remain vital to success. We have gone from the professional to the mass worker, and have evolved into a socialized worker in which capitalism attempts to bind to the wage relation using biopolitical power and subsume individuality under the production process. The struggle involves removing capitalist business models from the web and employing a set of new power relations – relations that acknowledge the immaterial labour done by socialized workers. I have explained the problem of deregulation as seen on getafreelancer.com and how blogs are gradually using the Web 2.0 as a means of removing capitalism and implementing a new economic model that encourages participation, contributions toward public discourse, and overall a genuine ROI. These practices that involve data management applications and distribution of information can change the wage relation. Let us realize the faults in traditional capitalist techniques, the independence of the socialized worker and the ways in which we can better the quality of life. WORKS CITED Braverman, Harry. Labour and Monopoly Capitalism. The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1999. Brophy, Enda. System Error: Labour Precarity and Collective Organizing at Microsoft. Canadian Journal of Communication, Vol 31, 2006. Dyer-Witheford, Nick. Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High Technology Capitalism. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999. Engels, Friedrich. The Working Class in England. “Introduction.” Moscow: Foreign Publishing House, 1953.
Foucault, Michel. The Subject and Power. “Power.” New York: The New Press, 2001. Hardt, Michael and Negri, Antonio. Commonwealth. “Metamorphoses of the Composition of Capital.” Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2009. Hardt, Michael and Negri, Antonio. Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire. New York: Penguin Press, 2004. Lazarrato, Maurizio. Immaterial Labour. “Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics.” Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. Negri, Antonio. The Politics of Subversion. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1989. O’Reilly, Tim. What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software. Retrieved August 20, 2009. http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20. html Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations. “On the Division of Labour.” London: Metheuns & Co., 1776. Weeks, Kathi. Ephemera. “Life Within and Against Work: Affective Labor, Feminist Critique, and Post-Fordist Politics.” 2007.
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