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Critique of the Political Economy of Social Media and Informational Capitalism

Christian Fuchs

Social Media and Informational Capitalism Christian Fuchs Chair Professor in Media and Communication Studies

Chair Professor in Media and Communication Studies Department of Informatics and Media Uppsala University

christian.fuchs@im.uu.se

http://fuchs.uti.at

http://www.im.uu.se

Twitter: #CDP21

Keynote plenary talk at the 4 th ICTs and Society Conference:

Critique, Democracy and Philosophy in 21 st Century Information

Society. Towards Critical Theories of Social Media. May 2 nd -4 th ,

2012.

This presentation is based on the following works

Fuchs, Christian. 2008. Internet and society. Social theory in the information age. New York:

Routledge. (Paperback: 2011)

Fuchs, Christian. 2011. Foundations of critical media and information studies. New York: Routledge. (Paperback:

April 2012)

Fuchs, Christian. Forthcoming. Social media. A critical introduction. London: Sage.

Routledge . (Paperback: April 2012) Fuchs, Christian. Forthcoming. Social media. A critical introduction . London: Sage.
Routledge . (Paperback: April 2012) Fuchs, Christian. Forthcoming. Social media. A critical introduction . London: Sage.

This presentation is based on the following works

Fuchs, Christian and Rainer Zimmermann. 2009. Practical civil virtues in cyberspace. Towards the utopian identity of civitas and multitudo. Aachen:

Shaker.

Fuchs, Christian, Kees Boersma, Anders Albrechtslund, Marisol Sandoval, eds. 2012. Internet and surveillance. The challenges of web 2.0 and social media. New York:

Routledge.

Sandoval, eds. 2012. Internet and surveillance. The challenges of web 2.0 and social media . New
Sandoval, eds. 2012. Internet and surveillance. The challenges of web 2.0 and social media . New

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media

2. Information Society or Capitalism?

3. Manuel Castells and Communication Power

4. Henry Jenkins and Participatory Culture

5. Critical Internet Studies

6. Capital Accumulation: Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital

Labour

7. Capital Accumulation: Play Labour

8. Ideology: Participatory Web a as Ideology

9. Struggles and Alternatives

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media

Smythe (1981, xvi-xviii) identified eight core aspects of a Marxist political economy of communications:

* materiality,

* monopoly capitalism,

* audience commodification and advertising,

* media communication as part of the base of capitalism,

* labour power,

* critique of technological determinism,

* consciousness,

* arts and learning.

Gramsci + Frankfurt School:

“saturated with subjectivism and positivism” (Smythe 1981, xvii), “idealist theory of the communications commodity” (Smythe 1994, 268)

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media

Although wide-read works of the Frankfurt School focused on ideology (Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson and Sanford 1950, Horkheimer and Adorno 2002, Marcuse 1964), other books in its book series Frankfurter Beiträge zur Soziologie dealt with the changes of accumulation in what was termed late capitalism or monopoly capitalism:

* Pollock, Friedrich. 1956. Automation. Materialien zur

Beurteilung der ökonomischen und sozialen Folgen. * Friedmann, Georges. 1959. Grenzen der Arbeitsteilung.

* Works by Henryk Grossmann

Horkheimer (1931) Die gegenwärtige Lage der Sozialphilosophie und die Aufgaben eines Instituts für Sozialforschung:

programme for an interdisciplinary critical social science

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media

Role of ideology in Critical Political Economy of the Media

Murdock and Golding (1974, 4): the media are organizations that “produce and distribute commodities”, means for distributing advertisements, and they also have an “ideological dimension” by disseminating “ideas about economic and political structures”.

Murdock (1978): Blindspot debate

Smythe (1981, 4-9, 270-299): “consciousness industry”

ideology concept Frankfurt School:

“system of beliefs, attitudes, and ideas” (Smythe 1981, 171).

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media

One role of the capitalist media would be the “pervasive reinforcement of the ideological basis of the capitalist system”, assumptions like “human nature is necessarily selfish and possessive. It has always been this way: You can’t change human nature” (Smythe 1994, 251).

* A difference between Critical Political Economy of the Media and Critical Theory is that the first is strongly rooted in economic theory and the second in philosophy and social theory.

* There has been a stronger focus on ideology critique in the Frankfurt School approach for historical reasons:

German fascism, explanation was needed why the revolutionary German working class followed Hitler, which brought up the interest in the analysis of the authoritarian personality and media propaganda.

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media

Smythe said that the “starting point for a general Marxist theory of communications is [] the theory of commodity exchange” (Smythe 1994, 259).

Adorno acknowledged that “the concept of exchange is [] the hinge connecting the conception of a critical theory of society to the construction of the concept of society as a totality” (Adorno 2000, 32).

=> Marx – Capital, Volume 1: commodity production, circulation, consumption (capital accumulation) + commodity fetishism (ideology)

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media

Reification (Lukács), instrumental reason (Horkheimer), technological rationality (Marcuse):

reduction of humans to

* labour forces
* consumers

= humans as instrument for capital accumulation

* believers in the system

= ideology as silencing instrument

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media

Lawrence Grossberg (1995/1998) argued that both Frankfurt School and Political Economy have a simple “model of domination in which people are seen as passively manipulated ‘cultural dupes’” (616; also Hall 1986, 1988)

Pessimistic? Ignoring agency and subjectivity?

Smythe: “People are subject to relentless pressures from Consciousness Industry; they are besieged with an avalanche of consumer goods and services; they are themselves produced as (audience) commodities; [] But people are by no means passive or powerless. People do resist the powerful and manifold pressures of capital as best they can” (Smythe 1981, 270). But: NO automatic resistance!

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media

Adorno: television – in German: Fernsehen = literally: to watch into the distance:

“to keep the promise still resonating within the word, it must emancipate itself from everything within which it reckless wish-fulfilment – refutes its own principle and betrays the idea of Good Fortune for the smaller fortunes of the department store” (Adorno 2005, 57).

Adorno (1977, 680) - Erziehung nach Auschwitz (Education after Auschwitz): positive role that TV could play in anti-fascist education in Germany after Auschwitz.

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media

“The very structure of capitalism is a dialectical one: every form and institution of the economic process begets its determinate negation, and the crisis is the extreme form in which the contradictions are expressed” (Marcuse 1941, 311f).

the contradictions are expressed ” (Marcuse 1941, 311f). “ The negativity and its negation are two

The negativity and its negation are two different phases of the same historical process, straddled by man’s historical action” (Marcuse 1941, 315).

“The revolution requires the maturity of many forces, but the greatest among them is the subjective force, namely, the revolutionary class itself” (Marcuse 1941, 319).

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media

German Critique of the Political Economy of the Media. Horst Holzer (1973, 131; 1994, 202ff) and Manfred Knoche

(2005a)

(1)capital accumulation in the media industry; (2)advertising, public relations and sales promotion for other industries (3)legitimization of domination and ideological manipulation; (4) reproduction, regeneration, and qualification of labour power.

Critical Theory and the Critique the Political Economy of Communication, Culture, Information and the Media

critique and analysis of the role of communication, culture, information, and the media in capitalism in the context of

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media

a) processes of capital accumulation (including the analysis

of capital, markets, commodity logic, competition, exchange

value, the antagonisms of the mode of production, productive forces, crises, advertising, etc),

b) class relations (with a focus on work, labour, the mode of

the exploitation of surplus value, etc),

d) domination in general,

e) ideology (both in academia and everyday life)

as well as the analysis of and engagement in

f) struggles against the dominant order, which includes the

analysis and advancement of

g) social movement struggles and h) social movement media that i) aim at the establishment of a democratic socialist

society that is based on communication commons as part of structures of commonly-owned means of production

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media
1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media
2. Information Society or Capitalism?
2. Information Society or Capitalism?
2. Information Society or Capitalism?

2. Information Society or Capitalism?

2. Information Society or Capitalism?

2. Information Society or Capitalism?

2. Information Society or Capitalism?

Relations of production

L (v) – Capital

M – C (v, c)

P

C‘ – M‘

Productive forces

Hegel (1991):

Subject = “the posited unseparatedness of the moments in their distinction” (§164). Object = “undetermined manifoldness” (§194) “the Subject-Object” (§162): “the unity of the ideal and the real, of the finite and the infinite, of the soul and the body” (§214)

1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media A
1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media
A
1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media A
1. Frankfurt School and Critical Political Economy of the Media
A

2. Information Society or Capitalism?

Theodor W. Adorno (1968/2003) - “Late capitalism or industrial society?

He said that the “fundamental question of the present structure of society” is “about the alternatives: late capitalism or industrial society”.

Contemporary society is an information society according to the state of its forces of production. In contrast, however, society is capitalist in its relations of production.

Capitalism reproduces its power structures and continuity by dynamics and discontinuity.

3. Manuel Castells and Communication Power

3. Manuel Castells and Communication Power

3. Manuel Castells and Communication Power

3. Manuel Castells and Communication Power

3. Manuel Castells and Communication Power

3. Manuel Castells and Communication Power

3. Manuel Castells and Communication Power

Castells, Manuel (2009) Communication power

Social media: mass communication => mass self- communication

Network-making power is the “paramount form of power in the network society” (Castells 2009, 47).

“power in the network society is communication power” (p.

53)

Claims about “communication power” can also be found in contemporary politics.

3. Manuel Castells and Communication Power

Revolution in Egypt,

25.1.-11.2011

Wael Ghonim:

“revolution 2.0“

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWvJxasiSZ8

“if you want to liberate a society, just give them the Internet

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/11/egypt-

facebook-revolution-wael-ghonim_n_822078.html

Iran, June 2009:

blogger Andrew Sullivan

The Revolution Will Be

Twittered

http://www.theatlantic.com/daily-dish/archive/2009/06/

the-revolution-will-be-twittered/200478/

3. Manuel Castells and Communication Power

UK riots, August 2011

“Twitter mobs“, “Blackberry mobs“

Thugs used social network Twitter to orchestrate the

Tottenham violence(The Sun, Aug

8, 2011)

Gang members used

Blackberry smartphones

to organise the mayhem(The

[

]

T l

h

A

8 2011

(The Sun, Aug 8, 2011) “ Gang members used Blackberry smartphones to organise the mayhem “

3. Manuel Castells and Communication Power

Technological determinism that ignores the political economy of events

Vincent Mosco (2004):

digital sublime = “eruption of feeling that briefly overwhelms reason“ (22)

“Today, cyberspace has become the latest icon of the technological and electronic sublime, praised for its epochal and transcendent characteristics and demonized for the depth of the evil it can conjure“ (24)

3. Manuel Castells and Communication Power

Fuchs, Christian. 2009. Some reflections on Manuel Castells‘ book “Communication Power“. tripleC: Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society 7 (1): 94-108.

* Castells‘ approach is not a social theory

* The Weberian concept of power as asymmetric power that

benefits one at the expense of others is for Castells “the most fundamental process in society” (10) => uncritical naturalization of coercive power, power fetishism

Isn’t the phenomenon of altruism in love the practical falsification of the claim that coercive power is the most fundamental process in society?

3. Manuel Castells and Communication Power

* Fetishism of computing:

Technocratic language, expression from computer science used for describing social relations:

program, meta-programmers, switches, switchers, configuration, inter-operability, protocols, network standards, network components, kernel, program code, etc. as aspects of power in society

the differentia specifica of society in comparison to computers and computer networks – that society is based on humans, reflexive and self-conscious beings that have cultural norms, anticipative thinking, and a certain freedom of action that computers do not have – gets lost.

3. Manuel Castells and Communication Power

* Network society = new society (Castells, 2000a, p. 371)

“power in the network society is communication power” (p.

53)

Has the Internet brought about a new society?

Continuity of capitalism, But: new qualities of capital accumulation

Capitalism is a complex field that is shaped by multiple interacting tendencies such as communication power, finance power, imperial power, hyperindustrial power, etc.

1. Theories A
1. Theories
A
4. Henry Jenkins and Participatory Culture

4. Henry Jenkins and Participatory Culture

4. Henry Jenkins and Participatory Culture

4. Henry Jenkins and Participatory Culture

4. Henry Jenkins and Participatory Culture

4. Henry Jenkins and Participatory Culture

4. Henry Jenkins and Participatory Culture

Henry Jenkins argues that increasingly “ the Web has become a site of consumer participation” (Jenkins 2008: 137).

participatory culture as culture “in which fans and other consumers are invited to actively participate in the creation and circulation of new content” (Jenkins 2008,

331).

cultural entrepreneurs that give “their consumers greater opportunities to shape the content and participate in its distribution” (Jenkins 2008, 268).

Fans are “preparing the way for a more meaningful public culture” online and offline (Jenkins 2008, 239).

4. Henry Jenkins and Participatory Culture

www.ultras.ws

4. Henry Jenkins and Participatory Culture www.ultras.ws
4. Henry Jenkins and Participatory Culture www.ultras.ws

4. Henry Jenkins and Participatory Culture

Participatory democracy theory

A participatory economy requires a “change in the terms of access to capital in the direction of more nearly equal access” (Macpherson 1973: 71) and “a change to more nearly equal access to the means of labour” (Macpherson 1973: 73).

“Genuine democracy, and genuine liberty, both require the absence of extractive powers” (Macpherson 1973: 121).

A participatory economy furthermore involves “the democratising of industrial authority structures” (Pateman 1970: 43).

5. Critical Internet Studies

5. Critical Internet Studies

5. Critical Internet Studies

1) Critical Cyberculture Studies

David Silver (2006b): study of “online marginality”, Silver stresses the importance of exploring “issues of race, ethnicity and sexuality” (Silver, 2006b, p. 70).

2) Critical Political Economy and Critical Theory of the Internet

Critical Political Economy “sees class – the structure of access to the means of production and the structure of the distribution of the economic surplus – as the key to the structure of domination, while cultural studies sees gender and race, along with other potential markers of difference, as alternative structures of domination in no way determined by class” (Garnham, 1998, p. 609).

5. Critical Internet Studies

CCCS tends to ignore topics of class, capitalism, and exploitation.

“Critical” Cyberculture Studies is therefore an approach that in its postmodern vein is unsuited for explaining the role of the Internet and communications in the current times of capitalist crisis.

Class is the antagonism that binds all other antagonisms together; it prefigures, conditions, enables and constrains, and exerts pressure on possibilities for other antagonisms.

In capitalism, all forms of domination are related to exploitation.

5. Critical Internet Studies

Ernesto Laclau has in a trialogue with Judith Butler and Slavoj Ži ž ek admitted that in postmodern approaches it is a common language game to “transform ‘class’ into one more link in an enumerative chain [ ] ‘race, gender, ethnicity, etc. – and class” (Butler, Laclau & Ži ž ek, 2000, p. 297) and to put class deliberately as last element in the chain in order to stress its unimportance

Slavoj Žiž ek: Postmodernism, Cultural Studies, and post- Marxism have by assuming an “irreducible plurality of struggles” accepted “capitalism as ‘the only game in town’” and have renounced “any real attempt to overcome the existing capitalist liberal regime” (Butler, Laclau & Ži ž ek, 2000, p. 95).

5. Critical Internet Studies

Dallas W. Smythe (1994, 258):

called for a “Marxist theory of communication” (Smythe 1994, 258)

Graham Murdock and Peter Golding (2005, 61):

Critical Political Economy of Communications” is critical in the sense of being “broadly marxisant

=> Marxist theory of the media and the Internet

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

“For the great majority of the population [] 24 hours a day is work time” (Smythe 1981, 47).

“Because audience power is produced, sold, purchased and consumed, it commands a price and is a commodity. [] You audience members contribute your unpaid work time and in exchange you receive the program material and the explicit advertisements” (Smythe 1981, 26, 233).

David Hesmondhalgh (2011, 280) claims that “Smythe’s account is crude, reductionist and functionalist, totally underestimating contradiction and struggle in capitalism“ and that it “has totally lost its connection to pragmatic political struggle“.

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

Brett Caraway (2011) argues that “Smythe’s theory represents a one-sided class analysis which devalues working-class subjectivity“ (696) = “audience commodity fetishism“.

1958 – Mao: “The Tatsepao, or big-character poster, is [a] powerful new weapon, a means of criticism and self- criticism which was created by the masses during the rectification movement; [] It is also a powerful weapon for conducting debate and education in accordance with the broadest mass democracy. People write down their views, suggestions or exposures and criticisms of others in big characters on large sheets of paper and put them up in conspicuous places for people to read”.

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

After bicycles, what?” (Smythe 1994, 230-244)

two-way system in which each receiver would have the capability to provide either a voice or voice-and-picture response. [] a two-way TV system would be like an electronic tatzupao system” (Smythe 1994, 231f).

Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s (1970) concept of emancipatory media use, Walter Benjamin’s (1934, 1936/1939) idea of the reader/writer, and Bertolt Brecht’s (1932/2000) notion of an alternative radio

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

Digital Labour

* “Digital Labour: Workers, Authors, Citizens” (University of Western Ontario 2009)

* “The Internet as Playground and Factory” (New School 2009)

Nick Dyer-Witheford argues that Smythe’s analysis has today gained credibility because the “level of surveillance in the home tends toward that already experienced in the workplace, and the activity of the waged ’watchman’ in the automatic factory, described by Marx, becomes integrally with the unpaid ’watching time’“ (Dyer-Witheford 1999, 119).

Mark Andrejevic (2011): exploitation 2.0 - “monitoring becomes an integral component of the online value chain” (84)

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

Dallas Smythe (1981/2006) suggests that in the case of media advertisement models, the audience is sold as a commodity to advertisers (audience commodity):

“Because audience power is produced, sold, purchased and consumed, it commands a price and is a commodity. (.) You audience members contribute your unpaid work time and in exchange you receive the program material and the explicit advertisements” (Smythe 1981/2006: 233, 238).

=> Internet prosumer commodity

active, creative prosumption activity is the heart and source of exploitation on the Internet

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

The exploitation of digital labour involves three elements:

* Coercion: Users are ideologically coerced to use

commercial platforms in order to be able to engage in communication, sharing, and the creation and maintenance of social relations, without which their lives would be less meaningful.

* Alienation: companies, not the users, own the platforms and the created profit.

* Expropriation: The value (work time) of data commodities

is turned into money that is privately owned by corporations.

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

The time that users spend on commercial social media platforms for generating social, cultural and symbolic capital is in the process of prosumer commodification transformed into economic capital.

Labour time on commercial social media is the conversion of Bourdieuian social, cultural and symbolic capital into Marxian value and economic capital.

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

Karl Marx said that as a consequence of the globalization of capitalism

“institutions emerge whereby each individual can acquire information about the activity of all others and attempt to adjust his own accordingly” and that these “interconnections” are enabled by “mails, telegraphs etc” (Marx 1857/58:161).

Isn’t this a good description of the Internet?

4. Class and the web A
4. Class and the web
A

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

Marx’s theory:

“The theory of surplus value is in consequence immediately the theory of exploitation” (Negri 1991: 74)

Rosa Luxemburg (1913: 363) argued that capital accumulation feeds on the exploitation of milieus that are drawn into the capitalist system.

Marxist Feminism: unpaid reproductive labour can be considered as an inner colony and milieu of primitive accumulation of capitalism. (Bennholdt-Thomsen, Mies & Werlhof 1992, Mies 1996, Werlhof 1991)

Antonio Negri uses the term “social worker” for arguing that there is a broadening of the proletariat that is “now extended throughout the entire span of production and reproduction” (Negri 1982: 209).

=> Hardt and Negri (2000, 2004): multitude

Erik Olin Wright’s class model as foundation

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour Over-exploitation means that goods are produced in a way that

Over-exploitation means that goods are produced in a way that the “individual value of these articles is now below their social value” (Marx 1867: 434).

M - C

c (technologies, infrastructure)

P 1 .

P 2

C-

.

.

.
.

(social media services)

v 1 (paid)

v 2 (unpaid work:

M

1) WWW content production, 2) service use)

C= Internet prosumer commodity (user-generated content, transaction data, virtual advertising space and time) most social media services are free to use, they are no commodities. User data and the users are the social media commodity.

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

Surveillance of Internet users:

* Surveillance of personal profile data

* Surveillance of produced content

* Surveillance of browsing and klicking behaviour

* Surveillance of social relations and networks

* Surveillance of communication

=> Users work without pay and produce content, communications, social relations, and transaction data = data commodities (collection of individuals with specific user demographics) that are sold to advertisers

exchange of money with access to specific user groups => targeted advertising

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

Legal mechanisms – privacy policies and terms of use:

Facebook Data Use Policy (Sept 23, 2011)

“When an advertiser creates an ad on Facebook, they are given the opportunity to choose their audience by location, demographics, likes, keywords, and any other information we receive or can tell about you and other users“.

Facebook says that it does “not share any of your information with advertisers (unless, of course, you give us permission) “ “Sometimes we get data from our advertising partners, customers and other third parties that helps us (or them) deliver ads, understand online activity, and generally make Facebook better”.

FB-newspeak: “getting” and “sharing” data instead of “selling”

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

profit rate p = s / (c + v) = surplus value / (constant capital + variable capital)

Exploitation of labour by Internet firms:

p

= s / (c + v1 + v2),

s

surplus value,

c constant capital, v1 value of work by waged employees (wages), v2 value of the work by users

v2 => 0, v1 => v2 (v2 substitutes v1) outsourcing of labour

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

Produsage in a capitalist society can be interpreted as the outsourcing of productive labour from wage labour to users who work completely for free and help maximizing

the rate of exploitation:

e = s / v, = surplus value / variable capital

profits can be raised and new media capital can be accumulated.

e = s /v: v=>0 => exploitation=>infinity

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

No end of the law of value!

Marx – law of value: “the greater the labour-time necessary to produce an article, [ ] the greater its value”, Marx 1867,

131).

The more time a user spends on commercial social media, the more data about her/his interests and activities are available and the more advertisements are presented to her/him.

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

Sut Jhally (1987, 83):

“watching is an extension of factory labour” => living room as factory and space of the surveillance of labour

“watching is an extension of factory labour” => living room as factory and space of the

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

Social factory: “all of society lives as a function of the factory and the factory extends its exclusive domination over all of society” (Mario Tronti, in: Cleaver 1992, 137)

Dyer-Witheford (2010, 485): “factory planet”

domination over all of society” (Mario Tronti, in: Cleaver 1992, 137) Dyer-Witheford (2010, 485): “factory planet”

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

David Harvey (2007):

neoliberalism as commodification of everything:

“The commodification of sexuality, culture, history,

heritage; of nature as spectacle

or as rest cure; [

amount to putting a price on things that were never actually produced as commodities“ (Harvey 2007,

]

– these all

166).

=> “The metropolis is a factory for the production of the common” (Hardt and Negri 2009, 250)

these all 166). => “The metropolis is a factory for the production of the common ”

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

Commodification of the communication commons

The Internet is the all-ubiquitous factory and realm of the production of audience commodities and a space of the exploitation of labour.

Social media and the mobile Internet make the audience commodity ubiquitous and the factory not limited to your living room and your wage work place – the factory and work place surveillance are also in all in-between spaces. The entire planet is today a surveilled capitalist factory.

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

Internet labour and its surveillance are based on the surveillance, blood and sweat of super-exploited labour in developing countries.

and its surveillance are based on the surveillance, blood and sweat of super-exploited labour in developing
and its surveillance are based on the surveillance, blood and sweat of super-exploited labour in developing

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

Alain Lipietz (1995): “bloody Taylorism

“delocalization of certain limited Taylorist industrial activities towards social formations with very high rates of exploitation

To the traditional oppression of women, this strategy adds

all the modern weapons of anti-labour repression (official unions, absence of civil rights, imprisonment and torture of opponents).

of anti-labour repression (official unions, absence of civil rights, imprisonment and torture of opponents) “ .
of anti-labour repression (official unions, absence of civil rights, imprisonment and torture of opponents) “ .
of anti-labour repression (official unions, absence of civil rights, imprisonment and torture of opponents) “ .

6. Smythe, Audience Commodification, Digital Labour

Foxconn etc: mode of highly exploited labour ”conflict minerals” in the Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries (cassiterite, wolframite, coltan, gold, tungsten, tantalum, tin): slave workers extract minerals

Congo and other countries (cassiterite, wolframite, coltan, gold, tungsten, tantalum, tin): slave workers extract minerals
Congo and other countries (cassiterite, wolframite, coltan, gold, tungsten, tantalum, tin): slave workers extract minerals
Congo and other countries (cassiterite, wolframite, coltan, gold, tungsten, tantalum, tin): slave workers extract minerals
7. Play Labour
7. Play Labour

7. Play Labour

Boltanski and Chiapello (2007) – new spirit of capitalism

values of “artistic critique” have become new organizational principles of capitalism:

autonomy, spontaneity, mobility, creativity, networking, visions, openness, plurality, informality, authenticity, emancipation

artistic critique “indirectly serves capitalism and is one of the instruments of its ability to endure” (490).

=> differences between work time and play time vanish, playbour = play labour alienation feels like play

7. Play Labour

Herbert Marcuse (1955) – Eros and Civilization:

Pleasure (eros) Pain Reality principle

Performance principle

Free time Work time Necessary work time, necessary repression of eros Surplus repression (surplus value)

surplus-repression is a term that describes “the restrictions necessitated by social domination” (Marcuse 1955, 35).

Domination introduces “additional controls over and above those indispensable for civilized human association” (Marcuse 1955, 37).

7. Play Labour

Gilles Deleuze (1995):

from “disciplinary society“ to “society of control

Internalization of Foucauldian disciplines => self-control

Blind mole (monotounously digs burrows)

vs. Flexible serpent (permanent change for surviving)

8. Participatory Web as Ideology
8. Participatory Web as Ideology
8. Participatory Web as Ideology

8. Participatory Web as Ideology

8. Participatory Web as Ideology

Henry Jenkins argues that increasingly “the Web has become a site of consumer participation” (Jenkins 2008:

137) and sees blogging as “potentially increasing cultural diversity and lowering barriers in cultural participation”, “expanding the range of perspectives”, as “grassroots intermediaries” that ensure “that everyone has a chance to be heard” (Jenkins 2006: 180f).

Axel Bruns says that “open participation” (Bruns 2008: 24, 240) is a key principle of produsage.

Clay Shirky (2008: 107) says that on web 2.0 there is a “linking of symmetrical participation and amateur production”.

8. Participatory Web as Ideology

Tapscott and Williams argue that “the new web” has resulted in “a new economic democracy [] in which we all have a lead role” (Tapscott and Williams 2007: 15).

Yochai Benkler (2006) says that due to the emergence of commons-based peer production on the Internet, “we can say that culture is becoming more democratic: self- reflective and participatory“ (Benkler 2006: 15).

Is the web participatory?

Answering this question requires an understanding of the notion of participation.

8. Participatory Web as Ideology

Claim that social media are participatory is also the claim that the Internet is a public sphere. Habermas: limits of the bourgeois public sphere (=public sphere in capitalist society):

* limitation of freedom of speech and public opinion:

persons do not have same formal education and material resources for participating in public sphere (Habermas 1991, 227)

* limitation of freedom of association and assembly:

big political and economic organizations “enjoy an

oligopoly of the publicistically effective and politically relevant formation of assemblies and associations” (Habermas 1991,

228

8. Participatory Web as Ideology

“political news“ (google.com, Feb 26, 2012)

1. cnn.com (corporate, Time Warner)

2. politico.com (corporate, Allbritton Communications)

3. foxnews.com (corporate, News Corporation)

4. msnbc.com (corporate, NBC Universal)

5. www.bbc.co.uk (public service)

6. realclearpolitics.com (corporate, RealClear Holdings (51%

share owned by Forbes) )

7. nytimes.com (corporate, New York Times Company)

8. www.reuters.com (corporate, Thompson Reuters)

9. abcnews.go.com (corporate, Walt Disney)

10. politics.co.uk (corporate, Adfero)

8. Participatory Web as Ideology

Most popular Facebook groups?

Source: http://statistics.allfacebook.com/ Feb 26, 2012

1. Facebook, 62.6 million fans

2. Texas Hold‘em Poker, 57.7 million fans

3. YouTube 53.7M 4. Eminem 53.6M

5. Rihanna 52.1M

6. Lady Gaga 48.4M

7. Shakira 47.1M

8. Michael Jackson 45.8M

9. Family Guy 42.4M

10. Harry Potter 42.1M

46. Barack Obama 25.4M Michael Moore: 566 961, Noam Chomsky: 403 400, Karl Marx. 195 292

8. Participatory Web as Ideology

Most viewed videos of all time on YouTube (August 19, 2011)

8. Participatory Web as Ideology Most viewed videos of all time on YouTube (August 19, 2011)

8. Participatory Web as Ideology

YouTube

Politics? News & Politics is one of 15 browsing video categories, News & Politics:

most viewed video ever: “If you are happy”, 68 026 353 views (Aug 19, 2011)

http://www.youtube.com/

watch?v=FrsM9WggCdo

children song: “If you happy, and you know it, clap your hands”.

19, 2011) http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=FrsM9WggCdo children song: “If you happy, and you know it, clap your hands”.
A
A

3. Limits of Prosumption on the Internet

http://mashable.com/

2010/12/22/top-twitter-

trends-2010-charts/

8. Participatory Web as Ideology

Top 10 Trend Topics on Twitter 2011

1. Justin Bieber

2. Soccer/Football

3. Lady Gaga

4. NBA

5. Jonas Brothers

6. Christmas

7. Super Junior

8. Britney Spears

9. Japan Earthquake

10. One Direction

http://mashable.com/2011/12/06/top-twitter-trends-2011/

8. Participatory Web as Ideology

A
A

8. Participatory Web as Ideology

Twitter and other social media have a certain potential to support political mobilizations

role in protests and revolutions in countries like Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen

These potentials should not be overestimated.

Rebellions and revolutions are made by people living under certain social conditions and power relations, not by technology.

9. Alternatives and Struggles

9. Alternatives and Struggles

9. Alternatives and Struggles

Communism is “not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself”, but rather “the real movement which abolishes the present state of things” (Marx and Engels 1844, 57).

Communism needs spaces for materializing itself as movement.

The contemporary names of these spaces for the movement of communism are not Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, but rather Tahrir Square, Syntagma Square, Puerta del Sol, Plaça Catalunya, or Zuccotti Park.

9. Alternatives and Struggles

Wikipedia

* knowledge commons

* co-operative knowledge production

* non-profit oganization

* funded by donations

Most edited articles:

http://stats.wikimedia.org/EN/

TableRankArticleHistoryByTotalEdits.html

most frequently edited articles are pages about Wikipedia policies and guidelines, but also political pages (Barack Obama, George W. Bush)

9. Alternatives and Struggles

Wikipedia

* knowledge commons

* co-operative knowledge production

* non-profit oganization

* funded by donations

Most edited articles:

http://stats.wikimedia.org/EN/

TableRankArticleHistoryByTotalEdits.html

most frequently edited articles are pages about Wikipedia policies and guidelines, but also political pages (Barack Obama, George W. Bush)

9. Alternatives and Struggles

December 2010 – most edited articles:

1) WikiLeaks 2) Julian Assange 3) Deaths in 2010 4) United States Diplomatic Cables Leak 5) Tron: Legacy 6) Richard Holbrooke 7) Harty Potter and the Deathly Hallows (film) 8) GFAJ-1 9) Bradley Manning 10) 2022 FIFA World Cup

Source:

http://stats.wikimedia.org/EN/TablesWikipediaEN.htm

9. Alternatives and Struggles

WikiLeaks

* non-commercial Internet whistle-blowing platform that is online since 2006

* founded by Julian Assange

* Non-profit, funded by online donations

* Alternative online medium: provides critical knowledge to

the public

Submission by all users possible:

http://wikileaks.ch/Submissions.html

9. Alternatives and Struggles

WikiLeaks Most accessed web sites:

#867 (alexa.com; Dec 26, 2010), #28 016 (alexa.com; August 19, 2011) #11 489 (February 26, 2012) => depends on corporate mass media for news distribution (NY Times, Guardian, Spiegel, etc), which are prone to manipulation and (political and economic) censorship. Mainstream news media (alexa.com, Feb 26, 2012):

#48 BBC Online #63 CNN Interactive #86 Huffington Post #100 New York Times #115 Daily Mail #146 India Times #148 Spiegel Online, #160 Fox News, #174 The Guardian

9. Alternatives and Struggles

WikiLeaks self-definition:

mainly government watchdog, making government power transparent => good governance

lack of focus on corporate crime and corporate irresponsibility

Potential for acting as critical online medium

9. Alternatives and Struggles

9. Alternatives and Struggles

9. Alternatives and Struggles

WikiLeaks‘ self-definition

9. Alternatives and Struggles WikiLeaks‘ self-definition

9. Alternatives and Struggles

Anonymous:

Video channels anonopss, TheAnonMessage, Commander X

9. Alternatives and Struggles Anonymous: Video channels anonopss, TheAnonMessage, Commander X

9. Alternatives and Struggles

“We stand for freedom, we stand for freedom of speech, the power of the people, the ability of them to protest against their government. [] No censorship, especially online, but also in real life” (#17).

Egyptian revolution:

Anonymous addressed Mubarak saying that “the use of secret police forces, the torture of innocent citizens and political activists, the repression of the freedoms of speech and assembly, and the murder of the Egyptian people are all testament to your tyrannic disposition”

Missing: class, political economy, capitalism

9. Alternatives and Struggles

* decreasing real wages,

* repression against trade unions and the political left,

* widening gap between the rich and the poor,

* increasing poverty,

* mass lay-offs and food crises as effects of the global economic crisis,

* increasing prices,

* high illiteracy rates.

The Arab spring was not just a demand for political rights, but also for “social and economic rights“, it was a struggle against “economic, social and political marginalisation“ (Ayeb 2011, 478).

Anonymous’ version of cyberlibertarianism does not embrace corporate power, this type of power’s criticism is however also not a fundamental topic.

9. Alternatives and Struggles

Occupy movement – new socialist movement

“#ows is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to fight back against the richest 1% of people that are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future”

9. Alternatives and Struggles

Support of Occupy by Anonymous

Liberalism

“Occupy protesters peacefully marched, sang, danced, and drummed their way into the soul of their respective cities, but have often been met with hostility and aggression from law enforcement” (#18).

“Let the people protest without shame and threat. Let the people protest with expression and freedom” (#29).

9. Alternatives and Struggles

Socialism

“For too long the crimes of Wall Street bankers, CEOs, and a corrupt political system have created economic injustice that has gone unchallenged. [] We are thrown out of our homes, we are denied medical care, we suffer from poverty and pollution. We work long hours just to stay afloat while the 1% reap the benefits we dream of. Our sworn enemy is the corrupted corporation” (#31).

The lifeblood of the country is the working class and without it our people and our economy will crumble“ (#31).

The Occupy movement is envisioned as being able to “together [] make a global revolution” (#34).

9. Alternatives and Struggles

A

9. Alternatives and Struggles A

9. Alternatives and Struggles

9. Alternatives and Struggles

9. Alternatives and Struggles

Anonymous affirms liberal values, but also constitutes an immanent critique of these values by showing how liberal institutions violate the liberal values of the system that they represent, e.g. in the form of police violence against protests, the implementation of intellectual property rights laws that question freedom of information, the US’ support of political regimes that violate liberal rights of the individual, laws that censor the Internet or independent media, or the restriction of freedom of speech and information by the criminalization of and repression against WikiLeaks.

“Once harnessed to the dominant mode of production, enlightenment, which strives to undermine any order which has become repressive, nullifies itself“ (Horkheimer and Adorno 2002, 73f).

9. Alternatives and Struggles

Anonymous describes itself as “the 21 st century enlightenment” (#35).

Anonymous and WikiLeaks constitute a dialectic of the enlightenment of 21 st century informational capitalism.

Anonymous = the absurd theatre of liberalism

Only negating the negative dialectic of the enlightenment by establishing a new society can overcome the consequences of the negative dialectic.

This requires building a new socialism.

Anonymous & Wikileaks claim to be the enlightenment, are the immanent dialectic of contemporary enlightenment and should be advocates of socialist enlightenment!

9. Alternatives and Struggles

“renaissance of Marxist political economy” (Callinicos 2007,

342)

Göran Therborn: the “new constellations of power and new possibilities of resistance” in the 21 st century require retaining the Marxian idea that human emancipation from exploitation, oppression, discrimination” (Therborn 2008, 61).

“Once again the time has come to take Marx seriously” (Hobsbawm 2011, 419)

9. Alternatives and Struggles

Žiž ek (2010, x): crisis of capitalism => capitalism “is approaching an apocalyptic zero-point”.

Development paths:

1) it could be the emergence of a qualitatively new form of neoliberal capitalism (hyper-neoliberalism), 2) the emergence of a more regulated, neo-Keynesian form of capitalism, 3) the rise of fascist forms of capitalism, 4) a long time of conflict and global wars, or 5) the emergence of a participatory society and economy.

9. Alternatives and Struggles

Luc Boltanski (2011) – On critique. A sociology of emancipation:

critique in the era of neoliberalism: “the absence of a ‘project’ or an ‘alternative’ to the present situation” (41).

Today: time for critique to discuss capitalism’s replacement by less violent forms of utilization of the earth’s resources and ways of organizing the relations between human beings that would no longer be of the order of exploitation. It could perhaps then restore the word communism” (159).

Marx:

(knowledge, language, affects, communication, education, care, technology, digital knowledge, user-generated Internet content, Internet- mediated communication, etc)

knowledge, user-generated Internet content, Internet- mediated communication, etc) 1894: 199). POLITICAL ORGANIZATION

1894: 199).

POLITICAL ORGANIZATION

commonwealth

AUFHEBUNG(SUBLATION

)

a world of common wealth, focusing on and expanding our capacities for collective production and self-government(Hardt and Negri 2009, Commonwealth : xiii), comunism centralized state control, proper meaningof communism=what the private is to capitalism, what the public is to [state] socialism, the common is to communism(Hardt and Negri 2009: 273) =>

FOR A COMMUNIST INTERNET IN A COMMUNIST SOCIETY

The Hegelian Dialectical Triad of Multitude, Capital (Empire), and Commonwealth

produces surplus value, commons

produces surplus value, commons

produces surplus value, commons knowledge = part of the commons = “universal labour” that is “brought
produces surplus value, commons knowledge = part of the commons = “universal labour” that is “brought
produces surplus value, commons knowledge = part of the commons = “universal labour” that is “brought
produces surplus value, commons knowledge = part of the commons = “universal labour” that is “brought
produces surplus value, commons knowledge = part of the commons = “universal labour” that is “brought
produces surplus value, commons knowledge = part of the commons = “universal labour” that is “brought
produces surplus value, commons knowledge = part of the commons = “universal labour” that is “brought
produces surplus value, commons knowledge = part of the commons = “universal labour” that is “brought

knowledge = part of the commons = “universal labour” that is “brought about partly by the cooperation of men now living, but partly also by building on earlier work” (Marx

that is “brought about partly by the cooperation of men now living, but partly also by
that is “brought about partly by the cooperation of men now living, but partly also by
that is “brought about partly by the cooperation of men now living, but partly also by
that is “brought about partly by the cooperation of men now living, but partly also by
that is “brought about partly by the cooperation of men now living, but partly also by
that is “brought about partly by the cooperation of men now living, but partly also by
that is “brought about partly by the cooperation of men now living, but partly also by
that is “brought about partly by the cooperation of men now living, but partly also by
that is “brought about partly by the cooperation of men now living, but partly also by
that is “brought about partly by the cooperation of men now living, but partly also by
that is “brought about partly by the cooperation of men now living, but partly also by
that is “brought about partly by the cooperation of men now living, but partly also by
that is “brought about partly by the cooperation of men now living, but partly also by
V = c + v + s MULTITUDE = = potentiality

V = c + v + s

MULTITUDE

=

=

potentiality

M-C P C-M

CAPITAL, EMPIRE

capital exploits surplus value and the commons

the multitude resists against capital

actuality: necessary for capitalism

9. Alternatives and Struggles

Raymond Williams (1983):

commons – communism – communication:

to communicate means to make something “common to many” (Williams 1983, 72).

Communication is part of the commons of society.

Denying humans to communicate is like denying them to breathe fresh air; it undermines the conditions of their survival.

Therefore the communicative commons of society should be available for free (without payment or other access requirements) for all and should not be privately owned or controlled by a class.

9. Alternatives and Struggles

Commons of society:

* are needed for all humans to exist

* communication, nature, welfare, health care, education,

knowledge, arts and culture, food, housing

* basing the commons on the logic of markets, commodities, competition, exchange and profit results in fundamental inequalities of access to the commons

=> the commons should be no commodities, but freely available (without payment)

=> Strengthening the communication commons => Advancing commons-based media and a commons- based Internet in a commons-based participatory society

9. Alternatives and Struggles

Commons-based media:

* Common access for all

* Common ownership

* Common space of communication

* Common capacity to produce and share knowledge

* Common space for the co-creation of shared meanings (co-operation)

* Common space for political debate

* Common space for co-forming collective values and

identities

* Common space for struggles against the colonization of the commons