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The Expropriation of Digital Labor 
and What to Do About It


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Trebor Scholz

Published in: Education, Technology, Career
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The Expropriation of Digital Labor 
and What to Do About It

  1. 1. The Expropriation of Digital Labor and What to Do About It Trebor Scholz | New School University
  2. 2. 10/22/09
  3. 3.
  4. 4.
  5. 5. Labor/Play Work/Life Consumption/Production Playbor?
  6. 6. Who are the workers?
  7. 7. 3 billion people in the economic dev. world
  8. 8. Social participation is the oil of the digital economy
  9. 9. “...they are participating without thinking that they participate. That’s where the power comes.” Tim O’Reilly in Remix p224
  10. 10. the work of creating meta data
  11. 11. gold farmers
  12. 12. working for search engines: each click makes Google’s search better
  13. 13. media consumption uploading photos, videos commenting attention Labor gold farmers captcha beta testers artistic work data work micro-blogging virtual objects blog posts power users virtual volunteering referral emotional work posting news stories
  14. 14. Little research leverages the ample data that are created by people‘s interactions, such as e-mail, call logs, text messaging, document repositories, web 2.0 tools, and so on. As a result, important questions like does the optimal network structure for performance hold for a large network‘ and what is the appropriate timing of communication to actors of interest‘, and the like have been completely neglected. p2 Value of Social Network -- A Large-Scale Analysis on Network Structure Impact to Financial Revenue of Information Technology Consultants1
  15. 15. $15,000 Swiss watch and $22-a-pack cigarettes. Official legal channels are often inadequate but Internet vigilantism led to the dismissal of Juigeng Communist official Zhou Juigeng is under investigation for an apparent "lavish lifestyle" that exceeds his government salary.
  16. 16. 1994 Released for free. In the four years between the beta stage of Navigator 1.0 and the release of Communicator 4.0, Netscape went through 39 beta versions. From Navigator 1.0 to the release of Free-ish services are not free by any standard Communicator 4.0, 39 beta versions. Free Comes at a Price
  17. 17. Pleasure of creation Social status/micro-fame Friendships Data mining Unwanted content (ads, spam) a way to renew inspiration Memories Tradeoffs Inner-communal linkages Social Wage Share life experience Free Service? Job losses in media industry Jobs Centralization: “Berlusconi effect” Dates Participation imperative Inspiration Greater good “Glass customer” Performing identity Social enjoyment Opt-in Default Informal mentorship commercial utilization of our attention and emotions Referral Monetization of cognitive surplus (presence, labor, life) Capture of community addiction Breach of the social contract/context violation Predatory
  18. 18. “If those within the sharing economy begin to think of themselves as tools of a commercial economy, they will be less willing to play.” Lessig, p177, Remix
  19. 19. A billion people in advanced economies may have between two billion and six billion spare hours among them, every day. Y. Benkler (Remix. p178 Lessig)
  20. 20. People have a lot of free time. You might as well give them some task like translating your web site. Eric Schmidt, CEO Google
  21. 21. “I also watched my book reviewing career begin to take shape. I take immense pleasure informing other readers about newcomers or unknown authors who have written superb novels.”
  22. 22. More companies are sure to study the company we keep - and even attempt to calculate how much each friendship is worth. Value of Social Network -- A Large-Scale Analysis on Network Structure Impact to Financial Revenue of Information Technology Consultants
  23. 23. We encourage people to do the work by taking advantage of their desire to be entertained. -- ESP GAME about section
  24. 24. (40% of all Internet traffic <...> is concentrated on 10 websites) peer production taking place on commercial platforms non-profit platforms, ISPs, “the wealth of networks” (Seti@home, Wikipedia) Value from nonmarket peer production is expropriated on commercial platforms.
  25. 25. Tastes Know-how Opinions Habits Modes of Life Memory Repetition Mental and bodily habits Customs Life Itself is Put to Work Norms Behaviors Expectations Performing identity Imitation Passions Predictability Desires
  26. 26. participation imperative Conclusion
  27. 27. Dominant, centralized, non-transparent
  28. 28. Promote Data Portability as Competitive Advantage profile data, friend lists, location, activity stream
  29. 29. Value/Expropriation Literacy
  30. 30. Free and Open Software as a Model for Cooperation
  31. 31. Unionization? Distributed Labor Force, Unite Political Consciousness.
  32. 32.
  33. 33. Artistic Resistance
  34. 34.
  35. 35. Kevin Killian writes autobiographical fiction in’s book review section 1525 reviews (as of January 7th, 2006)
  36. 36.
  37. 37. Profit Sharing YouTube, Google Adsense,
  38. 38. Hack Social Media Platforms Jail Break Facebook
  39. 39. The NOSO experience offers a unique opportunity to create NO Connections by scheduling NO Events with other NO Friends.
  40. 40. 2008, London Marathon: photo shopped user submitted news reporting
  41. 41. 2008, London Marathon: photo shopped user submitted news reporting
  42. 42. Law How much power do you want to give to major sites on the Internet? (Pasquale) Internet Governance (standards -- protocols, network rules-- transparency) Injustice of Inequality of Distribution of Wealth: (Users demanding a stake)
  43. 43. Public Media Non-profit infra structures CrabGrass HelloWorld!
  44. 44. Greed-Free Businesses Craigslist
  45. 45. Networked Peer Production
  46. 46. Trebor Scholz @trebors