Digital Labour and the “Social” of Social Media. a Marxist Critique

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Hörsaal 23 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Gianna CAPPELLO, Department of Cultures and Society - University of Palermo, Italy
The Web 2.0 has certainly made it easier for amateur/grassroot/DIY culture to reach unprecedented levels of visibility and creativity. What was once a “piece of work” shared within the restricted face-to-face circles of amateurs and circulated only via traditional forms of mailing, is now boosted into the virtually unlimited digital communities of social media. Not only that. Also the creativity process is changing as its social/collaborative dimension grows in unprecedented ways too.  Of course, acts of creativity (however you define them) have always involved a connection with other people, either directly (in the actual “crafting” of the piece of work) or indirectly as a form of cultural influence. With the emergence of social media this connection is further developed into ever-new forms, means and modes of collaboration, both offline and online.

While the positive aspects of this process are undeniable (access to and use of social media are typically free or little expensive; interfaces are typically “friendly” and intuitive; the commenting and sharing they allow is crucial to build people’s self-esteem and expertise, etc.), this contribution intends to offer a critique of it by arguing that the various forms of cultural production being created and circulated in/by social media are in fact a form of digital labour and that Marxist theory may offer some interesting insights to counteract the hyper-enthusiastic an populist myths that often accompany discussions (both at academic and popular culture level) about the “social” of social media.