Digital labour

if you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer, you’re the product being sold’

Andrew Lewis’s words above I believe are a great reflection of today’s relationship between media and economy. We are part of a ‘free labour’ society that allows for us to be used without us even knowing. We are providing companies with steady income through merely looking at their pages and advertisements; Facebook being one of those companies who profit greatly through ‘advertising and marketing vendors’ by provoking us users to click ‘like’ ‘comment’ and ‘share.’ Trebor Sholz argues that what we are witnessing now in terms of digital labour resembles what occurred in the ‘early stages of industrialization’ where the evolution of machines and technology began to push society towards higher production and manufacturing. Employing the free labour of us produsers and the use of crowdsourcing argues Sholz, ‘offers a more impersonal solution that slices costs and relieves owners from any employer-type obligations.’ This is evidently true as it is so much easier to employ people online and not have to provide services such as healthcare and insurance. Tiziana Terranova talks of how many people are working for minimum wage, for hours on end, with no actual benefits of working online and that the majority of these people are women. It is shocking that people are now paying to have an unpaid internship and I also almost fell for that idea myself had my parents advised me not to. People are so desperate to find jobs that they will pay to not get paid, they are willing to work arbitrary hours and they don’t complain or shy away from them because they need the income.

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In an article in the Guardian we see how there is a market out there for people who sit behind screens and ‘fake like’ pages so that they can receive more views. In Bangladesh people get paid 3 dollars per 1000 likes to help companies’ get up and running and gain publicity through likes and sharing. The person behind this claims that ‘the blame should rest with those who commission the work’, a statement which is partly true because people who involve themselves in such tedious tasks clearly do it for the money they can make from it but on the other hand people who produce such digital labour are aiding in the downfall of the internet’s authenticity. One can merely Google ‘fake likes’ and the first website to come up is likefake.com which does exactly what the people above, in Bangladesh do.

Barbrook put forward a model of what he found the Internet to be and it is interesting to see how far we have deviated from it as he claims ‘unrestricted by physical distance, they collaborate with each other without the direct mediation of money and politics.’ Barbrook’s statement I find is a complete misjudgment of what the Internet provides, sure, it isn’t restricted by distance but it is in no way not money orientated. We are all participants in this economy of free digital labour whether we like it or not. There are many pro’s to this concept such as the fact that companies can progress and produce income so easily with limited spending because we do all the work for them but then on the other hand there are a lot less jobs out there and the ones that are out there are extremely low paid and take advantage of the work people do.

Levy explains how our society has progressed from a ‘Cartesian model of (I think) to a collective or plural (we think)’ and this supports McLuhan’s idea of a global village which the internet seems to resemble. However Lisa Nakamura rightly states that in every village there is a threat, a villain. Who is the threat in today’s Internet village, is it the users, the people who work for the companies or the companies themselves?

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