‘Automated’ sweated labour

Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times

This piece by Sonia Sodha (Worry less about robots and more about sweatshops) in the Grauniad, which accompanies an episode of the Radio 4 programme Analysis (Who Speaks for the Workers?), is well worth checking out. It makes a case that seems to be increasing in consensus – that ‘automation’ in particular parts of industry will not mean ‘robots’ but pushing workers to become more ‘robotic’. This is an interesting foil to the ‘automated luxury communism’ schtick and the wider imaginings of automation. If you stop to think about wider and longer term trends in labour practices, it also feels depressingly possible…

This is the underbelly of our labour market: illegal exploitation, plain and simple. But there are other legal means employers can use to sweat their labour. In a sector such as logistics, smart technology is not being used to replace workers altogether, but to make them increasingly resemble robots. Parcel delivery and warehouse workers find themselves directed along exact routes in the name of efficiency. Wrist-based devices allow bosses to track their every move, right down to how long they take for lavatory breaks and the speed with which they move a particular piece of stock in a warehouse or from the delivery van to someone’s front door.

This hints at a chilling future: not one where robots have replaced us altogether, but where algorithms have completely eroded worker autonomy, undermining the dignity of work and the sense of pride that people can take in a job well done.

This fits well with complementary arguments about ‘heteromation‘ and other more nuanced understandings of what’s followed or extended what we used to call ‘post-Fordism’…

(Not) Getting Paid to Do What You Love: Gender, Social Media, and Aspirational Work – Brooke Erin Duffy

Via Culture Digitally.

This looks like an interesting read by Brooke Erin Duffy. Although I know what Duffy calls here “aspirational work” is popular, I have been a bit surprised by how many of our students at Exeter actively do this kind of work – mostly fashion vlogging. I have had at least one dissertation on the topic for each of the last three years and many of the videos produced for my final year option module draw on these themes. Those I’ve spoken to are acutely aware of the nuances of the negotiations of different norms and values – ‘authenticity’ and getting paid don’t always sit well together it seems.

I hope I have the chance to check out this book so I can actually learn more about what I can only vaguely sketch (perhaps wrongly) at the moment, I hope some of those who read this will too…

Book Announcement: (Not) Getting Paid to Do What You Love: Gender, Social Media, and Aspirational Work

Fashion bloggers and Instagrammers seem to enjoy a coveted lifestyle–one replete with international jet-setting, designer-comped fetes, and countless other caption-worthy moments. Yet the attention lavished on these so-called “influencers” draws attention away from a much larger class of social media content creators: those aspiring to “make it” amid a precarious, hyper-competitive creative economy.

I tell their story in my new book (Not) Getting Paid to Do What You Love: Gender, Social Media, and Aspirational Work, and I’m grateful to my publisher Yale University Press for allowing me to share the first chapter with you.

The book focuses on female content creators and draws upon in-depth interviews with bloggers, vloggers, designers, and more. I learned that, often, these young women were motivated by the wider culture’s siren call to “get paid to do what you love.” But their experiences often fell short of the promise: only a few rise above the din to achieve major success. The rest are un(der)- paid, remunerated with deferred promises of “exposure” or “visibility”–even as they work long hours to satisfy brands and project authenticity to observant audiences.

A grueling balancing act is required, one that I explore through the lens of “aspirational labor.” As both a practice and a worker ideology, aspirational labor shifts content creators’ focus from the present to the future, dangling the prospect of a career where labor and leisure coexist.

Despite the book’s emphasis on gendered work, the concept of “aspirational labor” offers a framework for understanding, critiquing, and anticipating larger transformations in the social media economy. Indeed, the book closes by exploring the striking parallels between social media aspirants’ self-branding labor and the work so many of us undertake in contemporary academe.

CFP> “VIRAL/GLOBAL Popular Culture and Social Media: An International Perspective” 13th Sept 17 CAMRI

Via Tony Sampson.

“VIRAL/GLOBAL Popular Culture and Social Media: An International Perspective” The University of Westminster Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI), Sept 13th 2017

Date:
13 September 2017
Time: 9:00am to 7:00pm
Location: 309 Regent Street Regent Campus, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2HW – View map

Gone-Viral-event-main-photo

Conference organised by the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI)

Keynote Panel

  • Nancy Baym 
  • Emily Keightley
  • Dave Morley (TBC)
  • Tony D Sampson
  • Paddy Scannell

This interdisciplinary conference aims to examine how and why everyday popular culture is produced and consumed on digital platforms. There is increasing interest in studying and discussing the linkages between popular cultural and social media, yet there exist important gaps when comparing such cultural phenomena and modes of consumption in a global, non-west-centric context. The conference addresses a significant gap in theoretical and empirical work on social media by focusing on the politics of digital cultures from below and in the context of everyday life. To use Raymond Williams’s phrase, we seek to rethink digital viral cultures as ‘a whole way of life’; how ‘ordinary’, everyday digital acts can amount to forms of ‘politicity’ that can redefine experience and what is possible.

The conference will examine how social media users engage with cultural products in digital platforms. We will also be assessing how the relationship between social media and popular cultural phenomena generate different meanings and experiences.

The conference engages with the following key questions:

  • How do online users in different global contexts engage with viral/popular cultures?
  • How can the comparative analysis of different global contexts help us contribute to theorising emergent viral cultures in the age of social media?
  • How do viral digital cultures redefine our experience of self and the world?

We welcome papers from scholars that will engage critically with particular aspects of online popular cultures. Themes may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Analysing viral media texts: method and theory
  • Theorising virality: new/old concepts
  • Rethinking popular culture in the age of social media
  • Social media, politicity and the viral
  • The political economy of viral cultures
  • Memes, appropriation, collage, virality and trash aesthetics
  • Making/doing/being/consuming viral texts
  • Hybrid strategies of anti-politics in digital media
  • Viral news/Fake news
  • Non-mainstream music, protest, and political discussion
  • Capitalism and viral marketing

PROGRAMME AND REGISTRATION

This one-day conference, taking place on Wednesday, 13th of September 2017, will consist of a keynote panel and panel sessions. The fee for registration for all participants, including presenters, will be £40, with a concessionary rate of £15 for students, to cover all conference documentation, refreshments and administration costs.

DEADLINE FOR ABSTRACTS

The deadline for abstracts is Monday 10 July 2017. Successful applicants will be notified by Monday 17 July of 2017. Abstracts should be 250 words. They must include the presenter’s name, affiliation, email and postal address, together with the title of the paper and a 150-word biographical note on the presenter. Please send all these items together in a single Word file, not as pdf, and entitle the file and message with ‘CAMRI 2017’ followed by your surname. The file should be sent by email to Events Coordinator Karen Foster at har-events@westminster.ac.uk

Original: https://www.westminster.ac.uk/call-for-papers-viral-global-popular-cultures-and-social-media-an-international-perspective

How and why is children’s digital data being harvested?

Nice post by Huw Davies, which is worth a quick read (its fairly short)…

We need to ask what would data capture and management look like if it is guided by a children’s framework such as this one developed here by Sonia Livingstone and endorsed by the Children’s Commissioner here. Perhaps only companies that complied with strong security and anonymisation procedures would be licenced to trade in UK? Given the financial drivers at work, an ideal solution would possibly make better regulation a commerical incentive. We will be exploring these and other similar questions that emerge over the coming months.

Reblog> CFP – Online Vitriol: Advocacy, Violence, and the Transforming Power of Social Media

Call for Papers

Online Vitriol: Advocacy, Violence, and the Transforming Power of Social Media

A Joint Conference of the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture & the Zentrum für Medien und Interaktivität, Giessen, Germany
Wednesday June 29th – Saturday July 1st, 2017 (optional opening lecture by dr. Sarah Kendzior on the evening of June 28th)
For whom:
Researchers in the fields of culture and (digital) media, and related fields

Professionals dealing with online advocacy and social media presence of their organization

Journalists and others dealing with social media and (violent) online discourse

PhD and MA students in culture and media studies

Conference aim:
To employ our collective knowledge, experience, research and intelligence to arrive at a conceptual and practical understanding of the medial and cultural dynamics of online vitriol.

To work towards “A Rough Guide to Online Vitriol: Dealing with Violence and Activism on Social Media in Theory and Practice” (working title). To be published later.

Social media have become inescapable, and they have an overwhelming impact on sociality and public life. Platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram give rise to a diverse range of discourses and communication styles. This conference wants to understand the power of social media, not only – as it has often been perceived – as democratizing, but also as powerful vehicles for politically driven bullying and violence. Relevant to people, organizations, and other agents across twenty-first-century society, this topic is increasingly studied from a range of disciplines and perspectives. Virtually everyone has to deal with social media and the discourses it enables and produces. But while the technology exists and seems at first sight intuitively accessible, the agency, dynamics and ethics of social media platforms are not yet well-understood.
‘Trolls for Trump’, online virus ‘scares’, fake news – social media discourse has become a formidable, yet elusive, political force. This conference wants to begin to address some of the issues around the power of online vitriol, by studying discourses, metaphors, media dynamics, and framing on social media. What is it? How does it work? What does it do? And how can it be addressed or countered?
To fruitfully question the political impact of contemporary communication structures and discourses, the conference goes beyond the traditional presenter/audience dichotomy. Instead, it works towards producing a book for academics and professionals confronted with social media violence, provisionally titled “A Rough Guide to Online Vitriol: Dealing with Violence and Advocacy on Social Media in Theory and Practice”. The conference combines academic theorizing with perspectives from professionals active in media, communication, the public sector and journalism, so as to arrive at conceptually rigorous and useful conclusions to guide our own and our organizations’ use of social media.
Possible topics
Bringing together media and communication specialists from various professions (e.g. public sector, press, NGOs) and cultural and media studies students and scholars, the aim is to create crosspollination between theoretical approaches from cultural and media studies on the one hand, and practical challenges and experiences ‘from the field’ on the other.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to:
Privacy and surveillance through social media platforms

Liveness and online temporalities

Tweeting while female

Clickbait as political activism

Shares, likes, profile clicks and other platform-specific metrics

The impact of Facebook’s platform structure and changing algorithms on what can be expressed

‘Communicative capitalism’ and the dynamics of online virality

Politics of trolling and reporting

Representing social media in popular culture

How ‘new’ are online communication practices?

Framing narratives and ideals in a potentially hostile environment

Practical
The conference is free of charge. However, we ask that, during the conference, all participants agree to be offline, and try to be fully present and contemplative.
We welcome proposals of papers, case studies, ideas, and discussion topics from scholars and professionals in the listed fields, as well as related areas of specialization. Please submit a 300-word abstract and a short biography (100 words) to Sara Polak (s.a.polak@hum.leidenuniv.nl), Rahel Schmitz (rahel.schmitz@gcsc.uni-giessen.de), and Ann-Marie Riesner (ann.m.riesner@gcsc.uni-giessen.de) by May 15th, 2017.

Digital Everyday – conference at KCL this weekend

This looks interesting… via Tony Sampson

THE DIGITAL EVERYDAY CONFERENCE

Location
Strand Campus – King’s College London
Category
Conference/Seminar
When
06/05/2017 (10:30-18:30)
Contact
Please direct enquiries to digitalculture@kcl.ac.uk

Sign up to the CDC mailing list here

The conference is paid and registration is essential. Registration closes midday on 4 May.

The Digital Everyday: Exploration or Alienation?

This international conference aims at exploring the digital everyday, understood as the transformation of everyday life practices brought about by digital technology. From how we buy, walk around, get a cab, love, break up, go to bed, meet new people and sexual partners to the way we rate services, turn on the fridge, exercise, eat, use social media and apps, Big Data is reshaping some of the most basic activities in our lives.

The conference will explore these digitally enabled transformations by looking at a number of domains affected by these shifts, for instance: of work and leisure, of friendship and love, of habits and routines. We will also explore a number of overarching dynamics and trends in the digital world that contribute to these transformations, including: processes of digital individualisation and aggregation; the elisions of spatial and temporal barriers; trends towards quantification and datafication; and the dialectic between control and alienation.

Please click here to see the full programme 

(Please note that refreshements will be provided but delegates will need to get their own lunch)

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A ‘new realism’ and post-truth

In a recording of a very lively double-header presentation by Maurizio Ferraris and Martin Scherzinger which has been podcast by Data & Society there’s some interesting discussion of Ferraris’ formulation of a ‘new realism‘ (which is sort of sympathetic to but perhaps distinct from speculative realisms) in relation to how we might understand ‘truth’ and truth claims and so how we might understand how ‘understanding’ works in relation digitally mediation.

Both Ferraris and Scherzinger are entertaining speakers but Scherzinger in particular offers some very incisive comments around how we can understand the sorts of manoeuvres different people are making around the constitutions and discussion of ‘theory’ (taken in its most general understanding).

Anyway… it’s an interesting listen:

Post-Truth and New Realities: Algorithms, Alternative Facts, and Digital Ethics

More tales of the automative imaginary

Here’s some links that further sketch out some of what I’ve been thinking about as an ‘automative imaginary’. I’ve offered links with a bit of brief commentary at the bottom…

Evidence That Robots Are Winning the Race for American Jobs – in the NYT, pointing to research undertaken by two economists, Acemoglu and Restrepo, published by the (American) National Bureau of Economic ResearchRobots and Jobs: Evidence from US Labor Markets (to which I have no access), with a commentary on the Centre for Economic Policy Research‘s Vox site. What is curious for me here is how one can evaluate the method of the researchers and what the assumptions they make say about how we (are invited to) understand automation. There’s some interesting geography in there too! E.g. see the choropleth map of “exogenous exposure to robots” below

How will the rise of automation and AI affect the workforce and economy moving forward? – Francis Fukuyama offers his answer to how automation and AI (interesting easy slip between those as almost a form of equivalence, which is open to significant debate/critique) may or may not “affect” the economy and, in particular, jobs – in the US.

It’s interesting how much of what we are offered in terms of a rationale for automation is a fairly simplistic robots replace workers sort of story. In this regard, it’s worth remembering what the MacDonalds CEO Ed Rensi flippantly observed as a canonical example (documented in this post on Fusion):

former McDonald’s CEO Ed Rensi made news by going on Fox Business and declaring that ongoing protests in the campaign for a $15 minimum wage were encouraging the automation of fast food jobs. The segment goes on for seven minutes, but here’s the meat of it:

I was at the National Restaurant Show yesterday and if you look at the robotic devices that are coming into the restaurant industry — it’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who’s inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries — it’s nonsense and it’s very destructive and it’s inflationary and it’s going to cause a job loss across this country like you’re not going to believe

Nevertheless, other economists will tell you that processes of automation have, historically, created new kinds of jobs as they apparently ‘destroy’ others. For example, Deloitte, in their report “Technology and People: The great job creating machine“, suggest that while manual labour and routine jobs have been significantly automated since 1992, there has been an even larger growth in ‘care’ (and service) and ‘cognitive’ work in the UK labour market. So you see fewer people in manufacturing but more analysts, baristas and carers.

Of course, to see it as whole “jobs” that are being automated is somewhat misleading – another aspect of the automative imaginary that owes more to the depiction of automation in 1950/60s cartoons than in the actually existing forms of automation. As many commentators point out, it’s parts of jobs or tasks that become automated, which results in a need to reorganise that work. As the management consultants McKinsey point out in a report in 2016:

currently demonstrated technologies could automate 45 percent of the activities people are paid to perform and that about 60 percent of all occupations could see 30 percent or more of their constituent activities automated, again with technologies available today

What we tend to focus on is the automation full stop, not that it isn’t all of a job and may not result in an easy equivalence of “robot in = worker out”. We imagine the robots doing it all, when, in many cases, the use of robots (when they’re actually economically viable – they have a huge initial set-up cost) require a reorganisation of systems such that the work looks different.

Another illustration of this comes from the excellent Containers podcast by Alexis Madrigal. In the final episode, Madrigal talks to Karen Levy of Cornell  about the forms automation could take in relation to truck driving (upon which Uber clearly has its sights set). Of course, again, it’s not as simple as: automate the lorries, do-away with jobs. It’s more like the process of containerisation that Madrigal is exploring – automation is as much about reorganising systems of work / labour as it is about ‘replacing’ labour. So, in the example of picking in warehouses – you might get a Kiva or Fetch/Freight robot to do the donkey work of warehousing, with the worker performing the more sophisticated movements. This is not a future of people-less spaces but rather robots following people around or being tasked in order to support the worker, the argument being this leads to greater productivity. In fact, in the eighth episode of Containers, the CEO of Fetch Robotics justifies her company’s tech by saying that, in the US, there are over 600k jobs going unfilled in warehousing and manufacturing because people don’t want to do them, with a turnover rate of those who do sign-up for such work at around 25% (I don’t know the basis or veracity of those numbers – would like to though!). Again, if true, such figures are another aspect of the expectations of what work involves and how it may be performed.

So, it seems to me we need to talk about work not simply elide it by (somewhat hysterically) referring to ‘automation’ and ‘robots’. This is something I hope to research and write more about, if I ever get the time…

A Universe Explodes. A Blockchain book/novel

Thanks to Max Dovey for the tip on this…

This seems interesting as a sort of provocation about what Blockchain says/asks about ownership perhaps, although I’m not overly convinced by the gimmick of changing words such that the readers unravel, or “explode” the book… I wonder whether The Raw Shark Texts  or These Pages Fall Like Ash might be a deeper or maybe I mean more nuanced take on such things… however, I haven’t explored this enough yet and it’s good to see Google doing something like this (I think?!)

Here’s a snip from googler tea uglow’s medium post about this…

It’s a book. On your phone. Well, on the internet. Anyone can read it. It’s 20 pages long. Each page has 128 words, and there are 100 of the ‘books’ that can be ‘owned’ . And no way to see a book that isn’t one of those 100. Each book is unique, with personal dedications, and an accumulation of owners, (not to mention a decreasing number of words) as it is passed on. So it is both a book and an cumulative expression of the erosion of the self and of being rewritten and misunderstood. That is echoed in the narrative: the story is fluid, the transition confusing, the purpose unclear. The book gradually falls apart in more ways than one. It is also kinda geeky.

Interesting papers: “The Taking Economy” & “The Myth of the Sharing Economy”

These look interesting…

Via Frank Pasquale:

The Taking Economy: Uber, Information, and Power

Ryan Calo
University of Washington – School of Law; Stanford University – Law School; Yale Law School

Alex Rosenblat
Data & Society Research Institute

Abstract
Sharing economy firms such as Uber and Airbnb facilitate trusted transactions between strangers on digital platforms. This creates economic and other value and raises a set of concerns around racial bias, safety, and fairness to competitors and workers that legal scholarship has begun to address. Missing from the literature, however, is a fundamental critique of the sharing economy grounded in asymmetries of information and power. This Article, coauthored by a law professor and a technology ethnographer who studies the ride-hailing community, furnishes such a critique and indicates a path toward a meaningful response.

Via Tom Slee:

The Myth of the Sharing Economy and Its Implications for Regulating Innovation

Abbey Stemler
Indiana University – Kelley School of Business – Department of Business Law

Abstract
A deflated air mattress rests in the corner of Airbnb’s world headquarters. It symbolizes how Airbnb allows regular, local people to earn extra income by renting out space in their homes. Yet, this symbolism fails to represent what the company has become—a unicorn receiving most of its revenue from professionals with full-time listings. That poorly folded wad of plastic exemplifies the Myth of the Sharing Economy, which has been consistently used to subvert regulation.
The Myth convinces people that the sharing economy is comprised of self-regulating platforms, which allow microentrepreneurs to utilize their excess capacity in an altruistic manner. However, the sharing economy is actually comprised of companies driven as much by market forces and failures as any taxicab company or hotel chain. The Myth possesses a simple and seductive appeal. It uses the familiar idea of sharing to make the claim that platforms are unique and should be subject to new and different regulation or no regulation at all. This Myth not only harms platform users, the environment, and the culture and diversity of communities, it has helped sharing economy platforms become powerful influencers in Silicon Valley, state legislatures, and beyond. 
While much has been written the benefits of the sharing economy and how to regulate it, this Article is the first to critique the sharing economy by exploring the intersection between narrative and regulation. It also distills lessons for regulating future innovations and demonstrates the importance of questioning rhetoric and reality in order to achieve public policy goals.