Introduction to Digital Labor

Course Description

As consumers of digital media, the pervasive effects of digital technologies on the ways we access information, communicate with each other, learn, and entertain ourselves are readily apparent. As our post-industrial economy has shifted to revolve around information and knowledge, our conceptualization of and practices of labor have likewise shifted to support this economy. The goal of this course is to introduce concepts of labor to illuminate the human material labor that enables our vision of an immaterial Internet. By the end of the course, students should be able to identify and critique labor implications of digital media. Finally, students will develop their own abilities to observe and theorize digital labor practices. We will begin the course by understanding the digital utopian origins of Silicon Valley and its implications for work. We will explore how new business models of the Internet Age (for example, open source, the sharing economy, humans-as-a-service, surveillance capitalism) have changed the nature of work. We will examine how technologies of workplace control are implemented and resisted and look at the spatial, material dimensions of digital labor in the forms of globalization and gentrification. The course will end with articulated visions of the future of work, given the issues we see today, as well as the increasing presence of automation and artificial intelligence in the workplace.

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