Conference: The Internet as Playground and Factory (Nov 12-14, 2009)

"Internet as Playground and Factory" conference (Nov 12th-14th 2009)

Media activist, educator and human-connector, Trebor Scholz, has opened registration for his present-future conference, The Internet as Playground and Factory.

If you haven’t guess it, this conference is based on the idea of digital networked labor as it questions whether we are being exploited through our everyday online activities. I often get asked how web services like Youtube and Facebook are “free for use”, so this conference is set to explore what we actually trade in return, be it our individual privacy or labor within privatized commons.

As seen from Trebor’s conference introduction:

[…] The revenues of today’s social aggregators are promising but their speculative value exceeds billions of dollars. Capital manages to expropriate value from the commons; labor goes beyond the factory, all of society is put to work. Every aspect of life drives the digital economy: sexual desire, boredom, friendship — and all becomes fodder for speculative profit. We are living in a total labor society and the way in which we are commoditized, racialized, and engendered is profoundly and disturbingly normalized. The complex and troubling set of circumstances we now confront includes the collapse of the conventional opposition between waged and unwaged labor, and is characterized by multiple “tradeoffs” and “social costs”—such as government and corporate surveillance. While individual instances are certainly exploitative in the most overt sense, the shift in the overall paradigm moves us beyond the explanatory power of the Marxian interpretation of exploitation (which is of limited use here). […]

This reminds me of what iconic Obama street artist Shepard Fairey once said in a CBS news feature: “It’s not appropriate for only advertisers to own the public graphic communication space”. Extending Fairey’s idea across all realms, we are living in an era where all public space is being commodified. Is the situation worse online?

Trebor’s been working on the digital labor idea since I was a student of his, and he’s gathered a formidable force of around 84 artists and academic thinkers (including esteemed friends Alex Halavais, Chris Barr and Stephanie Rothenberg) to discover how legitimately concerned about exploitation we as digital natives should be.

It’s FREE (monetarily at least) to participate, goes from Nov 12th to 14th, and will be held at The New School, Eugene Lang College in NYC (Google map). You’re invited to register and for your convenience, I’ve created an upcoming.org event for it so you can easily add it to your iCal and Google calendars.

Pending available accommodations, I am planning be there to help cover the event. If you’re thinking of going and would like a buddy to introduce you around, drop me a comment. BTW, I found the perfect t-shirt to wear for such an event.