Daniel Joseph is currently a Ph.D. student and researcher at Ryerson and York Universities in their Communication and Culture program. He is also a member of the Counterpublics Working Group at Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies at York University. He has written extensively about the politics at the heart of the knowledge economy, independent video game development, cultural policy and contemporary philosophy. His dissertation is on how digital distribution and marketplace platforms like Valve Corporation’s Steam change and reshape how play and work are discursively understood and materially practiced.
Digital Labor and Geographies of Crisis
Capital, as value in motion, often leaves local labor behind in the search for higher profits. But capital must be fixed into place for production to occur, creating a whole socio-technical infrastructure whose form changes with the mode of production: Ford’s factories and Facebook’s platforms, Ma Bell’s wires and Equinix’s server farms. Over time this spatial fixity becomes a barrier to higher profit rates and so leads to over-accumulation and devaluation. Capitalism is constantly seeking a ‘spatial fix’ to these local problems before they can bloom into full-blown crises: A move to new geographies is sought, where new socio-technical infrastructure can be built to elicit consumption, outsource production, or accumulate cheap labor (Harvey, 2007). This roundtable debates how these geographies of crisis are formed within digital spaces, and how digital labor is segmented, distributed, pushed and pulled across digital spaces in the lead-up to and fallout from crises. Social media may provide new spaces and times of accumulation, but free labor is often pushed elsewhere (e.g., from MySpace to Facebook) while the platforms remain, in a manner analogous to white flight (boyd, 2011). Communications infrastructure allows for financiers to trade billions of dollars across the globe in seconds, but crashes can spread just as quickly (Golumbia, 2013). Questions we’re interested in include: What does a bubble feel like from the inside and how does that experience resonate across networks? How does the primitive accumulation of digital labor compare to the industrial experience? How do digital technologies open up new modes of resistance to the speed-ups and outsourcing which capitalists use crisis to justify?
Daniel Joseph will frame the discussion by briefly expanding David Harvey’s ‘spatial fix’ theory of capital’s addiction to geographic expansion to include the specific properties of digital spaces.