Rethinking labour in an age of networks and movements
Networked Labour seminar is supported by Networked Politics, Transform! Europe, Transnational Institute and IGOPNet. The overall focus will be on the impact of the internet and informatics on labour, value creation, and production processes and emerging radical communities as new or renewed political agency.
The new communication and transportation technologies developed and employed since the 1970s in order to create a ‘world market’ have made a great impact on the society; on labour as well as all the other means of production. Capitalist relations of production undergone massive changes. The replacement of the old infrastructure with the new has also created the conditions for the rise of new alternative cultures, forces, and forms. Distributed, decentralized or peer to peer (P2P) networks among individuals and collectives have emerged that are capable of engaging in innovative forms of ownership, of collaborative production of value, and of relatiionships of distribution. These are spreading. A new mode of “commons based peer production” emerged first in the realm of digital production of knowledge-information.
The strength of the Free and Open Source Software or Wikipedia have made them been exemplary cases of the successes of these forms. The spread in new informational capitalistic forms, Google or Facebook being the most famous, of a logic hybridised with the digital commons, and of projects that are based on open innovation further testify to the growing impact and maturation of these new forms of production. More recently such forms have started to penetrate in the realm of physical production, with a growing movement, shaped recently, for peer production of hardware. This spread on the other hand highlights the still undetermined institutional and political framework within which the informational revolution is taking place. It indicates also the complexity and the conflictual nature of the emerging terrain. Indeed, core issues regarding these transformations had initially been taken up at the grassroots level, since the mid-90s by increasingly politicised P2P communities.
FLOSS movement, Free Culture and Free Knowledge movement and more recently Pirate Parties, Wikileaks, Anonymous can be seen as a sample of the transnational manifestation of such new actors, which partly also influenced and helped to shape fundamental aspects of the social movements like 15M and Occupy. These new actors have been often sharing common claims and positions on civil rights, direct democracy / participation, copyright and patent law, free sharing of knowledge, data privacy, transparency, freedom of information, free education, universal health care and services etc. In their own ways, they have advocated that the network neutrality and universal, unrestricted access to the Internet are indispensable conditions to realise these claims. The global scale of the conflict has been demonstrated recently by the broad coalition opposing further repressive policies in defence of the regime of copyright in the digital era that recently defeated the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) at the US Congress and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) at the European Parliament.
Despite their internal diversity and the fact that they have been carrying out a variety of innovative strategies, the new actors just mentioned have somehow communicated and collaborated with each other. When Swedish authorities raided the Pirate Bay, Anonymous organized a hack operation towards the websites of the Swedish authorities involved. Wikileaks has contributed to catalyse the Arab Spring and at the time Mubarak regime shut down the Internet, Tahrir Square received immediate support by Anonymous. The Arab Spring, 15M in Spain and Occupy Wall Street were inspired by and fuelled into each other. Anonymous and Wikileaks declared direct solidarity with 15M and Occupy assemblies when the calls were made for global mobilizations in late 2011.
Wikileaks and Anonymous have been using sophisticated P2P ‘leaking’ and ‘hacking’ techniques respectively as the main political tools in order to articulate their claims. Pirate Parties on the other hand have reclaimed formal and ‘legitimate’ political space by joining in electoral and legislative processes. Swedish Pirate Party won two seats in the European Parliament, and German Pirate Party sent representatives to four regional parliaments.
These new social and inter – connected actors that have emerged in the post-Seattle period are reflections of changing cultural, ideological, economic, and political social relationships in recent decades. In this sense they carry crucial information which is necessary for re-evaluating the analyses developed in the previous era. In order to increase our understanding on today’s social contradictions as well as new possibilities opening for radical social change, there is an urgent need to expand our analyses of these new phenomena.
Objective of the international seminar is to enhance the ongoing debate on the relationship between the changing nature of capitalist mode of production newly emerging social forces and political actors, and the new alternative ways of political participation by these actors. Therefore overall focus of the seminar will be on the new labour and value creation / production processes and the impact of the internet and informatics on the emergence and internal dynamics of the radical P2P communities as new radical political agency.
At the same time, we aim to create long lasting resources and a network platform – as one outcome of the seminar and of the process leading to the seminar – which would serve to identify and develop analysis on the core issues and encourage sustainable exchange among the key researchers and activists from relevant fields. Such resources and platform would serve for wider range of social movements, activists, researchers and communities to exchange, collaborate, and learn from each other.
Currently we are exploring the connections between the new forms of work, production, value creation and the new forms of political protest and organisation. We are doing so by focusing on both dimensions in relation to the impact of the digital revolution and techno-political innovations that are following this revolutions.
Our initial framing questions are:
1. Which are the main innovations in terms of forms of work organisation: Conflicts and cultures being born within and around these forms?
2. Which are the main innovations in terms of political protest and organisation: Content, conflicts and cultures being born within and around these forms?
3. What are the links between the new forms of work organisation and political organisation, as well as between the new content, conflict and cultures emerging around these forms?
Towards, during and beyond the May encounter we are hoping to apart from these initial questions, and develop a better understanding of the core and hot concepts, issues and conflicts around our problematic So in return we could contribute the existing and ongoing lively debate and practice.