Life, Labour and Information

Posted on | May 16, 2012 | 1 Comment

VICTORIA UNIVERSITY
SCHOOL OF COMMUNICATION AND THE ARTS

Communication studies seminar
VU City campus Flinders Street
Level 11, room 11.05

30 May 2012
2pm – 3.30pm

PANEL TITLE: LIFE, LABOUR, AND INFORMATION

PANEL OVERVIEW:
There is a key conjuncture of bodies and technology which underlies all three papers: our unprecedented ability to process and circulate vast amounts of data related to life and labour. At issue are shared questions of spatial/temporal measure, wherein the body is more intensely scrutinized by capital which seeks ever-more productive and profitable calibrations. This plays out on the scale of global enterprises where new logistical regimes seek increasing control of labour and life under protocological power; on new temporal scales where information labourers are permanently on call regardless of their location; and, in new mediated cultural practices of mobile connectivity in which we collectively generate ‘big social data.’ What possibilities for new forms of self-organization does this conjuncture afford? Is there liberatory potential in the autonomous movement of social data? In short, is there a crisis of measure that can engender radically new forms of labour and life?

1) DR. MELISSA GREGG (UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY)

PRESENCE BLEED: KNOWLEDGE WORK AND THE CRISIS OF MEASURE
This paper draws on empirical evidence and theories of affect to make sense of the online landscape for information labour. My aim is to unpack notions of workplace subjectivity and agency premised on ‘separate spheres’ and ‘clock time’ ­ questioning their usefulness in biomediated work worlds (Adkins 2009, Clough 2010). While the evidence used is based on a small study of professionals in Brisbane, Australia, the discussion bears relevance for workers in a range of industries, due to the so-called ‘ubiquity’ of mobile computing (Dourish and Bell 2011). If modernist notions of labour hinged on a set number of hours for work, often conducted at a set physical location, the fact that labour now escapes spatial and temporal measure poses obvious problems for defining work limits.

Melissa Gregg works in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at The University of Sydney. She is author of Work’s Intimacy (Polity 2011), Cultural Studies’ Affective Voices (Palgrave 2006) and co-editor of The Affect Theory Reader (with Greg Seigworth, Duke UP 2010).

2) DR. NED ROSSITER (UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN SYDNEY)

LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARES: SOFTWARE, INFRASTRUCTURE, LABOUR
Logistical nightmares are everywhere. The unruly worker, the software glitch, wilful acts of laziness, sabotage and refusal, traffic gridlock, inventory blowouts, customs zealots, protocological conflicts and proliferating standards. Inefficiencies abound and logistics is forever frantic in its attempt to close the gap between labour and life in order to register productivity in real-time. The industry term here is ‘fault tolerance’. And this is when logistics becomes our collective nightmare. How does informatized labour go about self-organizing when situated in logistical regimes of protocological power? Where does subjectivity belong in the machinic production of value? What is the role of imagination and wild fantasies of other possible worlds when contingency equals closure? What becomes of life itself? Moving across Shanghai, Kolkata, Sydney and Athens, this paper sketches out a new theory of global logistics industries and their informational systems as the dominant architecture of control for contemporary labour and life.

Ned Rossiter is an Australian media theorist and author of Organized Networks: Media Theory, Creative Labour, New Institutions (2006). He was based in Perth, Melbourne, Ulster, Beijing, Shanghai and Ningbo before taking up an appointment as Professor of Communication in 2011 in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts at the University of Western Sydney where he is also a member of the Institute for Culture and Society. Ned is also an Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Creative Industries, Peking University. He is a researcher on Transit Labour: Circuits, Regions, Borders, http://transitlabour.asia

3) DR. MARK COTÉ (VICTORIA UNIVERSITY)

MOBILE BODIES AND MOTILE DATA IN THE AGE OF ‘BIG SOCIAL DATA’
My paper situates what Gregg calls information labour and Rossiter informatized labour in new mediated cultural practices engendered by ubiquitous connectivity and the rise of the smart phone. In the past I have examined this conflation of work and play via the concept of immaterial labour 2.0; here I will consider its extension and intensification via mobile access. In part, I will do so by previewing an innovative method under development here at VU which will utilise smart phones to gather data on mobility, location and information. In turn, I will suggest using ‘new materialist’ media theory to help us analyse such components of ‘big social data’ and the ramifications for labour and life, particularly in a new media ecology which affords a differential mobility of the body and ‘data motility.’

Mark Coté is a Canadian media theorist currently teaching at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia and previously held positions at McMaster University and Trent University in Canada. He has published widely on new media, social networks and the relationship between the human and technology in Theory & Event, ephemera, Journal of Communication Inquiry, and Journal of Cultural Economy among other scholarly journals. He is also co-editor of Utopian Pedagogy (University of Toronto Press, 2006).

Comments

One Response to “Life, Labour and Information”

  1. ana australiana
    May 18th, 2012 @ 9:57 am

    Crisis of measurement is interesting… as in, at the very moment of everything being obsessively measured (outcomes! KPIs! outputs! timesheets!), it’s become impossible to actually measure anything (Extra 16 hours in the work day spent on measuring things)?

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