Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Final Paper Prospectus

Questions: What are the possibilities and limitations of different modes of valuing network-based free labor? How do these kinds of free labor relate to capital, and how is this relationship imagined or managed by different forms of coding?

I'm building upon this blog post.

Expanding upon these questions, I'd like to examine up to 4 different ways of valuing free labor: User Labor Markup Language, which quantifies individual users' contributions through embedding code in social networks and produces metrics in this same code; MetaMarkets, which allows people to trade shares in their activity on social networking sites (for example, creating and selling shares of one's flickr account) for a fictive currency; Viral Loop, which purports to tell facebook users how much their profile and activities on the site are worth in US dollars; and Ramesh Srinivasan's Tribal Peace project, which places a qualitative value on its users' free labor in constituting a locally valid, ontologically fluid network and in accessing, sharing, or not sharing certain user-generated information with others (e.g. anthropologists, museum curators). Srinivasan also explores a quantitative method for creating an ontologically fluid network that relies upon the free labor in the form of responses to hundreds of questions about how similar certain categories (i.e. basket-weaving and culture) are.

My tentative hypothesis: I think that I will try to expand on my argument as I have it in the blog post, going into greater detail and limning the implications of the different forms of coding in each project. Opposed to the projects I discussed in my blog post, Ramesh Srinivasan's ontologically fluid networks take advantage of free labor outside the ontologically rigid formats of social networking sites. Tribal peace also allows participants to decide what information is and is not shared. The political value of openness is put into question by locating it within a history of anthropological and curatorial profit from their informants. Thus, the capitalization of free labor (or offering such labor to institutions who may capitalize upon it) is managed by human networks, imagined as geographically proximate human communities sharing a culture. 

I'd like to further explore how human networks are imagined in Srinivasan's project, and I think that Monica's incisive question about the role of narratives in imagining the local will be tremendously helpful; I may examine the construction of culture in his project along the lines of my critique of Priscilla Wald's notion of culture.

Other issues that are or may become relevant:

-the relationship between different forms of coding and making free labor visible or legible, and how this relationship entails an epistemology or ontology.


Terranova, Network Culture 

"The power of communication and the media is not only the power of . . . forming a consensus . . . but also a biopolitical power, that is, a power of inducing perceptions and organizing the imagination, of establishing a subjective correspondence between images, percepts, affects and beliefs" (152)

-Terranova's use of Deleuze and Guattari's "percepts" and "affects" is interesting here, especially since I've encountered these terms previously in an essay of theirs on art. The slippage between perception and percept, affects and feelings, beliefs and becoming is interesting in light of D&G's strict separation of these coupled terms.

-This passage also highlights that communication is not a matter of merely rendering transparent, but of engaging with affect, the body, and epistemology or ontology ("organizing the imagination" and "establishing correspondences" – categories that are crucial to Srinivasan's project in particular)

Soft control as a "mode of capture of value produced by an increasingly interconnected and interdependent culture in as much as the latter is also an industry -- and hence a mode of labour" (128-9)

-This claim is fundamental for Terranova: forms of networked culture are also modes of labor—the society-factory. Her analysis of this phenomenon is certainly compelling, but I'd be interested in what a more fine-grained, locally attuned approach to the relationship between culture and labor might discover. (however, this may be a paper in itself)

Terranova claims that the "excessive value" of affective labor  "can never be really reabsorbed in a logic of exchange and equivalence." (129) Understood in its fullest sense, the power of affective labor is "a power of making and remaking the world through the reinvention of life" (129). 

-Inventing worlds has an important place for Srinivasan, and I'm interested in how this affectively motivated making of worlds links up with Anderson's nationalism based on love.

Tsing, Friction 

I like that Tsing troubles Terranova's claim about common passions, opening space for frictive collaborations to produce political change (even if that change doesn't mean the same thing to everyone). I'm not exactly sure where this point will fit into my analysis, but perhaps it would lend viability to Srinivasan's project, since he is so engaged with the incommensurability of different forms of knowledge.

Tsing's point about scale-making projects may also be a useful way to read how subjectification comes into play in something like Viral Loop, and how community comes into play in Srinivasan.

Spectacular accumulation is another point worthy of analysis, and I would think it comes into play in something like Google's purchase of YouTube for $1.65B. It also seems to be fundamental to the logic of advertising on social networking sites.

This proposal is already terrifyingly long, but hopefully we'll be able to focus the project a little bit more in our meeting.

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