Mobilizing Digital Labour as an Audience Commodity

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* Article: Mobilizing the audience commodity: Digital labour in a wireless world. Vincent Manzerolle. Special Issue of Ephemera on Digital Labour. volume 10(3/4): 455-469



"This paper re-examines the work of Dallas Smythe in light of the popularization of Internet-enabled mobile devices (IMD). In an era of ubiquitous connectivity Smythe’s prescient analysis of audience ‘work’ offers a historical continuum in which to understand the proliferation of IMDs in everyday life. Following Smythe’s line of analysis, this paper argues that the expansion of waged and unwaged digital labour facilitated by these devices contributes to the overall mobilization of communicative, cognitive and co-operative capacities – capacities central to the accumulation strategies of ‘informational capitalism’. As such, the rapid uptake of these devices globally is an integral component in this mobilization and subsumption. In the case of Smythe’s provocative (and somewhat controversial) concept of the audience commodity the work of the audience is materially embedded in the capitalist application of communication technologies. Consonant with Smythe’s emphasis on the centrality of communication and related technologies in the critical analysis of contemporary political economies, this paper elaborates upon the concept of digital labour by rethinking Smythe’s theory of the audience commodity as a central principle organizing the technical and social evolution of IMDs."