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[liberationtech] CfP: Philosophers of the World Unite! Theorizing Digital Labour and Virtual Work: Definitions, Forms and Transformations

Christian Fuchs christian.fuchs at
Thu Jun 6 16:16:25 PDT 2013

CfP: Philosophers of the World Unite! Theorizing Digital Labour and 
Virtual Work: Definitions, Forms and Transformations
Special issue of tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique

Download CfP:

Supported by COST Action IS1202 “Dynamics of Virtual Work”-Working Group 
3 “Innovation and the Emergence of New Forms of Value Creation and New 
Economic Activities“ (,,
tripleC ( Communication, Capitalism & Critique. 
Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society.

Editors: Marisol Sandoval, Christian Fuchs, Jernej A. Prodnik, Sebastian 
Sevignani, Thomas Allmer

In 1845, Karl Marx (1845, 571) formulated in the 11th Feuerbach Thesis: 
“The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the 
point is to change it”. Today, interpretation of the world has become an 
important form of labour that is expressed on and with the help of 
digital media. It has therefore become common to talk about digital 
labour and virtual work. Yet the changes that digital, social and mobile 
media bring about in the world of labour and work have thus far only 
been little theorized and theoretically interpreted. In order to change 
the information society to the better, we first have to interpret 
digital labour with the help of critical theories. Theorists of the 
world from different fields, backgrounds, interdisciplines, 
transdisciplines and disciplines have to unite for this collective 
philosophical task.

The overall task of this special issue of tripleC: Communication, 
Capitalism & Critique is to gather contributions that help to an 
understanding of how to critically theorize digital labour, virtual work 
and related concepts. Theorizing digital labour requires us to provide 
grounded 1) definitions of digital labour and virtual work, 2) 
systematic distinctions and typologies of forms of digital labour and 3) 
theorizing the transformations that digital labour is undergoing.

All submitted papers should be theoretical and profoundly engage with 
the meanings of various concepts. Rather than presenting case studies, 
papers should focus on fundamental theoretical concepts and discuss 
definitions. They can also explore the relations between concepts, the 
historical development of these concepts, typologies and the relevance 
of different theoretical approaches. The special issue is interested in 
theorizing the broader picture of digital labour.

We welcome submissions that cover one or more of the following or 
related questions.

1) Concepts of Labour

* How should concepts such of work and labour be defined and what are 
the implications of these definitions for understanding digital labour 
and virtual work?
* Which theoretical or philosophical definitions of work and labour 
exist and which of them are meaningful for understanding virtual work 
and digital labour?
* What is the difference between labour and digital labour? What is part 
of digital labour and what is not? Which online, offline, knowledge, 
physical, industrial, agricultural etc forms of work are part of it or 
not part of it? Is digital labour only knowledge labour that happens 
online or do we have to extend the concept to the offline realms and 
physical labour? Where is the demarcation line? Is digital labour also 
labour where digital technologies are of vast importance or not? Does 
digital labour involve the physical forms of work necessary for 
producing digital labour?
* Is there a difference between 'work' and 'labour' and if so, how does 
it matter for the discussion of digital labour and virtual work?
* What is the role of Karl Marx’ theory of labour and surplus value for 
understanding digital labour and virtual work?
* Is the traditional distinction between the material base and 
superstructure in the realm of social media and digital labour still 
valid or does it become blurred or undermined? Are new information and 
communication technologies and social media, their production and use 
(n)either part of the base (n)or the superstructure or are they part of 
*If in the agricultural and industrial age land and nature have been the 
traditional objects of labour, how do the objects of labour and 
productive forces look like in the world of digital media and digital 
labour and how are these productive forces linked to class relations?

* What is meant by concepts such as digital labour, telework, virtual 
work, cyberwork, immaterial labour, knowledge labour, creative work, 
cultural labour, communicative labour, informational work, digital 
craft, service work, prosumption, consumption work, online work, 
audience labour, playbour (play labour) in the context of digital media? 
How should they be defined? How are they related? How have they 
developed historically? How are these concepts related to the wider 
social context and the existing capitalist order? How can a systematic 
typology of the existing literature in this research field be 
constructed? Should any of these concepts be rejected? Why? Why not? Do 
any of these concepts especially matter? If so, why?
* What is the etymological history of concepts such as work and labour 
in different languages and how have these concepts changed throughout 
history? Which of these historically different meanings are important 
for understanding digital labour and virtual work?
* What are historically new aspects of digital labour, what are 
predecessors of digital work and which aspects of digital labour have 
parallels to the pre-digital era?
* What is the role of the concept of value for understanding digital 
labour and virtual work as well as “immaterial” labour, affective 
labour, knowledge/communicative/information work etc in the context of 
digital media?

2) Forms of Labour

* What is the role of agricultural, industrial, service and knowledge 
work in the world of digital labour and how are they related? How are 
different modes of production related to each other in the world of 
digital labour?
* What are the important dimensions for constructing a typology of work 
that takes place in online spaces (e.g. crowdsourcing, online gambling, 
gold farming, turking, microwork, production of and trade with virtual 
items, clickwork etc)?
* How can a typology of alternative forms of online work that rejects 
the profit logic be constructed (e.g. free software development, 
creative commons and copyleft publishing, Wikipedia collaboration, 
peer-production, open access publishing, file sharing etc)?
* Which forms of labour are involved in the global value chain of 
digital media, how do they differ from each other and how are they 
related (e.g. mining, hardware assemblage, call centre work, software 
engineering, transport labour, prosumer labour, e-waste labour etc)?

3) Transformations of Labour

* How can blurring boundaries between toil and play, labour and leisure 
time, the factory and society, production and consumption, public and 
private, the sphere of production and reproduction, economic value and 
social wealth in the realm of digital media be conceptualized?
* What is the relationship between creativity, participation, 
do-it-yourself culture on the one hand and exploitation, alienation 
and/or emancipation on the other hand?
* What is the role of the concepts of the working class and the 
proletariat for theorizing digital labour?
* How would the concepts of digital work and digital labour look like in 
a post-capitalist society? Does the post-capitalist end of the working 
class also mean the end of and abolition of digital work? Or just the 
end of digital labour? What are the anthropologically constant and the 
historically variable dimensions of productive human activities? How 
should they be conceptualized and named? How are they related to the 
realm of digital media? Do concepts such as anti-work, zerowork, the 
abolition of work, post-work and the right to be lazy take the 
anthropological, creative and productive aspects of human life that are 
expressed on digital media into account? What are the elements of 
digital media activities that will continue to exist in a 
post-capitalist society? What are the historically continuous and 
discontinuous elements of digital labour?
* What has historically been the role of communications – including 
digital communications – in labour transformations and in the 
construction of global labour chains (e.g. global division of labour and 
social interdependencies; the concept of collective worker / 
Gesamtarbeiter; socialization of labour etc.)?
Abstract submission: July 31, 2013
All abstracts will be reviewed and decisions on acceptance/rejection 
will be communicated to the authors at the latest by the end of summer 2013.
Full paper submission: January 15, 2014

Please submit article titles, author names and contact data and 
abstracts of 200-400 words to:
Marisol Sandoval, marisol.sandoval at

Marx, Karl. 1845. Theses on Feuerbach. In The German ideology, including 
Theses on Feuerbach and Introduction to the critique of political 
economy, 569-571. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

About the Editors

Marisol Sandoval is Lecturer in Culture, Policy & Management at City 
University London.

Christian Fuchs is Professor of Social Media at the University of 
Westminster and editor of tripleC.

Jernej Amon Prodnik is PhD candidate at the University of Ljubljana’s 
Faculty of Social Sciences.

Sebastian Sevignani is PhD candidate at the University of Salzburg's 
Faculty of Cultural & Social Sciences and a research associate in the 
Unified Theory of Information Research Group (UTI). Website:

Thomas Allmer is PhD candidate at the University of Salzburg and member 
of the Unified Theory of Information Research Group. Website:

About the Journal: tripleC

Editor: Christian Fuchs, University of Westminster
tripleC ( Communication, Capitalism & Critique. 
Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society focuses 
on information society studies and studies of media, digital media, 
information and communication in society with a special interest in 
critical studies in these thematic areas.
The journal has a special interest in disseminating articles that focus 
on the role of information (cognition/knowledge, communication, 
cooperation) in contemporary capitalist societies. For this task, 
articles should employ critical theories and/or empirical research 
inspired by critical theories and/or philosophy and ethics guided by 
critical thinking as well as relate the analysis to power structures and 
inequalities of capitalism, especially forms of stratification such as 
class, racist and other ideologies and capitalist patriarchy.
tripleC is a transdisciplinary journal that is open to contributions 
from all disciplines and approaches that critically and with a focus on 
power structures analyze the role of cognition, communication, 
cooperation, information, media, digital media and communication in the 
information society.
tripleC is indexed in the databases Communication and Mass Media 
Complete and Scopus. Its application for inclusion in Social Sciences 
Citation Index (SSCI) is under review/observation by ISI Thomson.

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