CFP “Learning to Labor in the Digital Economy”

Call for papers
“Learning to Labor in the Digital Economy”

AAA 2016, November 16-20, Minneapolis, MN

Organizer: Matthew Hale (Indiana University/Kennesaw State University)

Discussant: Mary L. Gray (Microsoft Research/Indiana University)

Deadline:  April 1, 2016 to

This panel critically examines the transformation of labor within the twenty-first century. The new millennium brought with it many advances in digital technology—exponential increases in computational power and connectivity, the emergence of a new digital infrastructure, the proliferation of mobile devices and the rise of social media, a rapid growth in digital commerce, cloud computing, and the formation of the so-called “sharing” or “access” economy. These seismic shifts in production, exchange, and consumption derived from and propelled a fundamental transformation of the nature of labor and the status, power, and agency of workers worldwide.

In a world of crowdsourcing, automated and algorithmically-derived data collection and marketing, neoliberal deregulation, and labor surplus, the worker has become disposable. They are no longer an asset, but rather represent an impediment to the maximization of surplus value. Just as Marx argued that the worker became but a cog in a machine under the forces of industrial capitalism, within emerging systems of always-on, hyperconnected, and on-demand interactive technologies, highly contingent forms of labor—a kind of always-on, on-demand labor (contract, temporary, and freelance employment and under-or-unpaid labor)—is fast becoming one of the dominant forms of employment within the global workforce.

This panel will draw on a range of theoretical perspectives and approaches in order to understand, critique, and address these emerging social configurations and the problems that workers face within the twenty-century.

We invite papers that address, but are not limited to, the following questions:
How has digital technology changed how, when, and where work gets done?
How have corporations used new technologies to shift from long-term or permanent employment to highly contingent positions that undermine workers’ rights?

How do workers imagine themselves—both as individuals and as collectives—within the digital economy? And how have or might they effectively mobilize to affect social change and combat injustice?

How does digital or “immaterial labor” differ from traditional material forms of work?

How have always-on communication technologies eroded the traditional division between leisure and labor?
How do individuals and communities employ new media to create opportunities for themselves and to develop new forms of labor?
What might anthropologists bring to and gain from studying the changing nature of work?

We welcome contributions from all sub-fields and encourage proposals from any geographic region or culture.

Please submit a 250 word abstract to: by April 1, 2016. Please include the title of the paper, author’s name, affiliation, and email address.

Notice of acceptance will be sent out April 5, 2016.


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