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Denaturalising digital capitalism

One of the most pressing issues we confront when analysing the digital economy is a pronounced tendency towards oligopoly which makes a lie of an earlier generation’s utopian embrace of the Internet as a sphere of free competition and a driver of disintermediation. There are important lessons we can learn […]

The notion of a ‘playbook’

In the last few weeks, I’ve found myself using the term ‘playbook’ in a number of contexts. It’s typically defined as “a book containing a sports team’s strategies and plays, especially in American football” but I’m not quite sure where I picked up the phrase from as someone who hasn’t […]

Politico-environmental crisis

In Naomi Klein’s new book No Is Not Enough, there’s a lucid overview of the intersection between political and environmental crisis. The role of drought in fermenting the conditions for the Syrian civil war was something which Marc Hudson first explained to me last year. From pg 182-183: The irony is particularly […]

Digital labour and the epistemic fallacy 

One of the arguments which pervades Uberworked and Underpaid, by Trebor Scholz, concerns the materiality of digital labour. As someone whose back and neck start to ache if I spend too much time at a computer, I’ve always found the tendency to assume there is something mysteriously immaterial about using […]

Abundance and austerity 

From The Revenge of the Monsters of Educational Technology, by Audrey Watters, loc 1187: Many of us in education technology talk about this being a moment of great abundance—information abundance—thanks to digital technologies. But I think we are actually/ also at a moment of great austerity. And when we talk […]

Managing ‘us’ to preserve the myth

In his Uberworked and Underpaid, Trebor Scholz draws out an important parallel between the platform capitalism of YouTube and the near universally praised Wikipedia: Unsurprisingly, YouTube hires countless consultants to better understand how to trigger the participation of the crowd. They wonder how they can get unpaid producers to create […]

The duality of the platform: users and workers

There’s an interesting passage in Uberworked and Underpaid, by Trebor Scholz, in which he discusses the contrasting experience of Amazon Mechanical Turk by users and workers. From loc 719: While AMT is profiting robustly, 11 it has –following the observations of several workers –not made significant updates to its user […]

Metrics and the death of imagination

In John Thompson’s Merchants of Culture, there’s an interesting remark about the structural position of first time authors which I think has wider purchase. From pg 200: Ironically, in a world preoccupied by numbers, the author with no track is in some ways in a strong position, considerably stronger than […]

Towards a sociology of Pikettyville

From this fascinating paper by Roger Burrows, Richard Webber and Rowland Atkinson: To talk of ‘Pikettyville’ is then to conjure up an image of an urban system that has become hardwired to adopting, channelling and inviting excesses of social and economic capital in search of a space in which the rich […]

The “least resistant personality profile”

A really disturbing extract from Arlie Hochschild’s new book, Strangers In Their Own Land. On loc 1445 she shares the profile of the “least resistant personality” offered by a consultancy firm in 1984, hired to advise on locating waste-to-energy plants in areas likely to provoke little resistance from the local community: […]

Liberation and coercion

There should be a catchy phrase for this phenomenon. It’s important to understand in its own terms but contrasting emphasis on each pole tend to divert scholarly debates into tedious dichotomies that obscure the underlying reality. From loc 3411 of The Data Revolution by Rob Kitchin: Often seemingly opposing outcomes […]

Structural limits to self-control

Myself and Tom Brock are currently working on a paper in which we analyse the discourse of ‘intelligence’ in terms of the individualisation of structural advantage: a whole range of factors are wrapped up into the descriptor of someone as ‘intelligent’ which explains a complex outcome in terms of a […]

Trump is masculinising poverty

An absolutely fascinating article from Arlie Hochschild, whose new book on the American right sounds like a must read: Traditional Tea Party supporters wanted to cut both the practice of cutting in line, and government rewards for doing so. Followers of Donald Trump, on the other hand, wanted to keep […]