Digital Labour: Workers, Authors, Citizens

A conference hosted by the Digital Labour Group, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, The University of Western Ontario, October 16-18, 2009, London, Ontario, Canada.

“Digital Labour: Workers, Authors, Citizens” has entered its second phase. Following the success of the October conference, the Digital Labour Group is now mobilizing with its new partners in activism and in research to build on the exciting interactions between union and academic actors that were the hallmark of the event.
Stay tuned to this website for further updates!

'Digital Labour: Workers, Authors, Citizens' addresses the implications of digital labour as they are emerging in practice, politics, policy, culture, and theoretical enquiry. As workers, as authors, and as citizens, we are increasingly summoned and disciplined by new digital technologies that define the workplace and produce ever more complex regimes of surveillance and control. At the same time, new possibilities for agency and new spaces for collectivity are born from these multiplying digital innovations. This conference aims to explore this social dialectic, with a specific focus on new forms of labour.

The changing conditions of digital capitalism often blur distinctions between workers, authors, and citizens more than they clarify them. Digital workers, for example, are often authors of content for the increasingly convergent and synergistic end markets of entertainment capitalism – but authors whose rights as such have been thoroughly alienated. Citizens are often compelled to construct their identities in such a way as to produce the flexible and entrepreneurial selves demanded by the heavily consumer-oriented ‘experience and attention economies’ of digitalized post-Fordism.

How might we come to understand the breakdown of distinctions between labour and creativity, work and authorship, value and productive excess in the new digital economy? What is labour in an era where participation in the cultural industries is the preferred conduit to autonomy and self-valorization? What struggles do information and entertainment workers and workers in an increasingly digitalized manufacturing sector share as social understandings of labour, alienation, and authorship continue to morph according to the changing fashions of heavily fetishized technologies? What might recent theorizing on the infinitely malleable ‘post-Fordist image worker’ tell us about the nature of affective ties to states and other political formations in the twenty-first century?

Union activists from the entertainment and educational sectors will assist academic specialists in assessing these and other crucial questions. Two panels will include representatives from the Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), the Writers Guild of Canada (WGC), the Canadian Media Guild (CMG), the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA).

Other confirmed participants include:
  • Keynote - Ursula Huws (Analytica Social and Economic Research, UK): "On the Cybertariat: Digital Labour, Social Relations ant the Workplace"; 
  • Keynote - Vincent Mosco (Canada Research Chair in Communication and Society, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario): "Knowledge Labour: Work in Progress";
  • Catherine McKercher (School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University, Ottawa);
  • Mark Andrejevic (Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies, University of Queensland and Department of Communication Studies, University of Iowa);
  • Nick Dyer-Witheford (Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario);
  • Catherine Fisk (School of Law, University of California at Irvine);
  • David Hesmondhalgh (Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds);  
  • Brian Holmes (activist and cultural critic, Paris);
  • Barry King (School of Communication Studies, Auckland University of Technology);
  • Andrea Fumagalli (Department of Political Economy and Quantitative Methods, University of Pavia);
  • Dorothy Kidd (Department of Media Studies, University of San Francisco);
  • Vicki Mayer (Communication Department, Tulane University, New Orleans); 
  • Helen Kennedy (Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds).

The Digital Labour Conference Organizing Committee: Jonathan Burston, Edward Comor, James Compton, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Alison Hearn, Ajit Pyati, Sandra Smeltzer, Matt Stahl, Sam Trosow.

Last updated: Monday, November 16, 2009 - 14:29


Conference Administrator
Mirela Parau

Conference Location

Download the
Conference Poster (PDF)
Faculty of Information and Media Studies - The University of Western Ontario