Invited talk about “Internet Prosumption in Contemporary Capitalism” at the ESA 2011 Conference

On September 9th, I gave an invited semi-plenary talk about “Internet Prosumption in Contemporary Capitalism” at the 10th Conference of the European Sociological Association (topic: “Social Relations in Turbulent Times”) that took place at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. The conference was attended by more than 2500 scholars. I much thank ESA Research Network 18 (Media Sociology) for making this talk possible.

The PPT presentation that I used can be found here. Some of the presented content and the logic of arguments that I presented can be found in this paper, this paper, this paper and in chapter 7 of my book “Foundations of Critical Media and Information Studies”.

Abstract of the Presentation “Internet Prosumption in Contemporary Capitalism”

Are the prosumption of information and communication with the help of digital media in contemporary capitalism new forms of participation or forms of exploitation? Who benefits from global Internet prosumption? What is the role of class, crisis and participatory democracy in contemporary society and its media landscape?

Prosumption is the convergence of production and consumption. I will discuss the prosumption concept in relation to the approaches of Karl Marx, Alvin Toffler, George Ritzer and Manuel Castells. A critique of Castells’ “theory” of communication power in the “network society” will be presented.
The idea of authors like Henry Jenkins or Yochai Benkler that online prosumption (“social media”, “web 2.0”) has resulted in a “participatory Internet” will be criticized. It will in contrast be stressed that in the contemporary situation of global capitalist crisis it is important to remember the socialist origins of the concept of participatory democracy (Crawford Macpherson, Carole Pateman) and of Jürgen Habermas’ concept of the public sphere when reflecting about the Internet.
Internet prosumption will be discussed by analyzing to which extent the following web platforms advance participatory or exploitative prosumption: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Wikipedia, WikiLeaks.
It will be maintained that in order to understand social relations offline and online in the current turbulent times a renewal of Karl Marx’s theory and of critical political economy is needed. The contributions to class theory by Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Erik Olin Wright and Michael Hardt/Antonio Negri will be discussed. A specific model of class in contemporary capitalist society will be used for explaining and criticizing the exploitation of Internet prosumers. Based on the theory tradition of the critical political economy of the media and communication, the concept of Internet prosumer commodification will be introduced.
Based on Slavoj Žižek’s, David Harvey’s and Alain Badiou’s recent contributions, I suggest that we need to strengthen the commons and to create a commons-based Internet in order to democratize prosumption, communication and society.


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