Call: RN18 Panel “Critical Media Sociology Today” at the ESA 2015 Conference

Call: RN18 Panel “Critical Media Sociology Today”
12th Conference of the European Sociological Association
August 25-28, 2015. Prague
ESA Research Network 18 – Sociology of Communications and Media Research

Abstract submission (max. 250 words):
Deadline February 1, 2015
Please indicate the session number to which you submit (see below, e.g. RN18_1) and provide one session number only for this purpose.

Critical Media Sociology Today

We live in times of ongoing crisis, the extension and intensification of inequalities concerning class, gender, and race, a return of the importance of the economy and political economy, a lack of imaginations of alternatives to neo-liberalism and capitalism, an intensification of right-wing extremism and fascism all over Europe, a lack of visions and power of the political Left, an intensification and extension of extremely repressive forms of state power such as communications surveillance conducted by secret services, ideological scapegoating conducted by conservative and far-right parties, and law and order-politics. Left-wing movements and parties have in some countries emerged or been strengthened, but the crisis has overall brought a further political shift towards the right and an intensification of capitalism and inequality.

We today require politically a renewal of the Left. For critical media sociology this means that it needs to ask questions, theorise, and conduct critical analysis of media and communications in the context of capitalism, class, ideologies, racism, fascism, right-wing extremism, gender, state power, activism and social movements, challenges for public service, media reforms, crisis, globalisation, the rise of China, digitalisation, consumer and advertising culture, information/cultural/media work, digital labour, the new international division of cultural and digital labour, warfare and military conflicts, the new imperialism, financialisation, etc.

ESA RN 18 calls for contributions that shed new light on questions that Critical Media Sociology needs to ask today and on theoretical and analytical insights that help to shape Critical Media Sociology in the 21st Century.

RN18’s panel at the ESA 2014 Prague Conference “Differences, Inequalities Sociological Imagination” and its contributions are organised in the form of specific session topics.

ESA RN18 calls for contributions to the following sessions:

RN18_1: Critical Media Sociology and Karl Marx Today:
What is the role and legacy of Karl Marx’s works and Marxist theory for critical media sociology today?

RN18_2: Critical Media Sociology and Capitalism Today:
How does capitalism shape media and communications today?

RN18_3: Critical Media Sociology and Critical Theory Today:
What is a critical theory of 21st century society? What role do communication, media and culture play in such a theory?

RN18_4: Critical Media Sociology and Stuart Hall Today:
How do Stuart Hall’s works, projects, and collaborations matter for critical media sociology today?

RN18_5: Critical Media Sociology and Cultural Materialism Today:
How does Raymond Williams’ approach of cultural materialism matter today for understanding the sociology of media and communications?

RN18_6: Critical Media Sociology, Patriarchy and Gender Today:
What is the role of and relationship of identity politics and anti-capitalism for feminist media sociology today?

RN18_7: Critical Media Sociology and the Critique of the Political Economy of the Internet and Social Media:
How does capitalism shape the Internet and social media?

RN18_8: Critical Media Sociology and Ideology Critique Today:
What are the main forms of ideology today and how do they operate in the media? Which forms and approaches of ideology critique do we need to understand them?

RN18_9: Critical Media Sociology, Right-Wing Extremism and Fascism Today:
What is the relationship of far-right movements and parties, the media and communication?

RN18_10: Critical Media Sociology and Digital Labour Today:
What forms of digital labour and digital class struggles are there and how can they best be theorised, analysed, and understood?

RN18_11: Critical Media Sociology and the Left:
How could a 21st century Left best look like and what is the role of media and communications for such a Left? What is the historical, contemporary, and possible future relationship of critical media sociology to the Left? What is the role of media, communications, the Internet, and social media in left-wing movements? What problems do such movements face in relation to the media, communications, the Internet, and social media?

RN18_12: Critical Media Sociology and China:
How can critical media sociology understand the media in China and the role of China and Chinese media in global capitalism? What are differences and commonalities between European and Chinese media understood with the help of critical media sociology?

RN18_13: Critical Media Sociology, Democracy and the Public Sphere Today:
How can we best theorise and understand potentials and limits for the mediated public sphere in the 21st century?

RN18_14: Critical Media Sociology, the Commons, and the Alternatives Today:
What are the problems and post-capitalist potentials of alternative projects such as cultural and media co-operatives, left-wing and radical media projects, alternative social media, alternative online platforms, alternative media, community media projects, commons-based media, peer production projects, etc.?

RN18_15: Critical Media Sociology and State Power Today:
How does the relationship of media, communication and state power’s various forms of regulation, control, repression, violence and surveillance look like?

RN18_16: Critical Media Sociology, the University and Academia Today:
What are the challenges and problems for teaching and conducting research about the media and communication from a critical perspective? What can be done to overcome existing limits and problems?

RN18_17: Critical Media Sociology and Cultural and Communication Labour:
What are characteristics of cultural and communication labour in capitalism today? Are there potentials that they can transcend precarity? What is the role of alternative economic models such as co-operatives (self-managed companies) in this respect?

RN18_18: Critical Media Sociology and Political Communication:
What is the role of political communication for a critical sociology of the media?

Please submit only to one session. Abstracts should not exceed 250 words. Each paper session will have the duration of 1.5 hours. Normally sessions will include 4 papers. Abstracts must be submitted online to the submission platform, see below. Abstracts sent by email cannot be accepted. Abstracts will be peer-reviewed and selected for presentation by the Research Network; the letter of notification will be sent by the conference software system in early April 2015.

Conference fee:

ESA/RN18 membership:
Paying members of ESA and RN18 have strongly reduced conference fees:

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5th ICTs and Society Conference 2015: The Internet and Social Media at a Crossroads: Capitalism or Commonism? Perspectives for Critical Political Economy and Critical Theory.

The 5th ICTs and Society-Conference: The Internet and Social Media at a Crossroads: Capitalism or Commonism? Perspectives for Critical Political Economy and Critical Theory.


Part of the ISIS Summit Vienna 2015: Information Society at the Crossroads: Response and Responsibility of the Sciences of Information.
Vienna University of Technology.
Vienna, Austria
June 3-7, 2015.
Keynote speakers:

The information society has come with the promise  to restore information as a commons. The promise has not yet proven true. Instead, we face trends towards the commercialisation and commoditisation of all information; towards the totalisation of surveillance and the extension of the battlefield to civil society through information warfare; towards disinfotainment overflow; towards a collapse of the technological civilisation itself.

The Vienna Summit is a multi-conference and is at the same time the 5th ICTs and Society-Conference: The Internet and Social Media at a Crossroads: Capitalism or Commonism? Perspectives for Critical Political Economy and Critical Theory.

Given that the information society and the study of information face a world of crisis today and are at a crossroads, also the future of the Internet and social media are in question. The 5th ICTs and Society Conference therefore wants to focus on the questions: What are the main challenges that the Internet and social media are facing in capitalism today? What potentials for an alternative, commonist Internet are there? What are existing hindrances for such an Internet? What is the relationship of power structures, protest movements, societal developments, struggles, radical reforms, etc. to the Internet? How can critical political economy and critical theory best study the Internet and social media today?

Presentations and submissions are organised in the form of 23 panel topics (ICT&S1-ICT&S23; please indicate the panel identification number to which you submit in your submisison):

* ICT&S1 The Internet and Critical Theory:
What does it mean to study the Internet, social media and society today in a critical way? What are Critical Internet Studies, Critical Political Economy and Critical Theories of Social Media?

* ICT&S2 The Internet, Karl Marx, and Marxist Theory:
How can classical forms of critical theory and critical political economy – e.g. the works of e.g. Karl Marx, the Frankfurt School, Critical Political Economy of the Media and Communication, Critical and Marxist Cultural Studies, Socialist Feminism, Theories of Imperialism, Raymond Williams’ cultural materialism, etc – be used for understanding the Internet and social media today?

* ICT&S3 The Internet, Commodities and Capitalism:
What is the role of the Internet and social media in the context of the commodity logic in contemporary capitalism?

* ICT&S4 The Political Economy of Online Advertising
How can we best critically understand, analyse and combat the role of advertising on the Internet and the role of online advertising in capitalism? What are the problems of online advertising culture? How would a world without advertising and an advertising-free Internet look like?

* ICT&S5 The Internet and Power:
How do power structures, exploitation, domination, class, digital labour, commodification of the communication commons, ideology, and audience/user commodification, and surveillance shape the Internet and social media? What is the relationship of exploitation and domination on the Internet?

* ICT&S6 Raymond Williams’ Cultural Materialism and the Internet:
How can we use theoretical insights from Raymond Williams’ cultural materialism for critically understanding the Internet and social media today?

* ICT&S7 Dallas Smythe and the Internet:
How can we use insights from Dallas Smythe’s political economy of communication for critically understanding the Internet and social media today?

* ICT&S8 Critical Cultural Studies Today: Stuart Hall, Richard Hoggart and the Internet:
What is the legacy of Stuart Hall and Richard Hoggart’s versions of cultural studies for critically understanding the Internet? What kind of cultural studies do we need in the 21st century? And what is in this context the relationship of culture and capitalism and the relationship of critical cultural studies to Marxist theory?

* ICT&S9 The Frankfurt School and the Internet:
How can insights of various generations of the Frankfurt School be used for critically theorising the Internet? What are commonalities and differences between a Frankfurt School approach and other forms of critical theory for understanding the Internet?

* ICT&S10 Marxist Semiotics, Marxist Linguistics, Critical Psychology, Marxism and the Internet:
How can Marxist semiotics and Marxist theories of language, information, psychology and communication (e.g. Ferruccio Rossi-Landi, Valentin Voloshinov, Klaus Holzkamp, Georg Klaus, Lev Vygotsky, Aleksei Leontiev, Mikhail Bakhtin, etc.) be used today for critically understanding the Internet?

* ICT&S11 The Internet and Global Capitalism:
What is the role of the Internet and social media in contemporary global capitalism? What is the role of developing countries, especially Africa, and emerging economies such as China and India in the world of the Internet and social media?

* ICT&S12 The Internet and Neoliberalism with Chinese Characteristics:
Chinese WWW platforms such as Baidu, Taobao, Qq, Sina, Weibo, etc. are besides Californian platforms the most prominent ones on the web. What is the role of social media in Chinese capitalism? What is the role of the Internet in networked working class struggles in China?

* ICT&S13 The Political Economy of Digital Labour:
What is digital labour and how do exploitation and surplus-value generation work on the Internet? Which forms of exploitation and class structuration do we find on the Internet, how do they work, what are their commonalities and differences? How does the relation between toil and play change in a digital world? How do classes and class struggles look like in 21st century informational capitalism?

* ICT&S14 The Political Economy of the Internet and the Capitalist State Today:
How does the relationship of capitalism, state power, and the Internet look like today? What is the role of state surveillance and surveillance ideologies in policing the crisis of capitalism? How does the relationship of the Internet and state power’s various forms of regulation, control, repression, violence and surveillance look like and what is the influence of capitalism on state power and vice versa in the context of the Internet?

* ICT&S15 Ideology Critique 2.0: Ideologies of and on the Internet:
What are ideologies of and on the Internet, web 2.0, and social media, how do they work, and how can they be deconstructed and criticised?

* ICT&S16 Hegel 2.0: Dialectical Philosophy and the Internet:
What contradictions, conflicts, ambiguities, and dialectics shape 21st century information society and social media? How can we use Hegel and Marxist interpretations of Hegel for critically understanding Internet dialectics?

* ICT&S17 Capitalism and Open Access Publishing:
What changes has academic publishing been undergoing in contemporary capitalism? What are the potentials of academic open access publishing for the re-organisation of the publishing world ? What problems do non-commercial open access publishing face in capitalism and capitalist academia? How can these problems be overcome? What are the problems of capitalist forms of open access publishing? What progressive political measures and demands should be made in order to foster non-commercial open access publishing?

* ICT&S18 Class Struggles, Social Struggles and the Internet:
What is the role of counter-power, resistance, struggles, social movements, civil society, rebellions, uproars, riots, revolutions, and political transformations in 21st century information society and how (if at all) are they connected to social media? What struggles are needed in order to establish a commonist Internet and a 21st century democratic-commonist society? How can we use critical theory for interpreting phenomena such as online leaking, Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks, Wikipedia, federated social networks, Anonymous, hacktivism, Pirate Parties, privacy advocates, the free/libre/open source (FLOSS) movement, the open source, open hardware and open content movement, etc., and what is the relationships of such political expressions to capitalism, anti-capitalism, liberalism, and socialism?

* ICT&S19 Critical/Radical Internet Studies, the University and Academia Today:
What are the challenges and problems for teaching and conducting research about the Internet a critical and radical perspective? What can be done to overcome existing limits and problems?

* ICT&S20 The Internet and the Left:
How could a 21st century Left best look like and what is the role of the Internet for such a Left? What is the historical, contemporary, and possible future relationship of Critical Internet Studies and the Left? What is the role of the Internet in left-wing movements? What problems do such movements face in relation to the media, communications, the Internet, and social media?

* ICT&S21 Anti-Capitalist Feminism and the Internet Today:
What is the role of and relationship of identity politics and anti-capitalism for feminist studies of the Internet today? How can we best study capitalist patriarchy in the context of the Internet and social media?

* ICT&S22 The Internet, Right-Wing Extremism and Fascism Today:
How do far-right movements and parties use the Internet and social media? How should a left-wing anti-fascist strategy that combats online right-wing extremism look like?

* ICT&S23 An Alternative Internet:
What is a commonist/communist Internet? What is an alternative Internet? What are alternative social media? How do they relate to the commons and commonism as a 21st century form of communism? Which problems do alternative Internet platforms face? What needs to be done in order to overcome these problems?

Please submit an extended abstract of 750-2000 words:
First register and then select the conference “ISIS Summit Vienna 2015” and the conference stream “ICTS 2015”
Only one submission per person will be considered
Please indicate the number/ID of the panel to which you are submitting at the start of your abstract (ICTSxx). Submissions without panel identifier or that fall outside the topics covered by the 23 panels will not be further considered.

Submission deadline:
February 27, 2015

Registration Fee:
120 Euros (early bird registration in the ICTs and Society conference stream, registration no later than April 3, 2015)

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Capitalist and Commonist Social Media

Capitalist and Commonist Social Media

What’s wrong with capitalism and capitalist social media such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Weibo, etc. ? How would a commonist social media world look like?

With contributions and images by Carolina Cambre, Mario Haim, Teresa Alves, Han-Teng Liao, Matheus Lock, Tsai Hui-Ju, Jim Fearnley, Patricia “Jav” Zavala Gutiérrez, Shudipta Sharma, Marcin Koziej, Simon Schöpf, and Jolnas Jørgensen

tripleC contest in context of the publication of Christian Fuchs’ book OcucpyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Capitalism





















By Carolina Cambre:

This image encapsulates many of the worrisome issues around capitalist social media browsers and platforms such as Google, Facebook and others: they turn our communications and information into shiny hot air minions for sale. For one thing they are the epitome of un-freedom. Just like our information, not only is the balloon tethered, but it is perpetually available to be seen and manipulated on these capital propelled sites. We are seduced by the shiny and attractive venue, but it is a mirage of shimmering foil. Our information is perpetually open to examination, the single eye making it something that is seen more than something that is capable of seeing. Similarly the mechanisms and workings of capitalist social media browsers are hidden from view just as we, as users, become more and more transparent.

Because the control is on the other end of the rope, like minions we can only operate or communicate on someone else’s terms, and we have no options as to what happens to our information once shared via these channels. At the same time, we need to communicate and we are hemmed in by the ubiquity and prevalence of some forms of communication over others. And thus we must join the party to some extent or be on the wrong side of the digital divide.

A commonist social media would, for one, never change the rules, or standards or agreements without general consensus on the part of users. The commonist perspective would not allow data to be harvested from individual users, neither would it force users to reveal personal information. Needless to say, anonymity often legitimates harsh or unkind types of communication but a commonist platform would allow users to monitor and set their own rules within sub-groups. There should not be any control over communication whatsoever, just as if someone is walking down the street. Concerns over illegalities and illicit uses of the platform would be group administered, with measures in place for alerting authorities regarding abusive types of communication. There would have to be mechanisms for accountability and arbitration.

Set the minions free!











By Mario Haim:

What we experience today is a post-pivacy phenomenon: On the one hand, technology has driven us towards capabilities that enable us to work, shop, or socialize whenever and wherever we want. As this comes with a flaw, though, namely an information overload, algorithms help us to filter and prioritize the information “we want”. On the other hand, both the technological ressources as well as the algorithms mentioned are provided by capitalist companies from a few selected countries. Their services are based on connections within and aggregations of huge amounts of data. To come full circle, today’s technological advances are partly due to a sale of our own privacy as we are the sources of this data. Moreover, since this has become everybody’s daily life and business, there is no realistic opt-out option. Currently, we have to “sell” our privacy to capitalist companies in order to be part of our own society.

Hypothesizing about a communist social media world is not my field of specialty but it seems to offer me two possible extrema: A deconstruction or a deprivatisation of the mentioned capitalist social media companies.

To start with the latter, converting these companies into governmental or publicly owned NGO’s would most likely lead to a slow-down of their technological innovations. This, in my opinion, is due to two theses: (1) As the internet is a global phenomenon a complete commonist internet is highly questionable, and thus there would be other capitalist players left. (2) The ones driving the innovations, IT experts such as developers, would then be harder to employ as their high personnel costs could more easily be covered by capitalist companies. Furthermore, a deprivatisation would not solve the main post-privacy issue as I explicated in the beginning.

Ultimately then, a complete deconstruction of such companies reveals the full dilemma: Our Western society does not work without today’s technology anymore. We are reliant on the social networks and the internet that the capitalist companies offer us in a oligopolistic way. Global contacts, always-online mobility, the never-ending stream of available information, and, lastly, the algorithms that help us cope with all this data and, hence, decide whether our information is findable or not, are a one-way development.

Privacy, however, is a high price for that. Even worse, it seems, that it even isn’t the complete truth (i.e. compared to global surveillance). A commonist social media world would, in my opinion, solve the problem of the involvement of capitalist companies at the cost of technological innovation, which would probably lead to other (again, capitalist) providers. Hence, in the long run, it would not solve but move the problem.

By Teresa Alves:

As every social organism in this capitalist world, media is broadly subservient to the power of capital. As great part of capital in the world is concentrated in the hands of an elite, media is also dominated by a range of interests that reflect the  concentration of income and wealth among the top earning 1%. Pragmatically, this means that mass media and social media are often a channel conveying thoughts, ideals and goals that are not representative of the other 99%.

For this reason, a commonist social media world would allow participation of the people across social classes, genders, ages, races, ethnicities and religions, allowing multicultural and transverse representation. Independent, alternative and free systems would improve the way people communicate among each other and with one another. Privacy laws and cryptography practices are extremely relevant, in order to build new forms of communication that are not controlled by the capitalist system and its flows of private interest. Let us build a world based on equality, freedom and justice with the help of social media that are actually controlled by the people.













By Han-Teng Liao:

Nothing is wrong with social media such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Weibo, etc. except for the fact corporate social media for profit may prosper at the expense of the commonist vision that “social media of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the World-Wide Web”.

















By Matheus Lock:

The question about what is wrong with capitalism and digital media is a tricky one because there are so many nuances and complexities that could lead one to analyse this relation in a very superficial way.

Before even to start thinking about a commonist social media, it is relevant to bear in mind that the development of digital technologies were only made possible because of the capitalist’s dynamics of production. In other words, immaterial capitalism and new digital technologies have become mutually interdependent. It means digital technology is not only a network structure that serves as a productive base to capitalism, but capitalists also invest in it with all their strength to extract as much value as possible; there is a movement of expansion of digital technology propelled by capitalism. Such a materiality presents an ambiguous potentiality.

On one hand, digital technology allows people to communicate, exchange information and knowledge, in order to create and share their own symbolic content, in a much faster, more accessible and dynamic way than previous communication technologies. This kind of technology enables people to engage in social interaction and in the production of their own political opinions and narratives. This potentiality of actions of the digital technologies introduces new practices, forms of sociability, political actors, groups, etc. There is a pluralisation of voices, collective production and political action.

On the other hand, there is a double movement made both by capitalism itself and by government towards complete control over digital technologies. It is well known that corporations such as Google, Facebook and Amazon track people’s consumer behaviour online to extract profit from it. They also try to limit collective creation of knowledge and sharing of information, controlling such production by restricting the flux of discourses and practices, and by lobbying for the privatisation and patenting of intellectual property. The second movement, the one made by governments, is as invasive and brutal as the one made by corporations. Nonetheless, as governments hold the monopoly of law creation and legal violence, their movement to control the flux of information and surveillance data is much more complex and deceiving than those put in practice by companies, which, in most cases have to respect some limitations imposed by sovereign states.

This is what can be labelled as a contemporary paradox; a paradox that presents all the potentialities and fragilities of digital media. For this reason it is very troublesome to state how a commonist social media world would look like. But we can risk toelaborate some basic principles of it:

* The internet should be kept neutral
* A common digital platform of social interaction should be posited outside capitalist relations of productions; which means that it should be an open source and open code platform created and maintained by anonymous peers
* All the information of the participants of this platform should be totally private
* This platform should be encrypted so as to make sure the information would be safe against government and capitalist surveillance.

















By Tsai Hui-Ju:

Influencing everyday lives and changing social relationships online and offline, Facebook, which has 1 billion active users, has become the most influential social media channel. However, some critics have cautioned that, the more routine communication is mediated through online social media software, the more information technology companies oversee our digital trajectories. Facebook, a commercialized system, is not the panacea for human emancipation. Although we can see how social media helped people involve in the revolutions of the Arab Spring to communicate in real-time the places and times of events. Facebook, however, can be accused of invading its users’ privacy by the immoral practice of selling their personal data without their consent.

Today, Facebook users appear to operate freely but this freedom is in fact constrained by invisible controls. Facebook has been adept at hiding its complex privacy policy and its selling of personal data, a serious issue. In addition, Facebook’s strategies undermine the basic rights of its users. The social media site purports to offer a free service: chatting with friends, uploading personal photos, expressing comments, with not a cent changing hands. But Facebook is a company not a public service and this means that it has to sell something to make its profits.

To an extent, Facebook’s privacy policy gives more protection to big corporations and to the rich than to private individuals. It can be argued that the big corporations work in conjunction with Facebook whose users, under corporate surveillance, become consumers, consumers whose data, behaviors, and consumption habits are gathered and recorded ‘for accumulating capital, for disciplining them, and for increasing the productivity of capitalist production and advertising…’ (Fuchs 2012, p.141). Added to this is the fact that users’ personal background data is sold by Facebook and the day to day content, produced by its users, feeds into Facebook’s profitability.

Moreover, it is not only about the issue of ‘privacy policy’, but also reflects the problem of ‘surveillance’. These commercialised social media and ‘free’ online service always claim that they provide the open, free, and public space for everyone. However, Zuckerberg’s words could be the self-deprecating satire. He has given an interview on the ABC News ‘Nightline’ program arguing that ‘When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place. So, what we view our role as, is giving people that power’ (ABC News Nightline, July 21 2010). Ironically, Zuckerberg’s words are a kind of propaganda for Facebook advocating democracy.

However, similar ideas such as emancipation, multi-polarism, empowerment, and grassroots movements have long existed on the Internet without the manipulation practiced by Facebook which has the potential to disempower people. So we can argue that people may have power, but Facebook itself is not empowering. Therefore, exposing Facebook’s strategies and analysing users’ interactions could help imagine ‘a new, public Facebook’ that would solve the current dilemma. In addition, the commonist social media could be done by several ideas, such as cooperatives, Public Service Broadcasting, local communities, and the national universities with public value.

ABC News (2010, July 21). Nightline: Inside Facebook. Retrieved August 30, 2013, from
Fuchs, Christian (2012). The Political Economy of Privacy on Facebook. Television New Media, 13(2), 139-159.

By Jim Fearnley:

The major underlying premise of the Occupy movement is of a mutually-recognised community of interest among the “99%”, who are in alleged contention with the 1% who own the vast bulk of the world’s wealth. This is untrue, and the failure of a call to arms in the name of a traditional leftist proletariat, (implicitly composed of white, male, manual workers) will not be challenged by speculating an oppositional movement whose identity is so pluralist as to devalue the meaning of the term.

The New Left that developed before, during, and after the struggles of the 1960s represented a mixed blessing. ‘Struggle’ was siloed into partial identities based on ethnicity, culture, nationality, sex, sexuality, age, (dis)ability, etc., and thus recuperated by the equal opportunities agenda, while, however, analysing the specific experiences of distinct demographic groups. Class and economic status were routinely omitted from social taxonomies, which allowed for the recuperation of contestation, by, e.g., creating a black bourgeoisie to neutralise the radical threat of US street insurrections.

At the same time, the definition of the ‘impossible’ class was broadened to become far more contemporary and realistic. It now has the potential to embrace the relationship of the individual with the economy, perhaps best exemplified by the term ‘precariat‘. Those who have no reliable stake in the success of the economy thus become the new alienated class, including the redundant erstwhile bourgeois, displaced in the West by the encroachment of the digital economy and other developments.

However, the re-appraisal of the global economy in terms of its fundamental transformation over the last 20-40 years betrays an ongoing over-emphasis on Western societies. The concentration of the digital means of data production/storage in the hands of a few monopolistic players, indicates that traditional capitalist business is alive and well. Of equal concern is the extent to which the use of data (and traditional labour) as commodity enables a form of self-managed enslavement, which presaged and runs alongside ‘intern culture’, where individuals voluntarily work for free, sharing information about their consumer preferences and trialling new versions of software, for example.

Equally, alleged enemies of transnational ‘surveillance capital’, confuse changes in the form of commodities and their production (i.e. from ‘things’ to ‘services’ and ‘ideas’) in the West with a (non-existent) change in social relations. Because Western production now focuses on artefacts, affect, and communication does not mean this is the only terrain on which social struggles can be waged.

Indeed, it can be argued that an academicist prioritisation of mind over body (as beloved by ‘left’ and post-modernist schools as any other) repeats the division of labour expressed in all bourgeois revolutions, where consciousness is brought to us miserable serfs, thrashing about in ‘meatspace’. However, for the physical critique of the State to be meaningful, it will have to supersede symbolic demonstrations of ‘anger’, and thus diminish the notional 99% power base.












By Patricia “Jav” Zavala Gutiérrez:

Both Aldous Huxley and George Orwell, cared about the future of capitalism, and the society. Both feared that future. And yet both for different, and apparent contradictories, reasons. Now we can be certain that both got the issues right. The present economic politics it is nothing more that the old tramp but with new clothes.

Big-money people have assumed the old role of a monarchy, and worse. The different ways to obtain money and power have changed from the open terror and violence and scams to democracy and media. The oppressor justifies its rhetorical movements and hides its real intentions, not by using the theological justification for monarchy but for the delusion of democracy, and the corresponding manipulation of the media.

In this way, whoever is trying to uncover these facts is treated as a madman, an enemy of freedom and society. The victim is not only subdued, but the proper language for his condition of victims is taken away, cutting from the very beginning any possibility of changing the situation. Capitalists provide the money necessary in order for the politicians to win elections. This in turn creates laws that benefit capitalists. They frequently accept bribes for governmental contracts, which in turn make the rich and capitalists richer, and so everyone within the dominant class is happy. They are the ones who own democracy in our countries. And social media follows that pattern.

There is no need to encourage civil virtue: entrenched levels of corruption limit the possibilities of real change of the government. And corruption not only implies taking bribes, but also the lack of accountability. It is easier to cheat the public, to ask or force social media to signal whoever is trying to change things, than try to make the right decisions. Public and health services have suffered cuts for the sake of the economy, yet these same time laws and government rules have barely touched capitalist interests: While governments and normal people have been forced to be deprived for the last twenty years, in the same period capitalists have seen their fortunes grow at historical levels. There is a strong reluctance to question the fundamental basis of our culture and society, which in itself is crippling free enquiry, and freedom of speech, hiding the consequences of capitalism. Capitalist social media backs all of this. We are thus tracing the path of ancient Rome. The class war that Marx described is not over, yet. It’s still there, and more dramatic and violent than ever.

Is there any pathway out of this maze? I think education and honest and active politic actions could be a starting point. I don’t think they would/could be sufficient, but we have to start from somewhere. And a problem is that social media has to be involved in the creation of revolutionary class-consciousness. If that is possible then we can find ways that make sure that we are on the right track to the future.








By Shudipta Sharma:

The main problem of capitalism is that it always tries to ensure profit. Even in the name of social responsibility it tends to do its business. Capitalist media industry is not different. From the print media to today’s new media we are experiencing the same scenario. Though it always tries to represent itself as a pro-people social institution that makes a bridge between people and the government, we see, the main goal of the capitalist media is to making money. People are the second priority for them. They sell their audiences to their advertisers and tend to create a consumer culture.

On this background, many people think, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Weibo etc. come as a boon for general people. Social media platforms also paint themselves that they facilitate an interactive space for all to express their opinion, views, feelings, emotion, etc. on any issue freely. They also try to get the credit of creating a real public sphere. However, we are noticing that the web 2.0 technology provides the capitalists a new opportunity to do business and they are utilizing it. In the name of public sphere they are also doing business. This new technology gives them a unique opportunity to exploit unpaid labour. Their unpaid users are acting as prosumer who creates and consumes their own content. Paid staff is merely managing the whole activities. Moreover, in many senses, social media platforms are a threat to people’s privacy that was almost secure in the traditional media era. In fact, social media platforms instigate its users to provide their personal information so that they can do business. The capitalist social media platforms record every single activity of its users. Without users’ concern they sell this information to advertisers, which facilitates targeted advertisements. In fact, their privacy policy allows them to do this. But most of the users are not aware of it.

Social media also help the authorities to create a surveillance society, where everything is being watched by ‘Big Brother’. Social media platforms provide its users’ information to the law enforcing agencies and help them to monitor anyone’s activities. So, we can say that users are not safe at all on this type of social media platforms. Moreover, their policy also allows them to deactivate any account whenever they want to. This is also a threat to users’ freedom and information. That is why, I think, this type of social media platforms are not pro-people, but rather a threat to people’s privacy.

So, I think, a commonist social media should be developed and maintained by its users. It would not store any information and there should not be any advertisement. It will be run with the help of users’ donations. It will be true a public sphere where anybody can join and express whatever they think. Users’ privacy will be strictly protected there. Nothing will be provided to the law enforcing agencies in any case.


















By Marcin Koziej:

Current social media are placing too much focus on the individual. Users are nodes who make up the networks, and their digital relations are forming its links.

This is turning networking into an ego game, where users struggle to win by being a better node: tweet more, share more, and make a perfect impression. It is also creating index authorities [1], where nodes with more links (followers, friends) are holding a position of power.  Such a mechanic is turning communication into competition, where the goal for each individual is to accumulate attention for him- or herself only, so s/he can be looked at and rewarded with likes and retweets.

Commonist social media, on the contrary, should turn communication into collaboration, by making various commons and common issues a basic building block of the network. When they would become nodes, relations, dependencies, and flows between them would become links. They would become focal points of attention, and us, humble users, would finally be just defined not by what we show off online, but what we participate in

[1] A term taken from Mathieu O’Neil, Cyberchiefs: Autonomy and authority in online tribes, 2009, Pluto Press, London

















By Simon Schöpf:

Capitalist social media plays the game of distraction. The more we engage, the more we click, the more we ‘like’, the more we comment, the more we wipe our thumbs, the more money for the digital monopolies, paid by advertisers. Frankly, this distraction does get annoying in everyday life.

In The Shallows, Nicholas Carr presents a lot of scientifically backed research on the increasing fragmentation of our consciousness and argues that the web distorts our ability of ‘deep reading’, constantly throwing little snippets of information at us and not allowing the user to engage with one topic, at length and in depth. The “media work their magic, or their mischief, on the nervous system itself”, Carr says. How about extending this phenomenon to a new level and claim that capitalist social media, on another layer, also influence our ability of ‘deep listening’ and drastically further even, ‘deep being’? Does anyone remember the times when you could go to a rock concert or merely sightseeing and were still able to see the stage or the sight? Often today, the objects are somewhat hidden behind a fence of glowing devices, recording action just to never look at it again, just for the sake of recording. Not making use of the possibility to ‘share’ seems like ‘losing out’ by not letting everybody know what amazing things you are doing right now. And even though we end up not sharing our experiences anyway, the mere feeling of needing to share is what distracts from the real experience. We were made the main players in the game of distraction.

Communist social media would play a different game. It would not be financed primarily by advertisers, so it would not be primarily interested in distracting our minds from everyday life for the sake of likes and thumb-strokes. It would allow us to again re-gain our ability to think deeply, to listen deeply, to be deep. Such media would focus on the true needs of users that can be found in communication, co-creation, and co-operation; not in constant distraction.

Heidegger calls our ability to engage in meditative thinking the very essence of our humanity; “The frenzied-ness of technology threatens to entrench itself everywhere”, he says. Everywhere? We better act, then.













On Common Ground
By Jonas Jørgensen:

Last week it was reported in the media that more than fifty so-called ‘geoglyphs’ had recently been discovered in the northern Kazakhstan (Cf. These figurative or geometric ancient land art structures, that range from 90 to 400 meters in diameter, are usually hard to see from the ground, but known from other parts of the world as well, notably the Nazca region of Peru. What was novel about the recent discovery in Kazakhstan, however, was that, according to the researchers, it had been made by using images from Google Earth.

About a month ago, a different story was making the rounds on social media. ‘Google Maps Has Been Tracking Your Every Move, And There’s A Website To Prove It’, the headline declared, and the article further elaborated: ‘Today, Google is tracking wherever your smartphone goes, and putting a neat red dot on a map to mark the occasion.’ (Cf.

Vogelfrei (literally ‘bird free’, but meaning an outlaw (a person without legal rights) in German) was the term Marx used to describe the proletariat, created with the decline of feudalism through ‘the forcible expropriation of the people from the soil’. Some researchers have suggested that the geoglyph markings made on the soil have a ritualistic and cultic origin, while others think that ancient tribes used them to mark off ownership of land.

The image I have included shows a portion of my tracking data from Google from the last thirty days that I have reproduced manually. It is superimposed on a creative commons licensed photo of the hummingbird geoglyph at Nazca (Image credit: Irina Callegher, “Famous hummingbird, Nazca lines,” via Flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0), as the images of the Kazakhstan geopglyphs are all copyrighted by DigitalGlobe, the company that supplies Google Earth and Google Maps with their images.

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Win a copy of Christian Fuchs’ new book “OccupyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Capitalism”

Win a copy of Christian Fuchs’ new book “OccupyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Capitalism”















You can win one of 20 copies of Christian Fuchs’ new book “OccupyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Capitalism”
by participating in tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique’s ( commonist social media contest:

Send tripleC a self-made picture (jpg format) as well as a 500 word short text that symbolises and deals with the following two questions:

What’s wrong with capitalism and capitalist social media such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Weibo, etc. ? How would a commonist social media world look like?

Send your digital picture (just one), text (500 words, not more), and postal address until Saturday Sep 27 to the tripleC office:

The books will be given to the senders of the first 20 submissions (submissions affirmative of capitalism and opposed to commonism are excluded from winning because they contradict question #1). Only one submission per person is possible.

By participating you agree that your picture and text will be published together with other submissions in a blog post on (if you don’t want to have your name mentioned, then say so in your submission)

Zero Books will publish the book at the end of October 2014, so the winners will be among the first getting to read it.

About the book:

The Occupy movement has emerged in a historical crisis of global capitalism. It struggles for the reappropriation of the commodified commons. Communications are part of the commons of society. Yet contemporary social media are ridden by an antagonism between private corporate control (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and self-managed, commons-based activist media. In this work, Christian Fuchs analyses the contradictory dialectic of social media in the Occupy movement. Drawing on a political economy framework and interpretation of the results of the OccupyMedia! Survey, in which more than 400 Occupy activists reported on their social media use, OccupyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Capitalism shows how activists confront the contradictions of capitalism and communication in the age of crisis and social media. The book discusses the contradiction between commercial and alternative social media and argues that the existence of a surveillance-industrial complex expressed in the PRISM system shows the urgent necessity to create social media beyond Facebook and Google.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The Crisis of Capitalism

2. Protests in Crisis Capitalism

3. Occupy and Digital Media

4. Research Method: The OccuyMedia! Survey

5. Results of the OccupyMedia! Survey
5.1. Analysis of the Respondents’ Demographic Data
5.2. Defining the Occupy Movement
5.3. Occupy and Social Media
5.4. Communicating Activism
5.5. Corporate and Alternative Social Media

6. Interpreting the Data: Social Movement Media
in Crisis Capitalism
6.1. Defining the Occupy Movement
6.2. Occupy and Social Media
6.3. Communicating Activism
6.4. Corporate and Alternative Social Media

7. Alternatives

8. Conclusion: Activism and the Media in a World of Antagonisms

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tripleC Special issue: Philosophers of the World Unite! Theorising Digital Labour and Virtual Work

tripleC Special issue: Philosophers of the World Unite! Theorising Digital Labour and Virtual Work – Definitions, Dimensions and Forms
Edited by Marisol Sandoval, Christian Fuchs, Jernej A. Prodnik, Sebastian Sevignani, Thomas Allmer
in context of the COST Action Dynamics of Virtual Work 

tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique 12 (2): 464-801 (pdf and html)

This special issue of tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique aims to contribute to building a theoretical framework for the critical analysis of digital labour, virtual work, and related concepts that can initiate further debates, inform empirical studies, and inspire social struggles connected to work and labour in and beyond digital capitalism. The papers collected in this special issue (a) provide systematic definitions of digital labour, (b) analyse its specific dimension, and (c) discuss different forms of digital labour.
The papers collected in this special issue theorise digital labour as a multifaceted field characterised by exploitation, alienation, precariousness, power, inequality, ideology, and struggle. These problems of digital labour are however not inherent to digital technology as such but result from its inclusion and application in capitalist relations of production.
Theorising digital labour, as labour that produces or makes use of digital technologies, can help to understand its problems, limits, potentials, and contradictions. It can therefore highlight the need for social change and inspire political action. However, the act of freeing digital technology from being an instrument for the domination of labour requires to go beyond just interpreting the world and to engage in social struggles that want to change it.



Introduction: Philosophers of the World Unite! Theorising Digital Labour and Virtual Work—Definitions, Dimensions, and Forms
Marisol Sandoval, Christian Fuchs, Jernej A. Prodnik, Sebastian Sevignani, Thomas Allmer

Work and Labour as Metonymy and Metaphor
Olivier Frayssé

Digital Workers of the World Unite! A Framework for Critically Theorising and Analysing Digital Labour
Christian Fuchs, Marisol Sandoval

Circuits of Labour: A Labour Theory of the iPhone Era
Jack Linchuan Qiu, Melissa Gregg, Kate Crawford

Concepts of Digital Labour: Schelling’s Naturphilosophie
Kevin Michael Mitchell

Digital Labour and the Use-value of Human Work. On the Importance of Labouring Capacity for understanding Digital Capitalism
Sabine Pfeiffer

The Ideological Reproduction: (Free) Labouring and (Social) Working within Digital Landscapes
Marco Briziarelli

Alienation and Digital Labour—A Depth-Hermeneutic Inquiry into Online Commodification and the Unconscious
Steffen Krüger, Jacob Johanssen

Production Cultures and Differentiations of Digital Labour
Yujie Chen

Digital Labour in Chinese Internet Industries
Bingqing Xia

Will Work For Free: The Biopolitics of Unwaged Digital Labour
Brian Brown

Toward a Political Economy of ‘Audience Labour’ in the Digital Era
Brice Nixon

Playing, Gaming, Working and Labouring: Framing the Concepts and Relations
Arwid Lund

Cover image:
By Jonny White (G20 April 1st) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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Social Media and the Islamic State’s Killing of James Foley: Why It Is Time the West Shifts Public Attention towards the Kurdish Internet-Sphere

Social Media and the Islamic State’s Killing of James Foley:
Why It Is Time the West Shifts Public Attenstion towards the Kurdish Internet-Sphere.
Christian Fuchs

A Turkish translation has been published here.












The Islamic State (IS) has spread a video on the Internet that shows how it beheads the American journalist James Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012. IS has continuously published and diffused images and videos of such killings online and has for this purpose not just used YouTube and Twitter, but also newer platforms such as, an image and text sharing platform that is among the world’s 8,500 most accessed WWW sites.

There is a long history of journalists reporting and visualising the violent realities of war. One of the most famous examples is Robert Capa’s image of a falling Republican soldier, pictured in the moment he was shot in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The photograph was published in Life magazine on July 12, 1937, with the comment: “Robert Capa’s camera catches a Spanish soldier the instant he is dropped by a bullet through the head in front of Córdoba“. Another famous example is Nick Ut’s image of Kim Phúc and other children. It shows how they from the Vietnamese village Trang Bang after the South Vietnamese had dropped a napalm bomb on it in June 1972. The mediatisation of war has increasingly brought about a de-realisation of war, in which animations, videos, and images that look like fireworks or show heavy weapons hide the actual killing of humans and present wars in a sanitised manner. CNN and others have done much to turn war into a media spectacle. War reporting is today torn between showing disturbing and sanitised images and the complexity of what to show and what to hide.

James Foley was one of the courageous journalists and photographers who report about the brutal reality of wars without sanitising images. The reason why his killing is so shocking is that IS has turned the media logic around so that it is not journalists showing the horrors of killings, but IS showing how it kills a journalist. In a brutal inversion, the journalism of documenting killing in wars turned into the symbolic war of showing the killing of a journalist. War journalism was inverted into a war against journalism.

The crucial question that arises is how to react to IS’s media strategy. The police has asked to remove killing images uploaded by IS. Twitter has continuously suspended accounts that spread ISIS propaganda. Following the IS’s spread of the “Message to America”-video, Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo tweeted that his company is “actively suspending accounts as we discover them related to this graphic imagery”. YouTube deleted postings of the video.

The events show that wars and conflicts are in the 21st century not just fought with arms that kill people, but are also symbolic, psychological and communication wars fought on the Internet and via the media. Information warfare complements physical warfare.

Whereas some say such suspensions violate freedom of expression, others hold the opinion that such violent images can incite fundamentalists to support IS, can spread fear among the Kurdish fighters who struggle against IS, and can have harmful effects on minors. Such discussions miss however the point.

Attempts to censor IS misunderstand the nature of the Internet: If somebody recalls contaminated chickens or bottles of poisoned beer from supermarkets, then nobody can eat and drink these goods any longer and the harm can be contained. Information on the Internet behaves completely differently: It can be copied and spread easily, quickly, and cheaply all over the world because it is a peculiar good: Information is not used up in consumption and it is difficult to exclude people from its consumption and from copying it. IS puts its barbaric images and videos on multiple platforms using multiple accounts and within a short time thousands of copies float through virtual space. Given the characteristics of information, it is impossible to censor online information, which makes such political ideas infeasible and a tilt at windmills. The censors of this world fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the Internet and are trapped in the right-wing ideological illusion that surveillance and censorship technologies can solve the world’s social and political problems.

















In 2003, Barbara Streisand (pictured above) tried to legally suppress images of her Malibu house that had been posted online. The effect was that thousands of people re-posted the pictures and hundred thousands viewed them. This Streisand effect shows that censorship attempts in the world of media spectacle create more attention for the censored information. The more platforms and politicians try to censor IS, the more the horrifying images and videos will spread.

If the right-wing law-and-order strategies of censoring, controlling, and surveilling are counter-productive, what can and should be done? IS fights a war on multiple fronts. Its most immediate opponents and the only ones who can realistically stop IS are the Kurdish people and the Kurdish military forces, including the PKK that plays a major role, in Northern Iraq. Western media have focused their reports on IS’s barbarism and its use of social media. The large Western media attention given to IS has reinforced its visibility and symbolic power. IS’s Kurdish opponents have received much less Western media presence. So for example although some media, such as Der Spiegel and the Times, briefly reported that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK has rescued many Yazidis from the Sinjar Mountains [watch a video about the role of the PKK and the YPK/YPJ in the Yazidis’ rescue, watch a video about feminist YPJ fighters in Syria]. Most Western media have been silent on this issue.

Western media, including the Guardian and the BBC and many others, hardly report on the fact that Kurds use social media for documenting and reporting on their fight against IS. There are Twitter hash tags such as #TwitterKurds and #KurdsResistISIS that challenge tags such as #ISIS and #A_Message_to_America. There are very active Kurdish bloggers and Twitter-users in Erbil, Dohuk, Kirkuk, Zakho, Sulaymaniyah, and other parts of the world. Examples are @Sazan_Mandalawi, @RuwaydaMustafah, @Hevallo, @kurdishblogger, @KurdistaniNews, @KurdistanJiyane, @readactnow, @masutkosker@momenzellmi, @BayanRahman, @KurdistanRegion, @qubadjt, @Gorran_Change, that challenge IS’s online presence. Kurdish users who employ social media profiles, accounts, blogs, and hash tags fight an information war against the IS’s social media sphere. It is predominantly the latter and not the first that resonates in Western media.

Reporting on IS is for Western media certainly more spectacular than Kurdish bloggers and Twitterers, which reflects the circumstance that the media in capitalism tend to be organised as a massive spectacle that is focusing attention on the wild, the brutal, and the extreme, which it turns into an audience commodity aimed at maximising the number of readers and viewers. The downside of this approach in the case of the on-going conflict in Iraq is that it simultaneously strengthens IS’s symbolic power.

Social media is a stratified public sphere, in which gatekeepers that have millions of followers dominate attention and visibility. The major players and gatekeepers on social media are celebrities and traditional media. Some examples: Twitter’s company account @twitter has more than 31 million followers, The New York Times’ account @nytimes around 13 million, the BBC’s account @BBCBreaking around 11 million, the Guardian’s account @guardian more than 2.5 million, @Channel4News more than 400,000, etc.

Kurdish social media users hardly have more than a few thousand followers. The best support that the Western public can give to the Kurds is to stop focusing its attention so much on IS and its use of social media, to stop unwinnable right-wing attempts to censor and control the Internet, and to start amplifying the voices and visibility of the Kurdish social media sphere by reporting about how Kurds and their supporters use the Internet for political purposes, and by re-tweeting and re-posting their contributions.

The Internet’s economy is not just an information economy, but also an attention economy. Wars and conflicts are about the control of territory. They are wars about the control of physical and information spaces. Focusing Western attention predominantly on one side is not just one-dimensional, but also a reinforcement and amplification of this side’s communication power. It is time for qualitatively different communication strategies, media reports and politics of information.

Christian Fuchs is editor of the journal tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique and author of books such as “OccupyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Captialism” and “Social Media: A Critical Introduction” . Twitter: @fuchschristian

Image sources:
Kurdish flag: By Khoyboun [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Barbara Streisand: By Allan Warren (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
Closed gates: John Firth [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Update of this posting, August 26, 2014:
Western Media Start Reporting on the Role of the PKK/YPJ/YPG in Iraq – And Again Marginalise Attention

On August 25, the BBC published the article “Analysis: Could support for the ‘other’ Kurds stall Islamic State?” that briefly describes the role of the PKK and YPG in the liberation of Mount Sinja and the fight against IS. The article does not mention the YPJ. Furthermore on the BBC News website’s Middle East section’s Iraq part, the article was only listed as the fourth of five articles, the main featured article being “US sanctions Syria air surveillance”. On the main page of BBC News’ World section, the article was not listed at all. BBC 1′s 6 o’clock evening news on August 26, the day after the just mentioned article was published, did not report on the topic.

On August 26, the Guardian’s paper edition featured the article “Islamic State: Kurds face latest enemy in war that exposes their own fragility” on page 14 (the online version’s title is even more tabloid-like – “Islamic State savagery exposes limits to Kurdish authority”). The article mentions in just one short paragraph that the YPG and PKK liberated the Yazidis from Mount Sinja. It says that “[f]emale Kurdish fighters were among the group”, but does not bother mentioning the YPJ. The main cover story focused on the question if support for IS in the UK should be prohibited by terror laws. The comments section featured a piece by John Gray about the “Islamic State’s modern barbarism”. The letters page had a special section on “How to deal with Britain’s jihadis”.

Der Spiegel’s print edition no. 34/2014 (August 18) published the German version of an article (pages 77-79) that describes how the PKK created a corridor for helping Yazedis escape from Mount Sinja. The piece neither mentions the YPJ nor the YPG. Furthermore much more attention was given to the 5-page long cover story “Das Kalifat des Schrecken” (“The Caliphate of Horror”) that focused on IS’s fascist practices, including a very graphic cover image titled “Der Staat des Bösen: Wie die IS-Terroristen ihr Kalifat errichten” (The State of Evil: How the IS-Terrorists Build their Capliphate”).

These examples are indications several things:

a) The first mentioning of the PKK/YPJ/YPG’s role in the resistance against IS and their liberation of the Yazidis came very late in Western mainstream media. The first stories on the Yazidis on Mount Sinja emerged around August 6th/7th in Western media, which means that it took 10-20 days until many of them for the first time mentioned the PKK/YPJ/YPG’s role. Reality was thereby distorted in such a way that the impression was created in the public that when the US finally arrived on Mount Sinja, there were not many Yazedis there. Neither the US nor Western media mentioned or only mentioned very late that the PKK/YPJ/YPG’s has played a major role in both the liberation of the Yazedis from Mount Sinja and the struggle against IS. Actual reports did not devote much space and time to discussing this role or featuring interviews.

b) Even when Western media mention the role of the PKK/YPJ/YPG in the struggle against IS or devote stories to this issue, the topic gets much less space, time, words, images, visibility, and attention than stories about IS’s fascism. IS’s violence can be much better marketed and sold as spectacle in Western media than the democratic-communist and feminist worldview of the PKK/YPJ/YPG.

c) Western mainstream media first and foremost report based on a yellow press logic that focuses on creating spectacles that attract audiences. The logic of ratings drives media reputation, advertising, and profits (in the case of the BBC advertising of course plays no role, but still tabloid-like reporting on Iraq has prevailed, just like in the case of the Guardian and other Western media). Such reporting distorts and marginalises aspects that are more complex to report and analyse and that have less spectacular content.

d) The United States tried to not at all mention the PKK/YPJ/YPG’s role in the fight against IS because it probably feared that this may give too much publicity to these groups’ political aims. One should also bear in mind that the US does not want to anger its NATO ally Turkey that is at the moment ruled by a far-right President and government. Paradoxically there have been reports that Erdogan and the AKP have funded IS. The PKK is because of Turkey’s influence still considered as a terrorist group in Europe and the USA. It has not just had a positive role in the struggles against IS-fascism and liberated the Yazidis from Mount Sinja, but has also entered a peace and negotiation process with the Turkish government in 2012.

From Jörg Haider in the 1990s to Nigel Farage and the Islamic State today: Liberal Western mainstream media have since decades deceived themselves by the ideology that heavy reporting on right wing extremism deconstructs it. They have not realised or are deliberately tolerating that the production of the extreme right is not just caused by ideology and political economy, but is also a mainstream media construction. The mainstream media-”deconstruction” of right-wing extremism is part of its construction. This is what the society of the spectacle is like. This is what capitalism is like.

Further reading: Islamic state, Kurdish (in)dependence, Western hypocrisy, and the failure of the nation-state paradigm.

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Shopping with Marx and Spencer

Shopping with Marx and Spencer
Christian Fuchs

Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) not only have in common that they were 19th century contemporaries and philosophers. They are also buried close to each other on Highgate Cemetery in North London. So one can wonder about the relationship of Marx & Spencer. One obvious linguistic parallel comes immediately to mind, namely Marks & Spencer, a British retailer of food and clothes.

Shopping is the realisation process of value, where the economic value created by labour and contained in commodities is turned into monetary profits. There is no shopping without markets, consumer society, and advertising. In contemporary society, shopping is more than this – it is a lifestyle and mode of cultural control, as symbolised by the shopping mall. Capitalism tries to turn all aspects of our life into a huge shopping mall.

When thinking of shopping, price competition immediately comes to mind. The one who exploits labour most extensively and intensively sets the price level in competition and compels others to produce below the average value of commodities and to therefore reduce wages. The iron law of competition is that it necessitates an extension and intensification of the exploitation of labour.

Marx and Spencer had opposite assessments of competition. Whereas Marx was the fiercest critic of capitalism and a communist, Spencer celebrated competition and war and was the founder of Social Darwinism.



















Spencer saw “survival of the fittest” as the foundational principle of nature and any society:

“As carried on throughout the animate world at large, the struggle for existence has been an indispensable means to evolution. Not simply do we see that in the competition  among individuals of the same kind, survival of the fittest,  has from the beginning furthered production of a higher type;  but we see that to the unceasing warfare between species is  mainly due both growth and organization. Without universal conflict there would have been no development of the active powers. […] Similarly with social organisms. We must recognize the truth that the struggles for existence between societies have been instrumental to their evolution”.

Spencer stresses the evolutionary necessity of war, markets, and competition. Humans, groups and societies who are not strong enough cannot expect help by others – they are bound to die. For Spencer this is simply a law of nature in any society and not a historical feature of all class societies.



















Marx in contrast sees market competition as a destructive historical feature of commodity-producing societies: The division of labour

“brings into contact independent producers of commodities, who acknowledge no authority other than that of competition, of the coercion exerted by the pressure of their reciprocal interests, just as in the animal kingdom the ‘war of all against all’ more or less preserves the conditions of existence of every species. The same bourgeois consciousness which celebrates the division of labour in the workshop, the lifelong annexation of the worker to a partial operation, and his complete subjection to capital, as an organization of labour that increases its productive power, denounces with equal vigour every conscious attempt to control and regulate the process of production socially, as an inroad upon such sacred things as the rights of property, freedom and the self-determining ‘genius’ of the individual capitalist”.

Humans can live without competition, but they cannot live and survive as isolated individuals or in pure competition. Co-operation is for Marx and Engels more foundational for society than competition. The latter is just a historic mode of existence of co-operation and social relations in class societies.

The young Marx therefore argued:

“The individual is the social being. His life, even if it may not appear in the direct form of a communal life carried out together with others – is therefore an expression and confirmation of social life. Man’s individual and species life are not different, however much-and this is inevitable-the mode of existence of the individual is a more particular, or more general mode of the life of the species, or the life of the species is a more particular or more general individual life”.

Co-operation as the essence of the social is for Marx and Engels a fundamental human capacity. Marx and Engels therefore define the social as co-operation: The social denotes

“the co-operation of several individuals, no matter under what conditions, in what manner and to what end. It follows from this that a certain mode of production, or industrial stage, is always combined with a certain mode of co-operation, or social stage, and this mode of co-operation is itself a ‘productive force’”.

In a letter to Engels, Marx commented on Herbert Spencer’s works:

“If you were forced, as I am, to read the economic articles of Messrs Lalor, Herbert Spencer, Macleod, etc., in The Westminster Review, etc., you would see that all of them are fed up with the economic trivialities – and know their readers are fed up, too – so they try to give their scribblings some flavour through PSEUDOPHILOSOPHICAL or PSEUDOSCIENTIFIC SLANG. The pseudocharacter in no way makes the writing (content = 0) easy to understand. On the contrary. The trick lies in so mystifying the reader and causing him to rack his brain, that he may finally be relieved to discover that these HARD WORDS are only fancy dress for loci communes [commonplaces]”.

Marx’s formulation is an elegant way of saying that Spencer’s work is crap. One can visit both Marx and Spencer at Highgate Cemetery. They share the same burial ground, but their graves lie in fact exactly opposite to each other. Their graves are symbols for opposed worldviews and understandings of society. There is fascism, war, the eulogy of capitalism, the fetishism and naturalisation of competition and domination on the one side. And socialism, humanism, the critique of capitalism, and the historicising of competition and domination on the other side.

Whereas shopping at Marks and Spencer invites you to make peace with capitalism and consumer society, visiting Marx and Spencer ultimately confronts you with the question: Which side are you on?

There can be a society without war, markets, money, exchange, exploitation, domination, ideology, nationalism, advertising, sports competitions, the Olympic Games, soccer leagues, World Cups, citation indexes, Facebook likes, Twitter followers, Eurovision, and other expressions of the principles of competition and accumulation in society.

There is life beyond capitalism. A society without Marks and Spencer. A society without Spencer. A society with Marx.

Acknowledgement: Image 1 (Marks & Spencer):
By GianniM (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0,, via Wikimedia Commons

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Christian Fuchs: The Digital Labour Theory of Value and Karl Marx in the Age of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Weibo

Video of “The Digital Labour Theory of Value and Karl Marx in the Age of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Weibo”
Christian Fuchs

Talk at the COST Action “Dynamic of Virtual Work”‘s Workshop “The Labour Theory of Value in the Digital Age”
The Open University of Israel
June 16, 2014

Video on Vimeo

Content Overview
1. Introduction
2. Time
3. Productive Labour
4. Rent
5. Fetishism
6. Conclusion

Duration 1h 32min 02sec

short summary: chapter in the workshop proceedings “Reconsidering Value and Labour in the Digital Age” (ed. Eran Fisher & Christian Fuchs) (Palgrave Macmillan 2015, Volume 1 of the Dynamics of Virtual Work-book series edited by Ursula Huws and Rosalind Gill)
extended version: chapter 5. Social Media and Productive Labour in the book
Christian Fuchs: “Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media” (Routledge 2015)


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E-democracy workshop in the UK Parliament


On 19 May, scholars from the University of Westminster’s Centre for Social Media Research (CSMR) in the Faculty of Media, Arts & Design and the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities joined officials from the House of Commons’ Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy in a workshop ‘citizen engagement and digital democracy in the work of Parliament’.

The Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy aims to consider, report and make recommendations on how parliamentary democracy in the United Kingdom can embrace the opportunities afforded by the digital world. To aid this work, the workshop focused on the identification and mapping of the range of different opportunities that exist in the work of Parliament to engage citizens through the use of digital and social media. The University of Westminster’s participants were Professor Christian Fuchs (CSMR), Professor Graham Smith (CSD), Anthony Staddon (CSD) and Dr Anastasia Kavada (CSMR), who were able to draw on their interdisciplinary cross-faculty expertise in the study of participation and democracy.

The Speaker, Rt Hon John Bercow welcomed the participants to the Speaker’s House and stressed the opportunity that the Commission represents for redesigning the practice of parliament. The workshop identified various intervention points for citizens through the use of digital and social media technologies in the parliamentary process as well as the necessary cultural changes and resources required for advancing digital democracy.

Christian Fuchs, Professor of Social Media, commented: “Digital and social media are often seen as potential solutions to society’s pressing challenges. But there is no technological fix to political and social problems. User-generated videos, wikis, microblogs, online discussions, social networking sites and related technologies can support democratic reforms, but for doing so it is crucial that these forms of political communication are embedded into institutional reforms and offline interactions and that digital media experts and interdisciplinary research support and analyse their introduction.”

Graham Smith, Professor of Politics at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, commented: “It is a real pleasure to work across academic-practice boundaries on an issue of real political importance. The aims and motivations of the Speaker’s Commission are to be applauded and I await its recommendations with interest. The practices of Parliament need to be reformed as a matter of urgency. The challenge will be to institutionalise forms of digital democracy that are meaningful to citizens, parliamentarians and officials alike.”

Anthony Staddon, who has consulted parliaments and parliamentarians around the world, said: “Many parliaments around the world are taking steps to use a range of ICT tools to strengthen their own internal management and improve the accessibility and transparency of the legislature.  While this is a welcome trend, the application of ICT to enable citizens to actively contribute to parliamentary proceedings and processes has the potential to revitalise the work of parliament and rebuild interest and trust in traditional democratic institutions.”

Anastasia Kavada, whose research focuses on the use of digital media by social movements and non-governmental organisations, noted that “Increasing the citizens’ sense of political efficacy and the parliamentarians’ responsiveness and accountability to the people they represent cannot be effected solely through the introduction of digital democracy tools, but require a more sweeping cultural change on the part of both citizens and politicians. The Speaker’s Commission should be commended for exploring not only the quick and easy to implement digital solutions, but also the broader democratic and cultural reforms that need to accompany these solutions.”

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Lawrence & Wishart vs. The Marxists Internet Archive: The Blindness of the Copyright Left

Lawrence & Wishart vs. The Marxists Internet Archive: The Blindness of the Copyright Left
Christian Fuchs

The publisher Lawrence & Wishart (L&W) has issued a takedown notice to the operators of the Marxists Internet Archive (MIA, in order to have them delete the online version of the copyrighted volumes of the Marx Engels-Collected Works (MECW) that L&W distributes and sells in 50 volumes. The basic argument of L&W is that the online version is ruining the company financially: The online version’s “[i]nfringement of this copyright [L&W’s copyright on MECW] has the effect of depriving a small radical publisher of the funds it needs to remain in existence“.

The MIA commented: “Removing them from generalized Internet access and bouncing the MECW ‘upstairs’ into the Academy is the opposite of ’maintaining a public presence of the Works.’ It restricts access to those having current academic status at a university that is subscribing to the service. This is the same as for readership of learned journals. It is not public access. This is the opposite of the general trend toward making things available for free on the Internet. What L&W argues is truly a cognitive disconnect of major proportions. It also destroys the enhanced functionality which MIA gave to the MECW material, embedding it with the writings of other Marxists“.

The question is how viable L&W’s argument is. The online version does not contain page numbers, which is an incentive for scholars, institutions and libraries to also buy printed volumes. It is furthermore doubtful that more people will buy the (expensive) volumes priced at £50 each or £1500 as a set once the MIA has taken down the online version. The L&W argument misperceives the nature of digital information on the Internet that allows easy, quick and cheap distribution, copying and access. What is likely to have already happened is that thousands of users have made copies of the online edition for personal use and for further spreading it on the Internet. Takedown notices have the opposite effect of what they intend to bring about: they are likely to further help spreading the information whose distribution they want to hinder.

Let us have a look at MECW Volume 35 (Capital Vol. 1). It was published in 1996. 6 people seem to have been involved in the editorial project. After the publication of Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, Marx put efforts on writing a sequel that finally became Capital, Volume 1, and was delivered to the publisher in Hamburg by Marx in person in April 1867. So it is fair to assume that Marx at least put 20 000 hours of work into Capital, Volume 1. The L&W translation is based on the edition that Samuel Moore (1838-1911) and Edward Aveling (1849-1898) translated under the editorial leadership of Engels. We can assume that this translation took also up to 10 000 hours and Engels’ editorial work also some years, let’s say 5 000 hours. According to MECW’s editorial note, the edition is “based on the first English edition” by Moore/Aveling/Engels. It is unclear what “based” here actually means. If you compare some sample passages from MECW 35 to the original Moore/Aveling/Engels edition, then there are indications that they are quite identical (I used a sample of about 20 arbitrarily selected sentences that are all identical).

Putting together this edition, layouting and distributing it etc has taken some time, but the actual text we are reading has primarily been enabled by estimated 20 000 hours of Marx’s work, 10 000 hours of Moore and Aveling’s work and 5 000 hours of Engels’ work. Furthermore the editors of MECW Volume 35 write that they have copied translations of French, Greek, Italian and Latin quotes from Ben Fowkes’ 1976 Penguin translation.

MECW 35 is mainly the work of Marx, Engels, Moore and Aveling. L&W sells it for £18.99 in a special edition and for £50 in the MECW edition. Certainly for each sold volume one pays to a specific degree for the labour conducted by printers, L&W employees, etc. But who pays for the labour conducted by Marx, Engels, Moore and Aveling? L&W benefits from Marx, Engels, Moore and Aveling’s work without ever having paid them because they are dead. No single translation could be made without their original work. Claiming copyright is problematic because the labour involved is not just the new editorial and sales work, but first and foremost also the original work conducted by Marx and Engels. If we apply the copyright logic that L&W applies to the MIA to L&W itself, then one can only say that by selling MECW L&W exploits Marx, Engels, Moore and Aveling who cannot be paid for the revenue that L&W makes from their labour because they are dead. L&W is claiming copyright on works that were primarily produced by thousands of Marx and Engels’ intellectual working hours. The solution however is not to prohibit L&W to further sell these volumes or to prohibit MIA to provide Marx and Engels’ works online, but to respect the fact that Marx and Engels’ works are common goods and should be available as such. Claiming the MIA is stealing information from L&W is just as absurd and misplaced as claiming that L&W is stealing information from Marx and Engels because the whole idea of a copyright on Marx and Engels’ works is absurd.

Given these circumstances, it is idiosyncratic to suggest, as some observers have done, that the to date 1435 signees of the petition that asks L&W to allow MECW to be public domain should pay L&W or collect money for L&W. If anything is feasible, then it is organising resources for new online translations conducted as collaborative wiki project. Threatening and debating copyrights on Marx and Engels’ works is just a deflection of attention from a much more needed task – new translations. New translations? Why?

Take again Capital, Volume 1. The main translations used are MECW (=Moore/Aveling) and Penguin (Fawkes). Let’s take two example passages.

MEW 23, 558 + Urfassung von 1867, 521: Von diesen Widersprüchen abgesehn, würde ein direkter Austausch von Geld, d.h. vergegenständlichter Arbeit, mit lebendiger Arbeit entweder das Wertgesetz aufheben, welches sich grade erst auf Grundlage der kapitalistischen Produktion frei entwickelt, oder die kapitalistische Produktion selbst aufheben, welche grade auf der Lohnarbeit beruht.
MECW 35, 536: Apart from these contradictions, a direct exchange of money, i.e., of realised labour, with living labour would either do away with the law of value which only begins to develop itself freely on the basis of capitalist production, or do away with with capitalist production itself, which rests directly on wage labour.
Penguin, 676: Apart from these contradictions, a direct exchange of money, i.e., of objectified labour, with living labour would either supersede the law of value, which only begins to develop freely on the basis of capitalist production, or supersede capitalist production itself, which rests directly on wage labour.

In my view, a better translation is:
Apart from these antagonisms, a direct exchange of money, i.e. objectified labour, with living labour would either sublate the law of value that just now develops itself freely on the basis of capitalist production, or sublate capitalist production itself that precisely rests on wage-labour.

MEW, 791: Die aus der kapitalistischen Produktionsweise hervorgehende kapitalistische Aneignungsweise, daher das kapitalistische Privateigentum, ist die erste Negation des individuellen, auf eigne Arbeit gegründeten Privateigentums. Aber die kapitalistische Produktion erzeugt mit der Notwendigkeit eines Naturprozesses ihre eigne Negation. Es ist Negation der Negation. Diese stellt nicht das Privateigentum wieder her, wohl aber das individuelle Eigentum auf Grundlage der Errungenschaft der kapitalistischen Ära: der Kooperation und des Gemeinbesitzes der Erde und der durch die Arbeit selbst produzierten Produktionsmittel.
Kapital, Urfassung von 1867, 744f: Die kapitalistische Produktions- und Aneignungsweise, daher das kapitalistische Privateigenthum, ist die erste Negation des individuellen, auf eigene Arbeit gegründeten Privateigenthums. Die Negation der kapitalistischen Produktion wird durch sie selbst, mit der Nothwendigkeit eines Naturprozesses, producirt. Es ist Negation der Negation. Diese stellt das individuelle Eigentum wieder her, aber auf Grundlage der Errungenschaft der kapitalistischen Aera, der Cooperation freier Arbeiter und ihrem Gemeineigenthum an der Erde und den durch die Arbeit selbst producirten Produktionsmitteln.
MECW, 751: The capitalist mode of appropriation, the result of the capitalist mode of production, produces capitalist private property. This is the first negation of individual private property, as founded on the labour of the proprietor. But capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law of Nature, its own negation. It is the negation of negation. This does not re-establish private property for the producer, but gives him individual property based on the acquisition of the capitalist era: i.e., on cooperation and the possession in common of the land and of the means of production.
Penguin, 929: The capitalist mode of appropriation, which springs from the capitalist mode of production, produces capitalist private property. This is the first negation of individual private property, as founded on the labour of its proprietor. But capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a natural process, its own negation. This is the negation of the negation. It does not re-establish private property, but it does indeed establish individual property on the basis of the achievements of the capitalist era: namely co-operation and the possession in common of the land and the means of production produced by labour itself

Taking into account both the formulation in the MEW and the Urfassung, in my view a better English translation is:
The capitalist mode of appropriation emerging from the capitalist mode of production, hence capitalist private property, is the first negation of private property founded on an individual’s own labour. But capitalist production produces with the necessity of a natural process its own negation. It is the negation of the negation. This does not re-establish private property, but indeed individual property on the basis of the capitalist era’s attainments: the co-operation of free labourers, their common possession of the Earth and the means of production produced by labour itself.

Marx and Engels’ knowledge work is the primary work objectified in MECW and all other translations and editions. It is therefore ridiculous to stage struggles about copyrights, access and who is allowed to monetarily benefit from the sale of Marx and Engels’ dead work that has created works that are very alive up until today and into the future. Limiting access or making it more difficult makes these living works partly dead. The most important task is to make good translations as easily and as widely available to as many people as possible in order to enable them to read Marx and Engels’ analyses of capitalism that have crucial political relevance. The current debate has highlighted that there is a political economy of Marx and Engels’ writings that concerns questions of authorship, work and ownership. It has rather overlooked that there is also a cultural political economy involved that must aim at finding ways, means, media, resources and the work necessary to globally disseminate Marx and Engels’ writings. We should not deflect attention away from the importance of having good translations readily available in easy and accessible form for as many people as possible. The WWW can make an important contribution to this purpose.

The task should therefore be that we create a new and improved English online edition of Marx and Engels’ works, starting with Capital Volume 1, by making use of wiki-based collaborative translation work. We shouldn’t pay L&W, but gather work force and resources to improve the availability and quality of Marx and Engels’ works.

Marxist translators of the world unite!

Christian Fuchs is editor of the open access online journal tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique

The petition for keeping Marx and Engels’ works common knowledge can be signed here

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