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Session Overview
RN18_05a_IC: Social Media Exploitation, Communicative Capitalism and Alternatives
Thursday, 31/Aug/2017:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Thomas Allmer, University of Stirling
Location: Intercontinental - Omikron II
Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel Syngrou Avenue 89-93 Athens, Greece Floor: Level 1

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From Industry 4.0 to Society 4.0, there and back. The "question" of participation.

Tatiana Mazali

Politecnico di Torino, Italy

The new industrial paradigm Industry 4.0, or smart industry, is at the core of contemporary debates. The paradigm has at heart a technological disruption: the merging of the real world of industrial plants and the virtual world of digital information. The public debate on Industry 4.0 typically offers two main perspectives: the technological one and the one about industrial policies. On the contrary, the discussion on the social and organizational effects of the new paradigm is still underdeveloped. The project proposed here specifically examines this aspect, and studies the change that workers are subject to along with the work organization in smart digital factories. The study originates from an empirical survey conducted by the author together with a multidisciplinary research group between 2014 and 2015 in some of the largest Italian factories.

In particular, this work analyzes the links between digital society, digital culture and Industry 4.0, focusing on the issue of people’s participation in the process of change.

Many elements of the Industry 4.0 paradigm are widespread outside the factory, in society; they are not only technological elements but also cultural. One of the key aspects of the analysis is the question of participation and the “person-centered” culture (where “question” has the double meaning of: subject to be analyzed, or topic; and problem, object of controversy and disputes). The subject will be addressed critically by presenting both the "RE-personalization" processes (from the centrality of the users-consumers in consumption practices to the centrality of the worker in the work paradigm 4.0) and the new processes of "DE-personalization" caused by digital automation.

Theory of You(Tube): A Critical Theory of the Commodified Identity

Trenton James Lee

University of Westminster, United Kingdom

As digital media platforms (DMPs) continue to develop - mechanically, technologically, and socially - it is important to turn to critical social theory to ensure this development is both moral and sustainable for society. With this in mind, this project aims at uncovering the significance of the recent development in the spectacle of the celebrity; users of DMPs engage in a project of the self, developing the skills and tools in order to support themselves with their branded identity. These so called “influencers” can be found across many platforms, such as the Instagram model (Instagramer), Vine star (Viner), and YouTube creator (YouTuber). According to the narrative which has seemed to develop in regards to the influencer, their careers begin when they express themselves creatively, giving them an opportunity to build and engage an audience, leading to both a financial income - with advertising revenue and brand deals - and a gift income - with audience crowdfunding and mail-in gifts. This project includes interviews from influencers of one platform, YouTube, and their audiences, as a way to illustrate the phenomenon in more depth, by identifying the process of the commodified self. With the help of two theoretical fields - identity theory and marxist/critical political economy - this project aims to understand how DMPs, and their users, can generate exchange value from sociality taking place online. Sociality has an important use-value in identity processes, however, with the introduction of DMPs, the project of the self is thrown into the world of commodities, just as Giddens (1991) warns us.

‚Wikipedia works in practice, not in theory.’ Achieving alternative peer production through mundane routines, encyclopedic ideologies, and regimes of qualification

Christian Pentzold

University of Bremen, Germany

Wikipedia is autonomous co-production of free knowledge par excellence. With its numerous entries and users, the social project epitomizes the potential and power of an internet-based ‘info-communism’ (Firer-Blaess & Fuchs, 2014). In turn, given its public popularity and cultural significance, the information resource is seen as quintessential empirical evidence of a peer production that is radically decentralized, collaborative and nonproprietary; based on sharing resources and outputs among widely distributed, loosely connected individuals who cooperate with each other without relying on either market price or managerial commands (Benkler, 2006).

This paper takes its start from this vision of an alternative mode of knowledge compilation and form of knowledge repository and asks how and under which circumstances the endeavor is made to function. It argues that Wikipedia’s grand scheme and idea rests on the rather mundane affairs of establishing, maintaining, and ordering laborious work routines. Through their housekeeping or ‘mop and bucket’ work as they say, Wikipedians make themselves responsible and amenable to the project’s success. The responsibility is thus placed with a small group of active editors who commit themselves to Wikipedia’s goals and who qualify and (self-)govern their engagement so to follow tasks, organize activities, and sanction those who fail to be 'good' users.

Based on a three-year ethnography in the German- and English-speaking Wikipedia, the paper examines three stations: first, it reconstructs the anchoring practices of editing and coordinating. Second it shows how these are confounded by ideologies of Wikipedia as an encyclopedia, a mission, and a community. Finally, it examines the regimes of qualification contributors with their contributions become involved in as soon as they start to edit.

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