Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization
The papers in this issue of ephemera have their origins in a conference, ‘Digital Labour: Workers, Authors, Citizens’, held at the University of Western Ontario on October 16- 18, 2009. The conference was organized by the Digital Labour Group, an assembly of scholars from within the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS), a nondepartmentalized unit that houses programs in Library and Information Science, Journalism, and Media Studies. While the Faculty has always, since its origins more than a decade ago in the heady times of the dot.com boom, identified itself as ‘interdisciplinary’, the practical meaning of this claim has often been vague and sometimes contentious. In 2008, however, in the very different climate of global economic crisis, an exploratory meeting of faculty who saw their work as related to digital technologies and labour revealed a surprising degree of convergence. Some studied the material working conditions and cultural products of places like newsrooms, recording studios, libraries or video game companies. Others analyzed more abstract processes, such as neo-liberal regulatory regimes or struggles around intellectual property rights and access to information. Still others examined the ways in whichever more intimate aspects of human sociality were being rendered profitable for capital in the wake of digital media. But what emerged from the first encounters of the Digital Labour Group was a common commitment to understanding the complex political, social and cultural implications of new forms of digital labour around the globe.