Keynote address at the Open Institute V2, December 15-20, Madeira

funchalI am very excited to be presenting one of the keynote addresses at this year’s Open Institute V2 in Funchal, Madeira island’s capital, Portugal. I will be speaking on the limits to mobilization. More on the event theme below.

Open in a Time of Closure

Many of the ideals around ‘open’ in the last two decades are facing dramatic retrogression. The open Internet is under threat, already lost in much of the world. Borders are closing in the West; negative impacts of the closed scientific/academic publication system are becoming clearer; public speech and transparency are suffering throughout the world. Meanwhile, states are imprisoning principled practitioners of agonistic openness like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Texas native Reality Winner with a vigor not shown since the enlightenment.

How do the last few years challenge or reinforce the need for openness? Can principles of openness developed in prior decades survive closure? Are new techniques necessary?

Open Institute V2, “Open in a Time of Closure,” seeks to explore these themes with an emphasis on extreme or agonistic approaches to free/open practices.

New Publication: Crisis of Command: Theorizing Value in New Media

Communication_TheoryMy latest contribution to theorizing value in new media is now available online from Communication Theory.

Abstract

Theorists of free labor have argued that users produce value directly for capital through unwaged participation in online social media platforms. I argue that this interpretation of value is misguided. I begin with a brief overview of the labor theory of value as it has been developed by political economists in the context of new media. I then use Marxian crisis theory to demonstrate the limitations of the concept of free labor. I also elaborate how value is created within media markets through a complex set of interactions among media firms, market researchers, advertisers, finance capital, and unwaged content producers. I conclude with a discussion of the consequences of free labor theory for Marxian politics.

Come join me for Surplus3: Labour and the Digital

Untitled-3I am participating in this wonderful symposium celebrating the publication of Nick Dyer-Witheford’s most recent book Cyber-Proletariat: Global Labour in the Digital Vortex. Participants will have 3 minutes to speak to a given concept. That’s faster than green grass through a goose folks. Sounds fun! See you at the Bahen Centre for Information Technology, Tuesday October 20th at 7pm.

New publication: OUR Walmart: a case study of connective action

RICS
OUR Walmart: a case study of connective action, by Brett Caraway
Abstract
This article analyzes communication practices within networked social movements by exploring the network structure of an organization responsible for numerous labor actions and campaigns targeting the retail giant Walmart. This case study of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) represents an initial attempt to map the network structure of an emergent form of labor organization. To better understand the relationship between communication and collective action, I utilize Bennett and Segerberg’s [(2012). The logic of connective action: Digital media and the personalization of contentious politics. Information, Communication & Society, 15(5), 29] model of connective action to examine the organizational structure of OUR Walmart. I conducted semi-structured interviews with a dozen union representatives, OUR Walmart members, and current and former Walmart employees. My intention is to (1) delineate the network structure of a new and significant organizational form of class struggle and (2) consider the utility and validity of the logic of connective action. I conclude with a consideration of the limitations and affordances of the network structure of OUR Walmart for workers engaged in struggles for better working conditions and higher wages. This research finds support for Bennett and Segerberg’s model of large-scale action networks. Moreover, this research suggests that organizationally enabled networks are an effective means of coordinating class struggle.

Full article available HERE

Come join me for Conscious Activism Documentary Series

web_tile_docseriesI’ll be taking part in a panel around a screening of #Chicago Girl at Hart House as part of the Hancock Lecture Series on February 9th from 6-9pm.

Come witness the new kind of revolution manifested in recent years through computer technology and social media with #ChicagoGirl: The Social Network Takes on a Dictator. This documentary tells the story of teenager Ala’a Basatneh who helps to coordinate the Syrian revolution from her Chicago home through Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Google maps, and camera phones. Through these means Ala’a helps to network activists on the ground in Syria to gain momentum in facing a dictator and to gather evidence through camera technology to inform the world of the human rights atrocities occurring.

This documentary illuminates how technology and media that have become part of everyday living for many young people can be used as tools for activism and solidarity with causes occurring all over the world.

Watch the trailer: http://www.chicagogirlfilm.com/#!trailer/c1aol

For more info: http://harthouse.ca/events/documentary-series-chicagogirl-the-social-network-takes-on-a-dictator/

Come join me for Lunch and Learn at Hart House

Harthouse_torontoPart of the 2015 Hart House Hancock Lecture: The Myth of Slacktivism

Lunch and Learn: How to Kickstart Your Own Slacktivist Movement

Details: Speakers will be invited to share their experience with social media in non-profit and fundraising realms in an informal lunch setting. Students will be prompted to discuss practical applications of their skills and passions, discuss possibilities and limitations of social media activism, and network with illustrious speakers in a comfortable environment.

Speakers include Sheila Sampath, founder and editor of Shameless Magazine and Brett Caraway, Professor of Digital Media and Cultural Studies at UTM and iSchool.

When: Wed., Jan. 21, 2015, 11:30 am-1: 30 pm
Where: South Dining Room, Hart House
Cost: Free / Lunch provided / Register online

http://harthouse.ca/events/lunch-and-learn-how-to-kickstart-your-own-slacktivist-movement/

ICCIT Student Samantha Holmes Featured on CBC The National

living_digital
ICCIT student Samantha Holmes was recently featured on The National. In fact, our whole class (CCT109 Contemporary Communication Technology) managed to ride Samantha’s coattails for a few seconds. See the video at the link below (10:33) and be sure to check out Samantha’s YouTube channel while you are at it.

Living the Digital Dream
AwkwardFunk95

Social Media & Society 2014

SMS_LOGO_mediumI will be presenting some of my current research on networked social movements at the 2014 International Conference of Social Media & Society at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto. This particular research examines the utilization of social media platforms by a number of Canadian labor unions for purposes of recruitment and labor action coordination.

Participation or Exploitation?

Wages For Facebook, 2014. Poster design by Eric Nylund and Laurel Ptak.

Wages For Facebook, 2014. Poster design by Eric Nylund and Laurel Ptak.

I’ll be leading two sessions in this wonderful reading group put together by my intrepid ICCIT comrade Nicole Cohen and Christine Shaw of Blackwood Gallery. I’ll be discussing the economics of advertising in social media and the rise of networked social movements. Be sure to check out the full schedule and suggested readings at the following link: Blackwood Gallery

2015 UDC Conference at the University of Toronto

UDC 2015 Conference

2015 UDC Conference

The Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology (ICCIT) will host the 2015 Union for Democratic Communications conference May 1st-3rd at the downtown campus of the University of Toronto. The call for papers is available on the conference website: http://udc2015.wordpress.com/cfp/

We look forward to seeing you in Toronto!

CCA and 40th Anniversary of SFU School of Communication

First Peoples Building, University of Victoria

I have had the pleasure of spending the last week here in British Columbia. My first stop was the beautiful city of Victoria and the annual conference of the Canadian Communication Association. The University of Victoria campus was stunning and I very much enjoyed the festive atmosphere of the congress. This was my first time to publicly present the work that I have been doing on the Walmart workers who have recently stood up to the firm and demanded better pay and working conditions. I am excited about this research and I love drawing attention to the efforts of the UFCW and Walmart employees. Their courage and determination are inspiring.

I then left CCA and made the short journey over to Vancouver where I attended an international conference in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University. This was one of the best conferences I have ever attended. The conference featured such notables from our field as Jack Qiu, Mark Andrejevic, Dan Schiller, and Richard Maxwell. I was reminded why I was so desperate to come to Canada in the first place. Here was a collection of the world’s best and brightest looking toward the coming collapse and giving careful consideration to the potentials of the post-capitalist age.

Douglas-fir trees with people for scale

For my part I was invited to revisit an old and familiar topic. There was not one but two panels on the audience commodity theory. And though I don’t place any value in the theory I do value the debate and the opportunity to critique the theory in the home department of Dallas Smythe. As I hear so much about the so-called rationalization of audience behavior in the context of new media, I also see an overabundance of shady social media management firms and compromised automated data analytic services. I have developed a deeper economic critique of the notion of demand management as it pertains to user activity and I appreciate the opportunity to give it a test-run at SFU.

It has been both a fun and productive week but I am tired and looking forward to a good night’s rest in my own bed.

Black Friday worker action against Walmart

Walmart is the world’s largest private employer and is absolutely vicious in its hostility toward labor. Resistance to abysmally low pay and poor working conditions has been fomenting for months as workers have spontaneously gone on strike at several Walmart locations. Now workers are attempting to harness the potential of online social media to facilitate a much larger mobilization of labor. Organizers are calling for a US nationwide strike this Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving which is one of the most popular shopping days of the year). This Black Friday support the 2 million plus workers who have made Walmart one of the most financially successful companies in history as they fight for their fair share of the value which they produce. To learn more and find out what you can do to support these workers see below.

Making Change At Walmart
Making Change at Walmart Facebook page

Jezebel showcases teens’ racist post-election tweets

I had my fair share of racist commentary coming across my newsfeed in the immediate aftermath of the election. Sadly, I expected no less. As someone who uses online social networks for very public performances of self I often marvel at others who are seemingly oblivious to the public and permanent nature of these systems. Here’s an interesting example of a potential consequence of free speech in the age of online social networking. It certainly begs the question why don’t we have media literacy courses as a required component of our education system? See the link below for more.

Racist Teens Forced to Answer for Tweets About the ‘Nigger’ President