Communication Professionals’ Digital Labor in the Context of Liquid Modernity and ProsumptionOnur Coşkun
Having been shaped by information that goes beyond basic Web 2.0 practices, professional life has turned into a potentially infinitely expanding sphere where new production and consumption practices are developed for profit maximization. All production and consumption activities in the relevant sphere have become unthinkable independently of the post-panoptic capital that owns the property of information. In parallel with this process, the self-legitimizing structure of the liquid modern age fed by information has in fact both created new concepts and caused the transformation of some concepts familiar from the modern period. Prosumption and digital labor are just two of these concepts that form the agenda of the current study. The phenomenon of digital labor, for which Christan Fuchs draws the theoretical framework with reference to the labor of social media users, needs to be deepened and addressed from different perspectives as a result of the increase in the volume of professional business lines that produce with the act of work that can currently be defined as the digital labor force. This study discusses whether the information-based labor power of communication professionals has the characteristics of digital labor and aims to move the concept from the field of consumption to the field of production with a theoretical contribution while not denying the theoretical framework Fuchs outlined. With this debate, the study also investigates whether the labor power in question is in fact productive in the context of the Marxist labor theory of value. Based on a theoretical perspective within the scope of both approaches, this paper will attempt to analyze whether communication professionals’ digital labor produces surplus value, whether it is productive or not, and what the impact the prosumption dynamics of the fluid modern age have on both surplus value and productivity.
Akışkan Modernite ve Üretüketim Bağlamında İletişim Profesyonellerinin Dijital EmeğiOnur Coşkun
Temel Web 2.0 pratiklerinin ötesine geçen enformasyon üzerinden şekillenen profesyonel yaşam, yeni üretim ve tüketim pratiklerinin kâr maksimizasyonu gayesiyle geliştirildiği, sonsuza doğru genişleme potansiyeline sahip bir uzama dönüşmüştür. İlgili uzamdaki tüm üretim ve tüketim faaliyetleri enformasyon mülkiyetine sahip olan post-panoptik sermayeden bağımsız düşünülemez duruma gelmiştir. Nitekim bu süreçle koşut şekilde, enformasyondan beslenen akışkan modern çağın kendine has yapısı hem yeni kavramlar yaratmış hem de modern dönemden aşina olunan birtakım kavramların dönüşümüne sebep olmuştur. Okumakta olduğunuz çalışmanın merkezinde yer alan üretüketim ve dijital emek bu kavramlardan yalnızca ikisidir. Christan Fuchs’un sosyal medya kullanıcısının emeğini referans alarak teorik çerçevesini çizdiği dijital emek olgusu, bugün dijital emek gücü olarak tanımlanabilecek çalışma edimi ile üretim gerçekleştiren profesyonel iş kollarının hacminin artması neticesinde derinleştirilmeye, farklı bakış açılarıyla ele alınmaya gereksinim duymaktadır.
Fuchs’un sınırlarını çizdiği teorik çerçeveyi yadsımadan, tam aksine kuramsal katkı ile kavramı tüketim alanından üretim alanına doğru taşımayı amaç edinen bu çalışmada iletişim profesyonellerinin enformasyona dayalı emek güçlerinin dijital emek niteliği taşıyıp taşımadığı tartışmaya açılmıştır. Nitekim bahsi geçen tartışmayla birlikte söz konusu emek gücünün, Marksist emek-değer teorisi bağlamında üretken olup olmadığı da sorgulanmıştır. Her iki yaklaşım kapsamında teorik bir bakış açısıyla iletişim profesyonellerinin dijital emeğinin artı değer üretip üretmediği, üretken olup olmadığı ve gerek artı değer gerekse üretkenlik konusunda akışkan modern çağın üretüketim dinamiklerinin yarattığı etki analiz edilmeye çalışılacaktır.
Currently, the labor power of professionals in the business world, where information is used as the main source of production, paves the way for an important debate in communication studies. As a matter of fact, this possible discussion and brainstorming activity are also important in terms of enriching the field by considering the different theoretical frameworks to which it can contribute.
In light of these elements that constitute the motivation for the research, the main purpose of the current study is worth emphasizing for how it opens up a discussion of the labor power of communication professionals, as they have a significant presence among the occupational groups of the business world that use information as the main source of production. Do communication professionals who develop information-based products, services, and strategies and who build this production process for the account of a capital owner on a fulltime and paid basis produce surplus value, and is their labor productive in the context of then Marxist labor theory of value?
While this question opens up communication professionals’ labor power to discussion, it also claims to bring a new theoretical perspective to the phenomenon of digital labor. This phenomenon, the conceptual framework for which Christian Fuchs has drawn up, points to two aspects. According to Fuchs (2015), the labor of workers who provide the raw materials used in the production of information technology devices and the labor of social media users as they spend time online can be defined as alienated digital work (i.e., digital labor). In Fuch’s (2015) work Digital Labor and Karl Marx, he also considers the labor and working styles of content planners as digital labor. However, Fuchs also considers the labor power and working styles of content planners largely within the limits created by social media. This provides a great opportunity for deepening the concept.
The digital labor power of communication professionals who work full-time with social security on behalf of the owner of capital for a certain wage shares a common denominator with the labor power of social media users in terms of not having ownership of information; however, they also differ in many aspects. To summarize the differences, communication professionals’ labor is wage labor that is performed in exchange for the act of working fulltime. Social media users and the freelancers to whom Fuchs points earn money by producing and scheduling content through social media and do not work directly for a capital owner. They are not full-time, and while the labor of social media users is unpaid labor, the labor of freelancers is charged on a per-content basis. Considering all these conditions, the labor power communication professionals have while producing products, services, and strategies through information sets can be better understood by evaluating it within the digital labor phenomenon, and such an evaluation will contribute to the field of communication sciences.
Furthermore, the most important point where communication professionals’ digital labor and labor power differs from that of social media users is the sphere of their influence. Namely, social media users’ labor power that emerges through alienated digital work is embedded in and shapes the field of consumption, while communication professionals’ digital labor and labor power directly gives life to the field of production. What this statement means is that the products, services, and strategies communication professionals develop using pieces of information initiate the production leg of an infinite number of prosumption cycles. Communication professionals feed the flow of information in the liquid modern age where production and consumption are intertwined and make an important contribution to both ends of the cycle.
This study also claims that one of the basic life practices of the liquid modern age is prosumption, and the study’s theoretical framework underlines how both liquid modernity and prosumption have an important place in this framework, starting from the role communication professionals play in the construction of prosumption processes. Moreover, the first point of this study can be described as an attempt to drill into digital labor and will involve liquid modernity and the information highways that play an important role in the social life of liquid modernity. The second point will involve production and manufacture, which are considered the main cyclical acts of the age.
The last point will discuss the probe into digital labor in detail, and the conclusion will explain why the labor of communication professionals in the field of production should be considered as digital labor. For all these reasons, this study is thought to deepen the phenomenon of digital labor and thereby contribute to the field of communication sciences.