Virtually Absent: The Gendered Histories and Economies of Digital Labour

At a time when users of online platforms are themselves the products of the advertising deals delivering their experience, we are challenged to provide a fitting vocabulary for the forms of exploitation and exchange in which we find ourselves ambivalent participants

Melissa Gregg; Rutvica Andrijasevic


Scholarcy highlights

  • 2 feminist review 123 virtually absent third-party contractors whose distance ameliorates the difficulties of maintaining an employment pool to edit clearly distressing material
  • In much of the literature arising in tandem with digital labour studies, a feminist perspective has not come naturally and has sometimes required active assertion by determined colleagues
  • From initial discussions around social media services and the ‘free labour’ of data extraction on proprietary platforms to more recent studies of algorithmic management and the threat of automation arising with AI, feminists’ contributions to the literature on technology and work have too often been obliged to explain the gendered history of hidden labour that otherwise appears to have little precedent
  • The literature analysing ‘virtual work’ initially drew from some unhelpful foundations, such as the Marxist paradigm that risks situating the work of reproduction as inferior supplement
  • Jarrett’s notion of the ‘digital housewife’ put feminist thinking at the centre of digital labour studies and its political underpinnings, highlighting the unique value produced by users in this new, data-dependent economy
  • Kerry Mackereth’s article ‘Mechanical maids and family androids’ is an example of scholarship that works across disciplines to investigate the connection between productive and reproductive digital labour, old and new relations of domination, as well as resistance to these ingrained legacies
  • Our aim is to both show and denounce how gender, race and class operate as key aspects of digital platform production and make manifest location-specific systems of domination and exploitation

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