Valorising the Cultural Content of the Commodity: On Immaterial Labour and New Forms of Informational Work

Valorising the Cultural Content of the Commodity: On Immaterial Labour and New Forms of Informational Work

Jonathan Foster (University of Sheffield, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4082-5.ch011
OnDemand PDF Download:
$37.50

Abstract

A change in the informational content of the commodity, along with the emergence of a decentralized networked communications environment, has given rise to new forms of informational work. Drawing on the thesis of immaterial labour this chapter explores how these new forms of informational work e.g. information aggregation systems for accessing the judgments of many minds, the distribution of digital free, and opportunities for the co-production of information goods, have emerged to valorise the cultural content of the commodity. The chapter begins by introducing the topic of information goods, and by identifying the main tenets of immaterial labour. This is followed by a discussion of these new forms of informational work within the context of proprietary and non-proprietary information production. The chapter concludes with a critique of the exploitation and use of immaterial labour in a networked information economy.
Chapter Preview
Top

Information Goods

An economy can be differentiated from other sectors of society by virtue of its focus on the organized production, distribution, exchange, and consumption of tangible and intangible goods. The economic value of tangible goods, e.g. food, clothes, a house, derives from their physical properties; while the economic value of intangible goods, e.g. a book, film, a computer program, derives from the value of the informational content that they contain. An important implication of the difference in value is that physical, tangible goods are rival; while informational, intangible goods are non-rival. Rival goods are goods where their consumption by one person necessarily diminishes the capacity of a second person to consume the same goods. One person’s consumption of an apple for example necessarily diminishes the capacity of a second person to consume the same apple. In contrast one person’s reading of an e-book does not necessarily diminish the capacity of a second person to read the same text. My reading of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare in digital form does not necessarily diminish the capacity of another reader to read the same text. Additionally my digital copy of The Complete Works is also non-rival in a secondary sense, in that once the initial digital copy is created further copies of the same text can be created at negligible cost. This is in contrast to the resources needed to produce additional items of tangible physical goods.

Apples are rival. If I eat this apple, you cannot eat it. If you nonetheless want to eat an apple, more resources (trees, labor) need to be diverted from, say, building chairs, to growing apples, to satisfy you. The social cost of your consuming the second apple is the cost of not using the resources needed to grow the second apple (the wood from the tree) in their next best use (Benkler, 2006: 36).

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset