Language put to work: Cognitive capitalism, call centre labour, and worker inquiry
Enda Brophy (Simon Fraser University)
In the 1970s, Canadian political economist of communication Dallas Smythe suggested that labour was a “blindspot” for communication studies. Since then, the digital economy has been the scene of growing convergence between labour and communication. This process has been depicted in celebratory fashion by liberal-democratic theories of the empowered knowledge worker, and as the deskilling and subjugation of workers by Marxist labour process theorists. Seeking to move beyond these traditions, this presentation introduces an international inquiry into call centre work, one of the 21st century’s fastest-growing forms of employment. Inspired by the Italian theoretical and political tradition of autonomist marxism, or post-operaismo, this research has approached call centre work from the perspective of the conflict and collective organization it is producing. Drawing on case studies in Ireland, Canada, Italy, and New Zealand, the presentation considers the new subjectivities and new forms of resistance that are emerging as language, communication and culture are put to work on the digital assembly line.
About the presenter:
Enda Brophy is Assistant Professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. His areas of research interest are the political economy of communication, autonomist marxism, precarious employment and collective organising in the media and telecommunications industries, and call centre studies. He has translated two books by Italian scholars: for Giovanna Dalla Costa, The Work of Love: Unpaid Housework, Poverty and Sexual Violence at the Dawn of the 21st Century, published by Autonomedia in 2009; for Gigi Roggero, The Production of Living Knowledge: Crisis of the University and Transformation of Labor in Europe and North America, forthcoming from Temple University Press. He is currently preparing a manuscript on labour resistance in the call centre.
Media @ Sydney is presented by the Department of Media and Communications, University of Sydney: http://sydney.edu.au/arts/media_communications/
For further information, contact Gerard Goggin: