Abolish Slavery in My Smartphone: Rethinking Capitalism, China, and Digital Labor

Professor Jack Linchuan Qiu, School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Co-presented with the Department of Media and Communications, and the Sydney Democracy Network, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney

18 hours a day image

Image: @LeilaLaTresSage leilalaldomptable.wordpress.com

30 March, 2017

In his new book Goodbye iSlave: A Manifesto for Digital Abolition ( 2016), Jack Qiu contends that features of enslavement have crept into the digital media industries, leading to the worsening of labour conditions along the assembly line and in the data mine, creating a generation of iSlaves trapped in a global economic system that relies upon and studiously ignores their oppression.

How can people fight back, start a new abolition movement, using not only conventional tools of activism including body politics but also the same digital media instruments such as the smartphone?

Drawing from his action research in China, lessons from history, and studies of contemporary labour campaigns globally, Qiu shall argue that the expansion of slave systems is always accompanied by endeavours of antislavery when the exploited resist the powers that be, when citizens join the struggle to set humanity free. Although digital abolition at its present stage is still inchoate, it is undoubtedly an important first step. Its long-term implication shall not be underestimated.

iSlaves have nothing to lose but their chains; they have a world to win.


Jack Qiu

Professor Jack Linchuan Qiu is Professor at the School of Journalism and Communication, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he serves as deputy director of the C-Centre (Centre for Chinese Media and Comparative Communication Research). His publications include Goodbye iSlave (2016), World’s Factory in the Information Age (2013), Working-Class Network Society (2009), Mobile Communication and Society (co-authored, 2006). He also works with grassroots NGOs and provides consultancy services for international organisations.