It is amazing how accurate Tiziana Terranova’s article ‘Free Labor’ remains even some 12 years after it was published. Part of the value of the piece was in Terranova’s prophetic observations that were based at the time on the early emergence of a particular direction in web cultures. Terranova’s central argument was simply based upon the idea that the web is based upon lots of different types of unwaged free labor. The descriptions of this free labor are understandably a little dated, but the basic argument stands up really well. In fact with social media and user generated content a number of writers have noted that Terranova’s arguments have become even more pertinent. The value of some of the social media platforms is testament to how free labor is, as Terranova put it, central to capitalism and the digital economy. There is quite a bit to mine from Terranova’s early reflections on the nature of work and play in contemporary culture.
In the above passage for example Terranova broadens out the types of activity that we might think of as labor as they come to generate value for capitalist organisations. It is clear now that we can add building and maintaining a Facebook profile to this list, amongst many other things.