Digital Labour Remuneration and the Crypto-Commodification of Non-Work

Authors: Alex Quesnel*, Carleton University
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: digital labour, platform capitalism, cryptocurrency, commodification, non-work, valorization, dispossession, leisure
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 34
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Since the rise of platform capitalism in the 2010s, digital labour scholarship has tended to focus on traditional spaces and sectors defined by an app-mediated employer-employee relationship. But this period of time has also seen the rapid commodification of activities once considered outside of the reach of capital. This is particularly evident in the realm of cryptocurrency, the rise of which parallels that of the major platforms. By applying the Marxian concept of valorization, this paper will demonstrate how three crypto-oriented platforms are using this new financial tool - and the unregulated economic space in which it operates - to accelerate the commodification of digital non-work and create new avenues for accumulation and dispossession. First, Brave browser awards users Basic Attention Tokens (BAT) for viewing its curated advertisements. Second, Everipedia has monetized online encyclopedia contributions with its IQ token. Third, StormX uses gamification to reward its users for viewing sponsored content. Each of these platforms seeks to supplant existing realms of non-work, which until recently have operated independent of market logic. Whether the user is leisurely scrolling through an internet browser, voluntarily editing an encyclopedia article, or casually playing video games on a smartphone, these areas of social life no longer exist outside the extractive forces of capital. This paper will conclude with a discussion of the political ramifications of compensating users for activity typically associated with leisure rather than labour.

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