Trebor Scholz is a writer, conference organizer, Assistant Professor in Media & Culture, and Director of the conference series The Politics of Digital Culture at The New School in NYC. He also founded the Institute for Distributed Creativity that is known for its online discussions of critical Internet culture, specifically the ruthless casualization of digital labor, ludocapitalism, distributed politics, digital media and learning, radical media activism, and micro-histories of media art. Trebor is co-editor The Art of Free Cooperation, a book about online collaboration, and editor of The Internet as Playground and Factory, forthcoming from Routledge. He holds a PhD in Media Theory and a grant from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Forthcoming edited collections by Trebor include The Digital Media Pedagogy Reader and The Future University.
What one insight from your field, approach, method, findings etc. do you think is most important for scholars working in this topical area?
Shifts in labor markets have drawn attention to places where labor largely goes unseen. Various scholars have started to explore the ambivalent questions around seamless, pleasurable participation vs. inscrutable commercial surveillance and expropriation online but this topic, or call it insight, needs further discussion.
What are two issues that are not adequately treated within current work on cultural production in the digital age in your field or in others?
The struggle over the terms of our own participation in the Social Web is not sufficiently treated. Rights are limited to use rights. Given that many of our data are permanent, it is hard to maintain the right to act differently from our past. While government regulators might consider applying labor law to the Internet, what can we do on the grassroots level right now? The complete refusal of proprietary or commercial environments is not a realistic response for most cultural producers but we can demand an expiration time for our data and access to the data that are collected about us.
I also suggest further exploration of terms like “digital labor,” “exploitation,” or “expropriation” beyond oppositional binaries of celebration or dismissal, tied to specific tools and services.
Are humanistic values such as justice, equality, democracy or (insert preferred humanistic value here) currently served by cultural production in a digital networked environment?
There needs to be more discussion about the values that are embedded in the DNA of for-profit networked environments. An adequate digital fluency for the 21st century should demonstrate how to navigate the Social Web consistent with values like distributive justice, transparency, and the public interest.