The thesis written by Cote and Pybus concerns several concepts regarding Facebook, including immaterial labour, immaterial labour 2.0 and biopower. In order to understand the relation between these concepts vis-a-vis Facebook, we must first understand what each concept involves. These are explained as follows.
Everyone reading this blog post knows what Facebook is, regardless of whether or not they use it. Facebook will hit One Billion users any day now (Owen Thomas), with 526 million of those being daily active users (Nicholas Carlson). 30% of active users are between the ages of 18 – 25 (Cote & Pybus, pg 15). Facebook is first and foremost a social sphere, a place to digitally ‘hang out’ with friends. Well, that is its what it ‘supposed’ to be used for. People can participate in Facebook by posting their own statuses and photos; and by ‘liking’ and commenting on other people’s statuses and photos. People can also ‘like’ the pages of celebrities, commodities and popular culture, such as movies, musicians and TV shows, with these pages resulting in millions of likes.
Top ten most liked pages
Facebook for every phone 131 million
Facebook 71.8 million
Texas hold em poker 64.8 million
Youtube 62.4 million
Eminem 60.8 million
Rhianna 60.1 million
The Simpsons 54.5 million
Shakira 54.2 million
Lady Gaga 53.2 million
Michael Jackson 51.7 million
All of them went up at least 100,000 likes since I checked them last week. Although Facebook is now in it’s 6th year of being open to the public, it is still growing exponentially. Not just in the number of subscribers; but the amount of subscribers who maintain a presence on Facebook through posting, liking and commenting.
The words of entrepreneur and Facebook president Sean Parker from 2010 movie The Social Network were adjusted by Owen Thomas to refer to the current amount of Facebook users,
“One billion users isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Two billion users.”
The easiest way to understand what immaterial labour is, is to compare it to our understanding of labour. Workers who are ‘labourers’ usually are in a ‘hands on’ type of job, such as carpentry, painting, or automotive repairs. These are forms of labour which result in a firm product. Immaterial labour is work which does not produce a product, instead it “Creates immaterial products, such as knowledge, information, communication, a relationship, or an emotional response.” (Hardt & Negri 2004, pg 108).
Immaterial Labour 2.0
As the Web evolved into Web 2.0, Cote and Pybus posit that immaterial labour, as introduced by Lazzarato in 1996, must evolve into immaterial labour 2.0. Immaterial Labour 2.0 uses the explanation of what immaterial labour is as written by Lazzarato,
“The activity that produces the “cultural content” of the commodity, immaterial labor involves a series of activities that are not normally recognized as “work”—in other words, the kinds of activities involved in defining and fixing cultural and artistic standards, fashions, tastes, consumer norms, and, more strategically, public opinion.”
Immaterial Labour 2.0 places this into the realm of Facebook. People posting photos, links, and statuses is all a form of immaterial labour 2.0. All this information becomes free knowledge, owned by Facebook to be used by anyone in any way they decide. In this sense, Facebook is training people to become used to divulging information for free, on a constant basis.
Learning to Immaterial Labour and Develop Affective Capacity
When we use Facebook, updating status’, post images, links etc we do so to maintain particular kinds of social and increasingly political and economic relationships. Why do we update so much? Judith Butler (cited in Cote & Pybus 2011 pg 11) believes it is, “To count as a subject and become recognisable”. Facebook is a well known social media network with nearly one billion users worldwide – so we as users see the space as a way to increase our social activity (inviting other users to participate and connect and become part of the public sphere. Facebook has the desire to create a network of friends, establish comparative intelligibility and information circulation.
Jenny Sunden (cited in Cote & Pybus 2011, pg 12) says that we continue using these sites because the gap between reality and virtual world continues to get smaller and smaller. We used to see computers as a fixed window we looked in to, but now it has shifted, and is part of our daily lives. For example, my phone is now part of my life and comes with me everywhere I go. Facebook is also part of everyday life. If you don’t have an account you are virtually non existent to a virtual world with nearly a billion users. Even if you do have an account but do not update your page on a regular basis, you are also seen as non existent user. Bianca’s father has facebook but doesn’t use it often, therefore she doesn’t consider him having one. We use the network site to construct what we want to project to other users. You can create a reality of yourself within this virtual world and find common ground with others.
In 2005, NewsCorp purchased MySpace for more than half a billion dollars. They did this because there had been a shift in the way people accessed media, and traditional ways of finding out information, such as newspapers, weren’t quite cutting it anymore. Television viewing is also down, with social media websites on the rise.
The word ‘audience’ isn’t really one that can be described to the participants of social networks. While there is a certain viewer aspect to it, it is more active, with people able to comment on things as they happen, instead of waiting to discuss them around the water cooler at work the next day. The viewer is also the creator. You can comment on things as they happen, which is participation, this can refer to television shows, or political events. “We have shifted from the static world of the couch potato to the dynamic one of the blogger or social media, busily updating.” (Cote and Pybus) These days, instead of waiting for the 6pm news, we can find out things as they happen. Whether its world events or whether your friend is having a party on Saturday, and who is attending.
Digital Archive of the Self.
In order for Facebook to increase its value, it has to encourage users to stick with them and use it more, no matter what changes they make to it. Due to the nature of social media, websites can die as quickly as they become popular and this is not what Facebook wants to happen. They want to continue being the main social media website that people visit, not go the way of Friendster and MySpace.
Facebook is a digital archive. This is different from regular archives because it’s not just read only. Users can change material, offer opinions, and all sorts of other things. Your Facebook profile becomes a digital archive of yourself. It contains your personal information like your date of birth, it has photos of you, it remembers where you’ve been. It is “always in the middle of being updated”. (Cote and Pybus)
Facebook Terms of Services
Whether you realise or not, Facebook owns everything you post on it. Their terms of service, something that few people actually read, details the below:
You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publically perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works, and distribute any User Content [remotely related to you].
This is part of the capitalistic nature of Facebook, because they are a money making enterprise and they can use your information to sell ads, and such.
Coté, M, & Pybus, J, 2011, Immaterial Labour 2.0. or, Learning to Like Social Networks, Oliver Leistert
& Theo Röhle (eds.)
Hardt, M, & Negri, A, 2000, Empire, Harvard university press, London, England
Hardt, M, & Negri, A, 2000, Empire, Harvard university press, London, england