Reflections on the Political Economy of Digital Labour

A lecture by Professor Christian Fuchs, University of Westminster.
Jonathan Hardy will be chair and discussant.


In public and academic debates, journalism and management ideology, there is a lot of talk about the emergence of a qualitatively new Internet that is termed “social media” or “web 2.0”. In this talk I challenge such claims that go hand in hand with the ideas that we are experiencing the emergence of participatory culture and Facebook revolutions. I argue that deepening class relations are at the heart of contemporary capitalism and capitalist social media, that we need to engage with Karl Marx’s theory in order to understand society, inequality and the media landscape today, and that the transformation of paid into unpaid or lowly paid precarious labour is at the heart of the transformations of labour today. I situate the emergence of so-called commercial social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in the context of what can be termed digital labour – capital’s exploitation of users’ work. In order to understand digital labour, we need to see the global division of labour underlying it and the role that targeted advertising plays for the capital accumulation model of social media corporations. I conclude that we need to re-invent the Internet in order to establish truly social media.

Christian Fuchs is professor of social media at the University of Westminster’s Communication and Media Research Institute and the Centre for Social Media Resarch. He is editor of tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique ( and chair of the European Sociological Association’s Research Network 18 – Sociology of Communications and Media Research. He is author of books such as Social Media: A Critical Introduction (2014), Digital Labour and Karl Marx (2014), OccupyMedia! The Occupy Movement and Social Media in Crisis Capitalism (2014), Foundations of Critical Media and Information Studies (2011), Internet and Society. Social Theory in the Information Age (2008). Website:

Room EB.2.44
University of East London, Docklands Campus