Making Media Work: Time, Space, Identity, and Labor in Information and Communication Infrastructures
Abstract: What is information labor? Understanding any "new" media infrastructure — be it the “lightning lines” of the telegraph in the 1840s, the “electronic brain” of the digital computer in the 1940s, the “electronic hearth” of the television in the 1970s, or the “information superhighway” of the World Wide Web — requires attention to the space, time, and social relations of the human work and workers bound up in that infrastructure. This talk explores how labor of a particular sort is mobilized to circulate information, while the circulation of that information simultaneously begins to alter the parameters of that labor.
Greg Downey is the author of Telegraph Messenger Boys: Labor, Technology, and Geography 1850-1950 (2002), Closed Captioning: Subtitling, Stenography, and the Digital Convergence of Text with Television (2008), and Technology and Communication in American History (2011). He is also co-editor of Uncovering Labor in Information Revolutions, 1750-2000 (with Aad Blok, 2004) and Science in Print: Essays on the History of Science and the Culture of Print (with Rima Apple and Stephen Vaughn, 2012). His current work focuses on the “metadata labor” of library professionals, data-driven journalists, and academic researchers.