The computerization of the economy has shifted the landscape in terms of the relations of human persons and digital machinery, systematically moving a large majority of people toward economically essential but marginal roles. In this new division of labor, much of the work undertaken by humans is hidden, uncompensated or poorly compensated, and naturalized as part of what it means to be a “user” of digital technology. In my work with Bonnie Nardi, we examine instances of this kind of participation in economic production, which we dub “heteromation.” Heteromation is a new logic of capital accumulation, which extracts economic value from low-cost or free labor in computer-mediated networks. I will present a précis of our book with the above title (2016, MIT Press), where we study the mechanisms, drivers, and value contributions of a wide variety of heteromated labor.

Hamid Ekbia is Professor of Informatics, Cognitive Science, and International Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he also directs the Center for Research on Mediated Interaction. He is interested in the political economy of computing and in how technologies mediate cultural, socio-economic, and geo-political relations of modern societies. His co-authored book, Heteromation and Other Stories of Computing and Capitalism (MIT Press, 2016), examines new computer-mediated modes of value extraction in capitalist economies. His earlier book Artificial Dreams: The Quest for Non-Biological Intelligence (Cambridge University Press, 2008) was a critical-technical analysis of Artificial Intelligence. He is the co-editor of a volume titled Big Data Is Not a Monolith (MIT Press, 2016). Hamid is currently a Senior Fellow at IFK, Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften, in Vienna, where he studies drones as technologies of (dis)order.


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