Why Bolivia matters to the future of digital economies (plus three talks and one new book!)

It’s been a few months in the making, and now it’s happening: I’ll be in Bolivia to deliver a few talks, promote my new book in Spanish, meet a bunch of interesting people, and travel into the future of digital economies in the world’s largest salt flats (skip to the end of this post to know more about this specific point).

Bolivia is an effervescent nation that has embarked in an ambitious plan for digital transition, with, among many other things, the recently approved “law of digital citizenship” (ley de ciudadanía digital) and the creation of governmental bodies devoted to the implementation of data-related and digital technology-enhanced policies, such as the AGETIC (Agencia de Gobierno Electrónico y Tecnologías de Información y Comunicación) and the ADSIB (Agencia para el Desarrollo de la Sociedad de la Información). Also, there are lively cultural debates, grassroots projects, hackerspaces, tech hubs, independent ISPs, hackatons, game jams, etc. going on in the major cities of La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Potosì.

What I’ll be doing in Bolivia? I’ll discuss collective ownership of data and how to overcome digital labor by adopting suma irnakaña (which, in aymara language, means “knowing how to work”) with students, academics, activists, and policymakers. Here’s the schedule so far (click to enlarge):



Tue, July 10, 2018,
Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (UMSA)
Auditorio de la carrera de sociología
Piso 2, Edificio René Zavaleta
La Paz



Tue, July 10, 2018,
Centro cultural Simon I. Patiño
Potosi 1450



Wed, July 11, 2018,
Hall de la Vicepresidencia del Estado
calle Mercado,
esquina Ayacucho
La Paz

These conferences will also allow me to say a few words about my new book, which is actually an anthology of articles and chapters that I’ve published in the last decade, plus an unpublished essay about artificial intelligence and micro-work. It is also my first book published in Spanish EVER, so I’m pretty excited. The title is Trabajo, conocimiento y vigilancia. 5 ensayos sobre tecnología (“Work, Knowledge, and Surveillance. Five essays on technology”) and it has been edited by Khantuta Muruchi, to whom goes my gratitude.

The chapters featured in this book are: A History of Virulence: The Body and Computer Culture in the 1980s (initially published in the journal Body & Society, 2010); The Wikipedian, the academic, and the vandal, (initially published in the book “Wikipédia, objet scientifique non identifié”, 2015); Four Theses on Digital Mass Surveillance and the Negotiation Of Privacy (initially presented at the 8th Annual Privacy Law Scholar Congress, Berkeley, USA, 2015); Is There a Global Digital Labor Culture? Marginalization of work, global inequalities, and coloniality (initially presented at the 2nd symposium of the PARGC, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, 2016);  Artificial Intelligence: will humans replace robots? (unpublished).

What else… I’ll be travelling to the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt desert and the host of one of the biggest plants for the processing of lithium. Seems pretty remote from my topics, doesn’t it? And yet it has to a lot to do with the continuities between material and immaterial economies. In an essay published in 2016 in the Monthly Review, Christian Fuchs argued that present-day international division of digital labor involves “human subjects using technologies of labor on objects of labor” produced by assembly workers building digital equipments using natural resources as inputs. Thus, “the very foundation of global digital labor” is the extraction and processing of minerals.

In particular, recent researches have highlighted the importance of Rare earth elements (REE) and critical metals in the energy transition. And this is where countries like Bolivia come into play. Such minerals are crucial parts of the digital transformation that is at the heart of my research activity. In particular, lithium impacts both automation and digital labor. Imagine a 100% electric vehicle world: lithium demand would multiply by thirty to propell the cars. When it comes to mobile phones batteries, lithium is of capital importance: users worldwide are expected to exceed five billion by next year, thus lithium’s demand is expected to increase +2898% according to a recent UBS estimate. To start looking into how REE mining influences information production, I decided to visit the plantas de industrialización de litio in the Salar de Uyuni (which, incidentally, looks pretty lunar this time of the year, with temperatures plummeting to -10 at night…).

So whish me good luck and buen viaje and stay tuned for more info from South America.

New York to San Francisco: my U.S. conference tour (October 20-29, 2015)

If you happen to be in one of these fine US cities, come meet me. I’ll be on a tour to promote a coupla books of mine. Talks are open (but you have to register), plus it’s always a pleasure to have a chat afterwards.

Tour dates

New York City, The New School
Digital Labor in a Material World
I’ll be presenting my latest book Qu’est-ce que le digital labor? (INA, 2015) at the New School, ft. Richard Maxwell (Queens College, CUNY),  Laura Y. Liu and Trebor Scholz (New School).
Oct. 20, 2015
The New School, Orozco Room, 66 West 12th Street, 
Room A712
, New York, NY 10011.


Pittsburgh, City of Asylum
Four theses on mass surveillance and privacy negotiation
A salon reading about my book Against the Hypothesis of the End of Privacy (Springer, 2014) at the-now mythical Pittsburgh City of Asylum, a sanctuary for exiled and endangered writers in residence.
Oct. 22, 2015
City of Asylum, 330 Sampsonia Way, Pittsburgh,PA 15212.

Boston, Boston Book Festival
Trolls (and what they do to the public sphere)
The French Cultural Center host a talks co-presented with the Boston Book Festival. I’ll be chatting with internet activist Willow Brugh about problematic speech online, its dark sides and how to turn it into a field of opportunities for social justice and civil rights. Somewhat based to my book Les Liaisons Numériques (Seuil, 2010).
Oct. 24, 2015
The French Cultural Center, 53 Marlborough Street, Boston, MA 02116.


Berkeley, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley Center for New Media
Negotiating privacy and transparency: a digital labor?
My keynote speech at the Manufacturing Transparency international conference. Based on my books Against the Hypothesis of the End of Privacy (Springer, 2014) and Qu’est-ce que le digital labor? (INA, 2015).
Oct. 28, 2015
Berkeley Center for New Media, 426 Sutardja Dai Hall, University of California Berkeley, CA 94720.

Santa Clara, Santa Clara University, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
How can someone be a troll?
From Montesqieu to internet trolls… A public lecture at the very heart of the Silicon Valley, to define the ethical role of tech companies in overcoming present-day ambivalent attitudes towards trolling. Based on my books Les Liaisons Numériques (Seuil, 2010) and Qu’est-ce que le digital labor? (INA, 2015).
Oct. 29, 2015
Santa Clara University, Vari Hall, The Wiegand Center, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053.

NB: unfortunately, due to a time conflict the seminar about “pro-ana” and ED-sufferers online communities previously scheduled at the University of Southern California, Institute for Health Promotion Research, Los Angeles, has been cancelled.

Thanks to the Book Department of the NYC French Embassy and the San Francisco French consulate for building this thing up from scratch.

Chinese media about “Qu’est-ce que le digital labor ?” (Oct. 3, 2015)

After a press release by Taiwanese agency CNA, several Chinese-speaking media outlets have been discussing the central theses of our book “Qu’est-ce que le digital labor ?” (INA, 2015).

臉書廣告賺2000億 義學者:用戶都是免費數位勞工

▲義大利學者卡西立Antonio Casilli。(圖/翻攝自Antonio Casilli推特)


社交媒體臉書(Facebook)已經成為多數人生活中不可或缺的一部分。義大利學者卡西立(Antonio Casilli)表示,網路的使用已經成為數位工作的一種;在臉書發文、按讚、分享都具有商業價值,讓業者荷包滿滿,用戶其實已淪為免費的數位勞工。





卡西立還說,不能因為大家樂意使用臉書,就否認這是工作,因為感覺到快樂也是促進生產力的誘因之一。他認為,網路工作是新型的認知資本主義(cognitive capitalism),全面滲透在日常生活,模糊了家庭、工作的界線,也引發隱私問題;因為用戶很難得到合理的報酬,卡西立主張,應該要向科技大公司課稅,然後提供每個人基本工資保障。

另一名社會學家胡斯(Ursula Huws)則指出,當前資本主義讓過去非商品的社會關係,也進入經濟範疇、有了利潤空間,科技也瓦解泰勒化生產模式,例如優步(Uber)帶來便利,但工 作業更不穩定;科技便利讓工作零碎化,甚至隱形化,新無產階級誕生,但生產者尚未自覺,仍以為自己是占便宜的消費者。



Source: 臉書廣告賺2000億 義學者:用戶都是免費數位勞工 | ETtoday國際新聞 | ETtoday 新聞雲

Pourquoi je ne porterai pas plainte contre ceux qui piratent mon livre

“Le jour où l’écrivain découvre que son livre a été piraté et est désormais disponible en téléchargement illégal sur Mediafire, il est fier comme un écolier qui vient de gagner sa première vérole”.


Bon, je sais… ce n’est pas la phrase *exacte* que Charles Baudelaire avait consignée dans les pages de Mon coeur mis à nu (1887), mais elle décrit assez bien le mélange de sentiments qui m’anime en retrouvant la version piratée de mon ouvrage Les liaisons numériques. Vers une nouvelle sociablité ? tantôt sur un blog de critique littéraire (“je l’ai lu pour vous, retrouvez-le par ici”), tantôt sur un forum de gamers (“version pdf : achievement unlocked!”) tantôt sur le site même de l’Hadopi (on me l’avait signalé mais depuis la page a été supprimée…).

Mauvaise nouvelle pour mon éditeur. Mais sans aucun doute bonne nouvelle pour moi. En tant qu’auteur, je ne peux qu’être flatté par le fait que quelqu’un ait pris le temps de craquer les DRM de la version ebook ou de scanner (comme dans un cas remarquable, vu en ligne il y a quelques mois) les 336 pages de la version papier ! C’est du boulot, ça. Tout comme c’est du boulot le fait de le mettre en ligne, de l’héberger, de le partager avec d’autres lecteurs, d’écrire des billets ou des messages dans des listes de diffusion pour le faire savoir aux autres.

J’ai donc tendance à interpréter ces activités comme autant de signes d’appréciation. Quelqu’un a considéré les thèses présentées dans mon ouvrage assez méritoires pour prendre la peine de faire tout cela – et pour prendre aussi le risque que l’ayant droit porte plainte contre lui.

Rassurez-vous. L’ayant droit, ce n’est pas moi. Moi, je suis celui qui est intéressé à voir ses idées circuler. Et qui pour cela est content de se voir piraté tout comme il a été – je crois à juste titre – content de voir que son livre a été bien vendu, bien lu, bien présent dans les classements des meilleures ventes, et tout le baratin. En tant que défenseur d’un modèle d’industrie culturelle qui s’efforce de co-produire de la connaissance avec les lecteurs plutôt que de les poursuivre en justice, je considère le partage non-commercial de mon livre non pas comme un accident de parcours, mais comme une attestation de la pénétration culturelle de mes idées.

De la même manière que les recensions dans les revues savantes, les citations dans les colloques scientifiques, les papiers dans la presse ou les interviews dans les médias… Si aujourd’hui on m’encourage à inscrire tous ces résultats dans mon curriculum d’universitaire, pourquoi ne pourrais-je ajouter aussi « Livre piraté sur… » dans la rubrique valorisation de la recherche et rayonnement de l’activité scientifique ?

One of the greatest comedians of our time: Slavoj Žižek

I’m serious: the marxiste célèbre and #Occupy Wall Street avuncular philosopher Slavoj Žižek is really a funny man. Case in point, this excellent coffee table book containing a collection of the jokes he spices up his impenetrable prose with (complete with references to the original texts).

Žižek employs jokes like Plato resorted to myths as heuristic devices designed to convey a logical meaning. Thus, they are used iteratively — the Marx Brother one-liners about self-identity or refusal of choice, the Rabinovitch anecdote about realism, the skeptical paradox about the fiancée who’s late for a rendez-vous…

Find a selection of the best scanned pages on the publisher’s website, and discover the maieutic value of laughter. (Also discover that this is a project of the Mickey Mouse Club ft. the norwegian artist Audun Mortensen, and that the book is actually printed in a very limited edition of 1…) (more…)

Larry Lessig's Book on Internet Governance Turns Ten and Goes Creative Commons

Ten years ago, Lawrence Lessig published Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, a groundbreaking study on Internet governance insisting that it is not through laws that governements and private powers control the Internet, but via its software architecture, i.e. the code. Today, at the close of Web 2.0, as cloud computing hangs over our heads like the sword of Damocles, his message is still relevant. How many passwords and logins do we have to juggle with on a daily basis just to perform simple tasks (check emails, watch pictures, save files)? These are very small controls that certify users identity, status, location etc. and route them in one direction or another. Exit the laws regulating individual lives, the new internet governance is more comparable to cattle drive. “Bovinity” emerges as the new human condition in technologically-enhanced times.

A fundamental principle of bovinity is operating here and elsewhere. Tiny controls, consistently enforced, are enough to direct very large animals. The controls of a certificate-rich Internet are tiny, I agree. But we are large animals. I think it is as likely that the majority of people would resist these small but efficient regulators of the Net as it is that cows would resist wire fences. This is who we are, and this is why these regulations work. (Lessig, p. 73)

Despite its far-sightedness, after ten years in print and ten years of changes in law and technology, the book needed an update. In 2005, a wiki was created to this purpose. The resulting new version of the book, Code Version 2.0, is now online under Creative Commons licence. This means you can download the new edition  for free just clicking here.

In 2009 the