Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy
Tiziana Terranova is an Italian theorist and activist who writes about the Internet and New Media. In her essay Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy, she writes about the free labor taking place that is critical to the continued functioning of the Internet.
Terranova states that free labor from Internet users is the source of economic value in the digital economy. Free labor is defined as labor that is provided voluntarily, with no remuneration by the beneficiaries. An example of this is the time and effort people put into producing content for YouTube or writing short (or long) messages for Facebook. Internet users seek out these websites specifically to consume the digital content produced by other Internet users. These companies are producing the digital content framework that feeds off of the content and do not produce the actual content themselves.
Free labor and collective knowledge are being voluntarily contributed to capitalist business practices. This essay highlights the essential nature of that free labor to the functioning of the Internet but also refers to it as a “modern sweatshop” or “social factory.”