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date: 08 December 2022

New Media and Laborlocked

New Media and Laborlocked

  • Judit KrooJudit KrooArizona State University
  •  and Ilana GershonIlana GershonIndiana University Bloomington


In the early decades of the internet, many saw new channels of communication as potentially beneficial disruptions, analyzing largely through a utopic lens, albeit often with a technolibertarian bent. This did not last, and by the 2020s, scholars were increasingly pessimistic about how neoliberal logics structured the ways these technologies produced and extracted economic value. The heady promise of newness associated with recently invented communicative technologies had disappeared, to be replaced by despair of surveillance capitalism. Anthropologists of communication are especially well-equipped to study the construction of newness underlying this trajectory from revolutionary promise to all-too-familiar capitalist containment and control. Anthropologists analyze how media are socially constructed as new by attending to the participant structures that tend to accompany new media use—that is, studying the communicative roles and role fractions that participants can adopt or eschew while interacting with, storing, or circulating utterances. To understand how capitalist forms of exploitation so easily undercut the liberatory potential of new media, anthropologists have turned to how neoliberal logics increasingly shape how people value labor and interpret job roles. And in general, anthropological analysis provides a productive attentiveness to the gaps between what people understand about how media affect the message and what people’s actual media practices are, a gap that can reveal nuanced insights into the clashes between people’s hopes and work’s realities.


  • Sociocultural Anthropology

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