Technology and Culture Reading Group

TCRG – School of Culture and Communication – University of Melbourne

Month: July, 2012

Rachel O’Dwyer and Linda Doyle – This is not a Bit-pipe: A Political Economy of the Substrate Network

by robbiefordyce

This week’s reading is an article from the latest issue of Fibreculture on ‘Networked Utopias’. We’ll be reading Rachel O’Dwyer and Linda Doyle’s paper titled This is not a Bit-pipe: A Political Economy of the Substrate Network. In it, they argue that while Galloway and others have developed strong critiques of the politics of the network at the informational or algorithmic level, the actual physical layer of digital networks – the so-called backbone or material infrastructure – is still presented (following Benkler) as ‘the benign foundation on which a political architecture is implemented’.

In response, the authors develop a political economy of networked infrastructure, whereby ‘the substrate network ceases to be a benign apparatus and becomes instead a focal point at which the expropriation of the commons is not only visible, but increasingly precarious.’ They take issue with what they see as the ‘core criticism of the ideology of free culture, specifically that its notion of “free” pays lip service to an imperial credo aligned more closely to the social factory than to the necessary apparatuses of an idealised peer-to-peer economy, rolling out a vista from Utopia to YouTube that wilfully glosses the conflicts inherent in immaterial labour’.

You can also view the full issue of FCJ here:

We’ll be meeting this Fri, 4pm @ Tsubu. We will also be discussing possible future directions we may like to take the TCRG in – perhaps focussing on a particular set of readings or areas of research for a few weeks – and we’re completely open to suggestions/input so we’d welcome anyone who’d like to come along and take part in that discussion.

Hope to see you this Fri,


Christian Fuchs

by tcrgmelbourne

This week we will be looking at a 2010 publication by Christian Fuchs, titled “Labor in Informational Capitalism and on the Internet”. In this piece, Fuchs attempts to reconcile the concerns of autonomist Marxism with the labor theory of value, in the context of network societies. Some elements of autonomist Marxism have previously attempted to exclude Marx’s labor theory of value from being able to meaningfully contribute to post-industrial society, so Fuchs’ position will be an interesting read for those who share my interests in this area. Following from this article is a response from Arvidson and Colleoni, which we can read for next week if the discussion is fruitful enough, as well as a riposte article by Fuchs that was published earlier this year following the Marx 2.0 conference in Sweden.

Article details:

Fuchs, C. “Labor in Informational Capitalism and on the Internet” The Information society 26(3)  2010, 179-196.


— Robbie Fordyce