A Seeping Commodification: The Long Revolution in the Proliferation of Communication Commodities

  • Jernej A. Prodnik Social Communication Research Center, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana
Keywords: Commodification, Information Society, Enclosures, Capitalism, Intellectual Property Rights, Mediatisation, Critical Media and Communication History, Political Economy of Communication, Critical Communication Studies


The main goal of this paper is to conceptualize a seeping commodification. The author of the paper claims we are in the midst of a considerable qualitative transformation in the processes of commodification that is, in large part, owed to an overwhelming capitalist enclosure of the wider communicative field. The key reason for what seems to be an important qualitative transformation in the commodification process lies in the fact that communication and information flows today run through most social relations and spheres – which non-critical approaches often explain with the concept of the ‘mediatization of society’. A materialist approach, distinctive of (critical) political economy of communication, enables an apt critique of these processes. In an epoch, in which capital has enclosed the wider field of communication, mediatization is in fact nothing else than a continuing commodification of our everyday lives. The author of the paper claims that commodification of communication and informational resources must be seen as a long-term process, which has accompanied the rise of capitalism. A considerable proliferation of the economic importance of communication, information, and culture has – to be precise – been enhanced in a large part by political interventions occurring in the last decades (which were a response to the economic tendencies and crises of the time). While the immediate results are observable especially in the proliferation of the new information and communication technologies and the global role of intellectual property rights, the wider social consequences of these developments have been much broader and more influential. This study proceeds from the perspective of historical materialism and adopts dialectics in an attempt to grasp contradictory social changes. The analysis is done through different methods of historicizing: firstly, by observing long-term changes in communication, information, and culture, as they have been slowly transformed into commodities produced for market exchange since the emergence of capitalism; and, secondly, by defining fundamental political and economic processes occurring in recent decades that help with an explanation of the rise in the influence of communication and information (as peculiar types of commodities) in the current epoch.

Author Biography

Jernej A. Prodnik, Social Communication Research Center, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana
Researcher at the Social Communication Research Centre and a Teaching Assistant at the Media Studies department, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana (Slovenia). He defended his PhD in media and communication studies at the University of Ljubljana in 2013 under the title Political Economy of Communication and Structural Transformations of Capitalism. His principal research interests include critique of political economy (with a focus on media and communication), structural transformations of capitalist societies, and the wider social context of technological changes and democratic potentials brought about by new technologies.