Alienation and Digital Labour—A Depth-Hermeneutic Inquiry into Online Commodification and the Unconscious

  • Steffen Krüger University of Oslo Oslo Norway
  • Jacob Johanssen University of East London London England
Keywords: Alienation, Psychoanalysis, Alfred Lorenzer, Digital Labour, Depth-Hermeneutics, Psychosocial


At the core of this paper is a psychosocial inquiry into the Marxist concept of alienation and its applications to the field of digital labour. Following a brief review of different theoretical works on alienation, it looks into its recent conceptualisations and applications to the study of online social networking sites. Finally, the authors offer suggestions on how to extend and render more complex these recent approaches through in-depth analyses of Facebook posts that exemplify how alienation is experienced, articulated, and expressed online. For this perspective, the article draws on Rahel Jaeggi’s (2005) reassessment of alienation, as well as the depth-hermeneutic method of “scenic understanding” developed by Alfred Lorenzer (e.g. 1970; 1986).

Author Biographies

Steffen Krüger, University of Oslo Oslo Norway
Steffen Krüger is postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Media and Communication, University of Oslo, Norway. He is contributing editor of the journal American Imago. His PhD thesis about the psychoanalyst and – for the time World War II – propaganda researcher Ernst Kris was published as “Das Unbehagen in der Karikatur” (Fink, 2011). In his current research, he analyses contemporary forms of mediated discourse from a psychosocial, and specifically, depth-hermeneutic perspective.
Jacob Johanssen, University of East London London England
Jacob Johanssen is a PhD student in Psychosocial Studies at the University of East London. His research interests include psychoanalysis and the media, psychosocial studies, critical theory, the Internet, as well as digital culture.
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