Digital Workers of the World Unite! A Framework for Critically Theorising and Analysing Digital Labour

  • Christian Fuchs University of Westminster, Communication and Media Research Institute
  • Marisol Sandoval City University London
Keywords: critical theory, critical political economy of communication and the media, social theory, digital labour, digital work, digital media, philosophy


The overall task of this paper is to elaborate a typology of the forms of labour that are needed for the production, circulation and use of digital media. First, we introduce a cultural-materialist perspective on theorising digital labour. Second, we discuss the relevance of Marx’s concept of the mode of production for the analysis of digital labour. Third, we introduce a typology of the dimensions of working conditions. Fourth, based on the preceding sections we present a digital labour analysis toolbox. Finally, we draw some conclusions. We engage with the question what labour is, how it differs from work, which basic dimensions it has and how these dimensions can be used for defining digital labour. We introduce the theoretical notion of the mode of production as analytical tool for conceptualizing digital labour. Modes of production are dialectical units of relations of production and productive forces. Relations of production are the basic social relations that shape the economy. Productive forces are a combination of labour power, objects and instruments of work in a work process, in which new products are created. We have a deeper look at dimensions of the work process and the conditions under which it takes place. We present a typology that identifies dimensions of working conditions. It is a general typology that can be used for the analysis of any production process.

Author Biographies

Christian Fuchs, University of Westminster, Communication and Media Research Institute
Christian Fuchs is professor at the University of Westminster's Communication and Media Research Institute. He is editor of tripleC: Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society. He holds a venia docendi in the field of ICTs and society.
His research interests are: critical theory, social theory, Internet and society, social media and society, media and society, ICTs and society, information society theory/research, political economy. He is author of many publications in these fields.
Marisol Sandoval, City University London
Marisol Sandoval is a Lecturer in Culture, Policy and Management at City University London. In January 2013 shecompleted her PhD degree in Communication Studies at the University of Salzburg, Austria. In her dissertation entitled “Monster Media? Critical Perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility in Media and Communication Industries” Marisol contributed to the development of a critical political economy perspective on CSR.  From 2008 until 2010 she was a research fellow at the Centre for Advanced Studies and Research in Information and Communication Technologies & Society (ICT&S Centre), University of Salzburg. Between 2010 and 2012 Marisol held a DOC scholarship from the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Her main research interests include alternative media, critical political economy of media and communication, the global division of labour in the culture industry, and Corporate Social (Ir)Responsibility. She is author of the mongraph "From Corporate to Social Media: Critical Perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility in Media and Communication Industries" (2014, Routledge).
Philosophers of the World Unite! Theorising Digital Labour and Virtual Work - Definitions, Dimensions and Forms