I work for Facebook everyday but I am not getting paid. In their recent Social Ads announcement Facebook says “It is an ad-supported service. It is a free service.” Pause. Did we sign a contract? How do you measure my labor and serve accordingly? I don’t know how you measure the value of my informational content, the value of my informational content uploaded by my friends to your server, the value of my relationships, the value of my activities, my life.This is the story of immaterial labor. Immaterial labor, just like the spectacle (the social relations among people) is digitally measurable since the social web services ramped up (See Trebor Scholz’s A History of the Social Web). Today with the new Facebook Social Ads, the measure of the value of my labor is even more precise for Facebook, but more ambiguous for me.Maurizio Lazzarato defines the immaterial labor as the labor that produces the informational and cultural content of the commodity. For Lazzarato the concept of immaterial labor combines two different aspects of labor:
“On the one hand, as regards to the ‘informational content’ of the commodity, it refers directly to the changes taking place in worker’s labor process… where the skills involved in direct labor are increasingly skills involving cybernetics and computer control. On the other hand, as regards the activity that produces ‘cultural content’ of the commodity, immaterial labor involves a series of activities that are not normally recognized as ‘work’—in other words, the kinds of activities involved in defining and fixing cultural and artistic standards, fashions, tastes, consumer norms, and, more strategically, public opinion.”
I think Lazzarato would cry if he knew that these activities are distributed in the “Facebook Mini-Feed” everyday.Tim O’Reilly addresses similar issues in his writings on open data. But what is the data that must be open anyways? Is it only the informational content we create everyday. What about our relationships and our activities? Who owns them? Data ownership here, directly ties to the capital.I think Facebook or any other social web service provider will never tell us how much they make out of our labor on their services. We never know how much we give and how much we get. Nicholas Carr points to the same issue in his recent post:
“First you get your users to entrust their personal data to you, and then you not only sell that data to advertisers but you get the users to be the vector for the ads. And what do the users get in return? An animated Sprite Sips character to interact with.”
To resolve this problem of unbalanced value system, we started a stock market for our socially networked creative products. This is called Meta-Markets. In NYSE or NASDAQ people trade shares of companies. In Meta-Markets people trade shares of profiles. Just like companies, socially networked products have ever growing values. When product owners issue their shares in Meta-Markets, they raise capital—today play capital, but tomorrow real capital. With this project we aim to help people to retain the value of their immaterial labor in social web services.