Digital Hierarchies of Laboring Subjects

Authored by: Kaitlyn Wauthier , Alyssa Fisher , Radhika Gajjala

The Routledge Companion to Media and Class

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138493612
eBook ISBN: 9781351027342
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781351027342-18

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Abstract

This chapter examines the concepts of digital domesticity and the digital housewife in relation to online philanthropy. It seeks to understand how these formations of reproductive labor produce a gendered class hierarchy between digital consumer and laborer. The co-authors argue that the online philanthropy sites Kiva and Workaway depend on reproductive labor to produce digital subalternity, manifested as the decontextualized, individualized incorporation of subaltern populations into a global financial infrastructure based on immaterial labor. This chapter outlines how gendered forms of labor reinforce class hierarchies and it employs a visual analysis of images typical of each of the platforms to illustrate how these concepts embed in the larger infrastructure of online philanthropy. Ultimately, the chapter contends that online philanthropy is a tool of consumerism and global financial flows that repackages global systems of inequality as individual instances of borrowing and lending. As such, Kiva and Workaway become contextual examples of the contemporary global economy as it routes through digital subalternity, invisibilized middle-class labor in the Global North, and the protection of wealth in the hands of the few.

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