Between “World Class Work” and “Proletarianized Labor”

Digital Labor Imaginaries in the Global South

Authored by: Cheryll Ruth Soriano , Jason Vincent Cabañes

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:

10.4324/9781351027342-19

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Abstract

Advancements in digital technologies have set the stage for corporations in the Global North to drive down their labor costs by outsourcing work to the Global South. Burdened by employment woes such as infrastructural immobility and low wages, countless Filipino professionals, one of the largest suppliers of digital labor globally, are found to be migrating to online platform labor in exchange for autonomy, spatial flexibility, and the possibility for higher earning. Recent literature on digital labor in the Global South, however, highlights the inadequately charted working conditions, menial and repetitive work, and powerless position of workers in these platforms. Seeking to generate research that nuances our understanding of the situated socio-cultural and economic complexities of the digital labor environment from workers’ lenses, this chapter examines what drives workers to digital work and the politics and asymmetries that characterize differentiated experiences of workers within these platforms. Some workers are able to thrive and experience social and economic mobility—and as influencers—initiate activities for “empowering the sector” as an emerging social force. In turn, these imaginaries draw workers to digital labor although others are unable to realize its promises. The chapter characterizes differential conditions of online freelancers to reveal the (postcolonial) nuances between the imaginings of freelance workers’ jobs as “world class work” on one hand and as “proletarianized labor” on the other.

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