Whose Labor Is Hidden In AI-Capitalism?
Under AI-driven capitalism, labor seems – across classes and contexts – to be gradually becoming extinct, although labor is in fact undergoing deep transformations. Thus, at the end of the day the task is to debunk the extinction myth and to inquire how it conceals the far-reaching restructuring of work. In other words, rather than buying into the myth of labor as a fading reality, it is necessary to look at labor as a buried reality that needs to be excavated from beneath dominant narratives and power structures. The SILENT WORKS project is launching its intervention at this critical juncture. Encompassing an exhibition, a conference, and texts, the project is curated by journalists/researchers Magdalena Taube and Krystian Woznicki and organized by Berliner Gazette in cooperation with Haus der Statistik – two Berlin-based initiatives working towards the commons by exploring the potential of hybrid forms of collective agency.
COVID-19: A Crisis Of…
The SILENT WORKS project explores this Western phantasm as AI-driven capitalism, thereby expanding on the already established notion of “computational capitalism” (Beller, 2017). Conceived thus, the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen as a crisis of this very system, coming about as, all of a sudden, the ostensible frictionlessness of self-running machines has been interrupted and distorted by an unexpected disruptive factor: de-humanized humans, whose vulnerability (also read: contagiousness) necessitates the shutdown of the system and thus the suspension of capital’s supposedly seamless and incessant circulation.
Whose Invisible Hand?
The latter would mean pushing “capitalism as a self-running machine” further towards independence from humans in general and human labor in particular. This is why it is high time to vigorously confront that this ostensible independence has – from the outset – been a myth. Meaning: “capitalism as a self-running machine” was never independent of human labor, but dependent on the devaluation, decomposition, and, ultimately, dehumanization of labor. Enforcing the belief in the high-tech version of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” enabled the invisibilization of hands essential to upholding the system such as laborers in basic supply (people in logistics, delivery, and tech work) and social reproduction work (people in childcare, elder care, and healthcare on the one hand, and in cleaning, maintenance, and repair on the other). In other words, while AI is being promoted and mystified, old and new forms of what we call “hidden labor” are thriving. In fact, unrecognized, underacknowledged, undervalued, unwaged, illegalized, and, ultimately, unhumaned labor is increasing and diversifying. And the underlying structures of subjugation are becoming ever more elusive hybrids of old and new forms of power.
New Labor Struggles
One thing seems certain: The more we become aware of how dehumanizing and invisibilizing labor consolidates structures of power that continuously aggravate inequality and injustice, the more we gain a perspective on how labor could be mobilized from within underacknowledged, unrecognized, undervalued, unwaged, or illegalized workplaces against the very structures of power that are circumscribing them. This could activate the potential of the growing “reserve army” of workers. After all, if our labor is indispensable – but presented as disposable and even nonexistent – then capitalism’s dependency on labor has reached a critical limit. At this limit, labor gains a unique political quality.
Magdalena Taube and Krystian Woznicki, Berlin, June 2020
Opening hours: Wed-Sun 1-8 p.m. Free admission. Please wear a face mask and practise social distancing when entering and navigating the exhibition.
Watch a video statement by Benjamin Heisenberg about his contribution to the exhibition.
Setting + Keynotes
Details about access to the keynotes will be announced after COVID-19 guidelines for November have been clarified.
Tracks + Process
Registration + Schedule
Moderation: Kunitake Saso + Cassie Thornton. Guests: Felix Diefenhardt, Inte Gloerich, Dia Kayyali, Katrin Kämpf, Holger Kral, Shintaro Miyazaki, Andreas Schneider, Catherine Sotirakou, Mira Wallis, Jutta Weber.
Moderation: Claudia Núñez + Cristina Pombo. Guests: Jose Miguel Calatayud, Géraldine Delacroix, Inga Lindarenka, Victoria Martinez, Monisha Caroline Martins, Darija Medic, Julia Molin, Rebecca Puchta, Lira Ramadani, André Rebentisch, Dzina Zhuk.
Dull, Dangerous + Dirty
Moderation: Sabrina Apitz + Masha Burina. Guests: Sana Ahmad, Desmond Alugnoa, Miriam Arentz, Mika Buljevic, Susanne Braun, Kerstin Guhlemann, Friederike Habermann, Gosia Jagiello, Clemens Melzer, Zoran Pantelic, Kevin Rittberger, Sotiris Sideris, Martina Staneva.
Moderation: Niccolò Cuppini + Ela Kagel. Guests: Moritz Altenried, Jochen Becker, Régine Debatty, Katharina Höne, Alexander Klose, Tanja Krone, Oliver Lerone Schultz, Jacopo Ottaviani, Juliane Rettschlag, Gabriele Schliwa, Nicolay Spesivtsev.
Moderation: Max Haiven + Yonatan Miller. Guests: Manuela Bojadžijev, Daphne Büllesbach, Juan Caballero, Alina Floroi, Bronwyn Frey, Peter Hermans, hvale, Marta Peirano, Brett Scott, Laura Wadden.
Under the impression of the COVID-19 pandemic Magdalena Taube and Krystian Woznicki wrote a postscript to the introductory essay inquiring what it means to be “Working, Working Together, and Networking During the Web-Hype of the Pandemic” and how – along the way – we can debunk AI-driven capitalism’s myths. In a separate postscript Krystian Woznicki explores health and care work “On the Edges of Democracy.”
Dario Azzellini about capitalism’s system error as “disaster” and opportunity for labor struggles; Christine Braunersreuther about why the “system relevance” of care workers can no longer be denied; Sujatha Byravan about what the “corona crisis” means for mobile laborers in India – and the world at large; Niccolò Cuppini about the explosion of authoritarianism and labor struggles in Italy’s “War on Corona;” Kerstin Guhlemann about health protection in Industry 4.0 and humans as a disruptive factor; Angela Mitropoulos about the labor of saving lives and saving capitalism; Tom Holert about learning as labor and re-inventing ‘the school’ along the lines of ‘the factory,’ Eiji Oguma about why the ‘robotization of care work in Japan’ is a misleading myth, and Katja Schwaller about how invisibilized work is made visible during the “corona crisis.”
Beiträge auf Deutsch
Darüber hinaus sind nur dort folgende Beiträge zu lesen: “An/Greifbar: Warum BerlinerInnen gegen die digitale Kolonialisierung ihrer Stadt aufbegehren” von Jochen Becker, “Wo beginnt der Krieg? Widerstände gegen militärisch-industrielle Forschungs-Black-Boxes” von Christian Heck, “Wer arbeitet im Maschinenpark? Logistik, Künstliche Intelligenz und die Infrastruktur des Alltags” von Alexander Klose, “Abschaffung der Arbeit? Künstliche Intelligenz, Kapitalismus und Transhumanismus” von Janina Loh und “Kybernetische Proletarisierung: Wie in der Pandemie existierende Konflikte verschärft werden” von Simon Schaupp.
Beiträge zu den SILENT WORKS-Fragestellungen können im Umfang von 10.000 Zeichen bis zum 30.9.2020 unter info(at)berlinergazette.de eingereicht werden.
Photos from the Kickoff
Various modes of hidden human labor in AI-driven capitalism were explored at the SILENT WORKS kickoff event at the transmediale on January 31. The photographer Andi Weiland captured some precious moments. All photos presented here were taken at the event. They can be shared under a Creative Commons license. Please look at more of Andi’s superb photos in this flickr album.
The curators of the SILENT WORKS project are Magdalena Taube and Krystian Woznicki. Magdalena is editor-in-chief of the internet newspaper Berliner Gazette and professor of Digital Media and Journalism at the Macromedia University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. She is the author of “Disruption des Journalismus” (2018) published by Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam and co-editor of numerous anthologies, including “A Field Guide to the Snowden Files” (2017). Her curatorial projects include “Signals. The Snowden Files in Media, Archives and Arts” (2017) and “BQV. Büro für Qualifikation und Vermögen” (2012). Krystian is a critic, photographer, and the co-founder of Berliner Gazette. Blending writing and photography, he has created books such as “After the Planes” (2017), co-authored with Brian Massumi, “Fugitive Belonging” (2018), and his most recent work “Undeclared Movements” – published by b_books in February 2020. His curatorial projects include “As Darkness Falls” (2014), “Temporary Embassies” (2008), and “Young Japanese Cinema” (1999).
The venue hosting SILENT WORKS was built in 1968-70 in the middle of Berlin – initially as the seat of the State Central Administration for Statistics (SZS) of the German Democratic Republic. With the reunification of Germany it then became federal property. Since 2008, the Haus der Statistik has been empty. 50,000 sqm vacancy right at Alexanderplatz, in the middle of Berlin, where most people are suffering from the consequences of real estate speculation and gentrification. An artistic protest campaign at the Haus der Statistik got things moving in 2015. Shortly thereafter, the Haus der Statistik initiative was founded, an alliance of various Berlin actors: social and cultural institutions, art collectives, architects, foundations and associations supporting the goal of creating affordable spaces for displaced user groups in the city center. By founding the Cooperative for Urban Development (“ZUsammenKUNFT Berlin eG”), in April 2016, the initiative became capable of action and legal capacity, subsequently forming an association between 5 partners (KOOP5) from civil society and administration. This association is oriented towards the common good and the diversity of uses – developing the Haus der Statistik as a space for cooperative living and working. A basis for this ambitious goal will be created by ‘pioneer uses’. During the current planning and construction phase, these pioneer uses – set on the ground floors – will contribute to shaping the future of the complex.
The organization behind the SILENT WORKS project is Berliner Gazette (BG) – a nonprofit and nonpartisan team of journalists, researchers, artists and coders. We experiment with and analyze emerging cultural as well as political practices. Since 1999 we have been publishing berlinergazette.de under a Creative Commons License – with more than 1,000 contributors from all over the world – as well as organizing conferences and editing books. Latest BG projects include 2019: More World – BG con | 2018: Ambient Revolts – BG con | 2017: Signals – Exhibition | A Field Guide to the Snowden Files – Book | Friendly Fire – BG con | 2016: Tacit Futures – BG con | 2015: UN|COMMONS – BG con | 2012: BQV. Büro für Qualifikation und Vermögen – Documentary | 2006: McDeutsch – Book.
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