Nakamura calls on Donna Haraway’s foundational cyberfeminist essay, “A Cyborg Manifesto,” asserting that,
Haraway draws our attention to the irony that some must labor invisibly for others of us to feel, if not actually be, free and empowered through technology use: technoscience is, indeed, an integrated circuit, one that both separates and connects laborers and users, and while both genders benefit from cheap computers, it is the flexible labor of women of color, either outsourced or insourced, that made and continue to make this possible.
Additionally, “electronics assembly work became both gendered and identified with specific racialized qualities.” She speaks to this through the case of Fairchild Semiconductor plant on the Navajo reservation in Shiprock. The plant employed Navajo women to produce integrated circuits. Nakamura conducts a close reading of Fairchild marketing material to demonstrate how they made “the visual argument that Indian rugs are merely a different material iteration of the same pattern or aesthetic tradition found within the integrated circuit.” This claim “depicted electronics manufacture as a high-tech version of blanket weaving performed by willing and skillful indigenous women.” There are two important goals of this depictions, according to Nakamura. First, it permitted the “incursion of factories into Indian reservations to be seen as a continuation of rather than a break from “traditional” Indian activities,” and second, “it pioneered the blurring of the line between wage labor and creative-cultural labor.” This strategy becomes the “first iterations of an exceptionally effective argument to justify digital labor exploitation by depicting it as an outlet for the expression of cultural and racial identity.” Here we start to get a sense of why it is important for us to look inside digital culture, look “back in time to the roots of the computing industry and the specific material production practices that positioned race and gender as commodities in electronics factories.”
Beller situates digital media within a critique of capitalism and its relationship to democracy — “it as axiomatic that capitalism and democracy are structurally contradictory — “capitalist democracy” and “democratic capitalism” are in fact oxymorons,” Beller declares. Within this context of capitalism, culture is no longer just a medium of politics. It is “a means of socio-economic production and reproduction as well as of potentially radical transformation.” Cultures as a means of production becomes the new situation. Information flows from users to capital in “a pattern that can be described by the sequence Image-Code-Financialization.” Consequently, “value extraction, instead of taking place only during wage labor as it was purported to do under industrial capital, can take place anywhere in a network in which oscillations between image and code occur.” Connecting to the work of Azoulay, Beller extends this position with the following quote:
In short, in her (Azoulay) work, images along with the praxes and discourses they engender, become the worksites of culture and struggle, rather than things necessarily and in many ways unconsciously consumed in accord with conventions and habits complicit with state violence.
Hill engages these notions of power and control from a different perspective. For Hill, the internet is “an ocean of eyewitness testimony” but these testimonies are vanishing, their very existence under corporate control. “While we create almost everything on the internet, we control almost none of it.” The consequent of this dynamic is that,
Information ephemerality, and our lack of a model for noncorporate control of digital information, has been a blessing for governments looking to rewrite history and a curse for those trying to document the truth in environments where it is being contested every day.
We have outsourced our memories to the internet and the corporations that control/own it (or the platforms/applications within which we store them). We must reclaim our digital memories. Ultimately, Hill makes a call for us to reclaim control of evidence, history and our collective memory.
All three articles discuss the disempowerment and subjugation that the internet and computing has supported. For Nakamura it is in the exploitative material production practices that positioned race and gender as commodities. For Beller, it manifests in the financialization of culture through the image-code dynamic. Hill, sees it in the control of information and the collective memory by corporations who have shown a tendency to actively support censorship of “historical archives,” erasing our memories, especially of contentious moments of turmoil or conflict. We can also reflect on Tung Hui-Hu, who we read earlier this semester, who asserted that “the same algorithms that make the cloud usable are the ones that define a “user” as that ever-growing stream of data to be analyzed and targeted.”
Hill describes more open archives as a way to repel against these systems of disempowerment and control. What are other ways we can resist? What are ways we can be inclusive and rebalance the risk-reward dynamic that has reinforced the exploitation of labor and targeted certain groups of people?