Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media: Abstracts [I]

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Immaterial Labour

Dario Lolli, Keio University, Japan

Immaterial labour is a theoretical concept collectively developed within Italian post-operaism in the early 1990s to rethink labour in relation to incipient effects of post-Fordist modes of production and accumulation. It refers to the informational and cultural content increasingly required to qualify services and commodities, a process that simultaneously involves professional workers as well as broader collaborative activities spread across society but not necessarily categorised as ‘work’. While this concept has been long abandoned by many of its initial proponents, it has increasingly found novel applications in the field of media studies, as it identified several processes that became explicitly visible with the rise of convergent digital media and Web 2.0. This entry illustrates these latest developments by framing the current debate on immaterial labour in relation to its original conceptualization (e.g. Lazzarato 1997), which still remains only partially available in English. It then considers criticism of this concept as well as its most useful applications in the field of citizen media. These include debates on creativity in the media industries (Gill and Pratt 2008), perspectives on gendered digital economies (Arcy 2016), as well as the theorization of digital models of value extraction based on ‘free labor’ (Terranova 2000) and other forms of cooperation characterizing user-generated content and Web 2.0 platforms (Arvidsson and Colleoni 2012).


Arcy, J. (2016) ‘Emotion Work: Considering Gender in Digital Labor’, Feminist Media Studies 16(2): 365–368.

Arvidsson, A. and E. Colleoni (2012) ‘Value in Informational Capitalism and on the Internet’, The Information Society 28(3): 135–150.

Dyer-Witheford, N. and G. de Peuter (2009) Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Gill, R. and A. Pratt (2008) ‘In the Social Factory?: Immaterial Labour, Precariousness and Cultural Work’, Theory, Culture & Society 25(7–8): 1–30.

Hesmondhalgh, D. (2010) ‘User-generated Content, Free Labour and the Cultural Industries’, Ephemera 10(3/4): 267–284.

Lazzarato, M. (1997) Lavoro immateriale. Forme di vita e produzione di soggettività [Immaterial labour: Forms of life and the production of subjectivity], Verona: Ombre Corte.

Terranova, T. (2000) Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy, Social Text 18(2-63): 33–58.



Dorothy Kidd, University of San Francisco, USA

The Indymedia Center emerged in Seattle in late 1999 during a week of protests against international meetings of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and very quickly grew to a trans-local network, collaboratively governed and operated through autonomous collectives in more than 150 locations around the world. The legacy of the IMC lives on in more recent radical and citizen media projects and networks (Pickard, 2013, Wolfson 2014, McDonald 2015, Fenton 2016). First, Indymedia emerged from the trans-local and transnational global justice movement and operated both as a platform and as a contributing sector to the constitution and representation of that developing network. Second, Indymedia was a precursor to web 2.0 and current social media; it was designed and built by computer technicians with a user-friendly multi-media interface so that anyone, with appropriate technologies and Internet access, could post in any medium from anywhere in the world. Third, Indymedia experimented with radical journalism based on social movement activism, communicating in real time from within social movement protests and other gatherings. As such, the site provided a significant challenge to dominant commercial and public service media control of the news and information agenda, and modes of reporting. Finally, Indymedia represented a new cycle of mediated activism, in which social movements integrated their practices of media representation into their everyday organizational routines. This entry reviews each of these dimensions, and evaluates the legacy of the IMC in light of current transnational social justice movements. 


Fenton, N. (2016) Digital Political Radical, Malden M.A.: Polity Press.

Frenzel, F., S. Boem, P. Quinton, A. Spicer, S. Sullivan and Z. Young (2011) ‘Comparing Alternative Media in North and South: The cases of IFIWatchnet and Indymedia in Africa’, Environment and Planning 43: 1173-1189.

McDonald, K. (2015) ‘From Indymedia to Anonymous: Rethinking action and identity in digital cultures’, Information, Communication and Society 18(8): 968-982.

Pickard, V. (2013) ‘From Indymedia to Occupy’, in G. Ritzer (ed.) The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Globalisation, Blackwell Publishing.

Velkova, J. (2106) ‘Free Software Beyond Radical Politics: Negotiations of creative and craft autonomy in digital visual media production’, Media and Communication 4(4). Available at

Wolfson, T. (2014) Digital Rebellion: The birth of the cyber left, Urbana: University of Illinois Press.