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Digital capitalism and the digital underclass

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“Digital capitalism is the expansion of capitalism not only to data and information, but also to the way everyday life is mediatized. Even when you are offline, you are influenced by digital capitalism. For example, algorithmic processes influence how we shop or how much we sleep. And they constantly push us to be authentic individuals—to express our opinions endlessly, to make decisions, to be active and engaged—which can be quite exhausting. This leads to the condition I call digital lethargy.”

In this interview, media scientist Tung-Hui Hu talks about his understanding of digital capitalism and explains how it is changing our everyday lives. He also addresses the costs that digital capitalism requires: enormous effort and work are necessary to keep the system running. This work is done by the people who mine lithium for electronic devices, those who train artificial intelligence, or the warehouse workers who pack and ship devices. This creates a digital underclass – all the people in the supply chain who are not just removed from view, but intentionally made invisible.

The interview is also worth reading because of Hu’s assessment of “digital empowerment”, which was perceived as a great opportunity at the beginning of the Internet. Everyone should be able to express their opinions freely and be heard. Hu now sees these ideas co-opted by capitalism and calls for new types of digital activism.

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