(This is part of a series of posts in which I provide ten proposals as to how to affirmatively disrupt ubercapitalism and the corporate sharing economy. Together these posts constitute the draft of a text provisionally titled Data Commonism, designed to follow on from my recently published short book, The Uberfication of the University. If the latter provides a dystopian sense of what is lying in store for many us over the course of the next few years, Data Commonism is more optimistic in that it shows what we can do about it.
The first text in this series, Data Commonism: Introduction is here.
We Don’t Have To Live Like This: How to Affirmatively Disrupt the Disruptors
♯1: Act Tactically
In The Uberfication of the University I showed how obtaining a degree of autonomy from any for-profit sharing economy market by means of a strategic (and dialectical) withdrawal of our intellectual and bodily labour will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Nevertheless, we can still respond tactically by flooding the market with inaccurate, misleading, or questionable information and data about ourselves. Such a response will have the added advantage of being consistent with the notion expressed at the end of The Uberfication of the University: that affirmatively disrupting ubercapitalism requires us to creatively destroy not only the jobs we do but also the microentrepreneurs of the self we have become.
The artist Natascha Sadr Haghighian offers an intriguing take on this approach. As part of a larger project of critiquing institutionalized regimes of knowledge, Haghighian rejects the totalizing ideas of CVs, resumes and bios. Instead, she insists only biographies obtained from the bioswop project (www.bioswop.net) be used in printed material regarding her work. This is a CV-exchange platform Haghighian has created with a view to providing curriculum vitaes, resumes and bios for mutual utilization and borrowing, as well as basic elements of CVs for assembly. (For an example, see the bio for Haghighian that is available at MIT List Visual Arts Center.)
Haghighian’s bioswop project is certainly helpful, not least in showing just how conservative most of us are when it comes to curriculum vitaes. Yet here too a question arises concerning the extent to which experiments with obfuscation of this kind are going to be possible under the rigorous performance management regime of any for-profit sharing economy business. In the era of ubercapitalism such an information and data intermediary will surely implement a real-name policy similar to that of Facebook and other online platforms. If so, then the only way to labor in the decentralised network of those providing services in the market created by the associated sharing economy ecosystem will be through the performance and maintenance of one’s own personal (self-)profile and reputation. (As I note in Pirate Philosophy, Facebook’s Terms of Service include the following conditions: “You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission;” and “You will not create more than one personal account.”)
Indeed, according to Michael Fertik, this is why the “Reputation Economy will prove so disruptive to higher education” in particular: “because the technology is quickly developing to allow your unique reputation to become a stronger signal of employability than the name on your diploma, or even whether you have a diploma at all.” It is the latter credentialism, which includes the social, economic, and cultural capital generated by the name and type of the institution you attend (Ivy league or community college, Oxbridge or ex-Poly), which has so far enabled the traditional university system to hold off the challenge of MOOCs and other forms of online Open Education, after all. (A report from the Sutton Trust indicates that an Oxbridge graduate will on average earn £10,000 more every year of their working life than a graduate from a university outside of the Russell Group of elite United Kingdom universities.) What this means as far as any freelance individual microentrepreneur who adopts a tactic along the lines of Haghighian’s bioswop project is concerned, however, is that here too it will be more a case of work rejecting them than of them rejecting work and its totalizing ideas of CVs, resumes, bios, and the related information and data concerning educational qualifications, career trajectories, salary, social connections, online influence and behaviour.