Faculty of Information & Media Studies

Profile

Nick Dyer-Witheford
Associate Professor
Rogers Chair

North Campus Building Room 208
Phone: 519-661-2111 x88502

University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5B7
Fax: 519-661-3506
ncdyerwi@uwo.ca

Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High Technology Capitalism

Click here to link to chapters of my book Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High Technology Capitalism (1999), which provides an analysis of information-age capitalism and the movements currently dissolving it. The text version is available from University of Illinois Press, and can be purchased from the UWO Bookstore or from on-line bookstores.

Here also are a selection of more recent writings on the topics of Species-being, Commons, and Games.

Teaching

The courses I teach deal with the political economy of information-that is to say, the relations between power, wealth and information. For the MIT program, I teach an introductory course, (MIT 246) "Political Economy of Media," that examines the corporate organization of media in high capitalism, and the various public sector and social movement media alternatives to this information regime. Students can examine the trans-national interplay of these vectors in the imperial order of the world-market in my upper-level course on "Global Political Economy of Media" (MIT 320). I also teach "Work in a Wired World" (MIT 350), which looks at the changes and controversies arising from the digital transformation of the workplace and how technological change is embroiled in the ever-shifting balance of power between labour and capital. At the graduate level, I teach "Conflict and Controversy in the Virtual Library," an investigation into the social consequences of computers and networks for libraries and librarians for students taking a Masters in Library and Information Science, and also doctoral level courses on the political economy of information.

Research Interests

At present I have three main lines of research interest. The first is analysis of emergent forms of counter-power against high technology, globalized capital. In his delirious notebook, Grundrisse (1857), Karl Marx prophesied a moment when capital's development would depend not on the direct expenditure of labour power in production but rather on the mobilization of social and scientific knowledge: "general intellect." At this point, he claimed, automation and communication technologies would undermine the basis of wage labour and commodity production. Recently, Antonio Negri, Michael Hardt, Paolo Virno, and others of the autonomist Marxist tradition, including myself, have revived this as an optic for the analysis of information capitalism. We depart from Marx, however, in suggesting that the critical factor determining the fate of a post-Fordist, Gatesian regime is not the accumulation of fixed capital in machinery, but the propensities of the variable capital-the human subjects or "immaterial labour"--necessary to create, support and operate this high technology apparatus. I develop these concepts of "general intellect" and "immaterial labour," and connect them to other Marxist concepts, such as that of "species being, " to examine the historical trajectory and future possibilities of insurgencies in and alternatives to high capitalism amidst of a cyborg world of digital networks and biotechnologies. My book, Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High-Technology Capitalism (Illinois University Press, 1999), is a first cut at some of these ideas.

My second line of research is an inquiry into the political economy of computer and video game industry-what I like to call "Sim Capital." I am co-authoring a book with Dr. Stephen Kline of Simon Fraser University on this topic, which will look at interactive games as a quintessential information-era commodity. It attempts a detailed examination the production, marketing and consumption of computer and video games. We argue the centrality of such communication-cantered consumer industries to post-Fordist capitalism requires a radical rethinking of traditional models of political economy-and that such a rethinking is necessary in order to expose the real dynamics behind much-debated issues such as violence in video games, the gendering of interactive gaming, the battle around piracy and intellectual, property rights in contemporary media industries, and the dynamics of consumer cynicism, perpetual innovation and market burnout inherent in the economy of commodified play.

Finally, my exposure to professional librarians and graduate students of library science in the Library and Information Science at the University of Western Ontario is now bearing fruit in terms of early research for a book tentatively entitled Cyborg Alexandria? Digital Capitalism and the Virtual Library, which will bring a political economic perspective to play on the drive to convert libraries from "books to bytes."