What does the experience of communication labor tell us about ‘intellectuality’ monetized by datafication?

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Akmeraner Y.


  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Turin
  • Country: Italy
  • Page Numbers: pp.7-8
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


Due to the informatization of capitalist production, everyone has somewhat

the function of intellectual today. The historical divide between intellectuals and ‘nonintellectuals’ that Antonio Gramsci expected to be broken down via the mass party and mass

education has been blurred more than ever thanks to the informatization of the workforce.

With this paper I aim to discuss the role of intellectuality in the post-Ford era drawing on

the experiences of the advertising practitioners who encounter mass intellectuality captured

by datafication in certain ways. Based on a case study carried out in the Istanbul office of

a global communications agency in Turkey, this paper argues that datafied intellectuality

is a new actor in advertising production and might limit the autonomy of advertising

practitioners. Ultimately, I expect to contribute to the understanding of the contemporary role

of intellectuality by employing the concept of immaterial labor in an empirical case. Keywords:

mass intellectuality, communication labor, advertising practitioners, datafication. Background

Antonio Gramsci says that “All men are intellectuals…but not all men have in society the

function of intellectuals” (Gramsci, 2000: 304). For Gramsci, the political role of organic

intellectuals of the proletariat was to equip the working class with certain educational and

intellectual capabilities. However, contrary to Gramsci’s expectations, the intellectualization of

the working class was not achieved by the political leadership of organic intellectuals but the

informatization of capitalist production via techno-scientific developments as a response to

the resistance of the working class. This resulted in the reorganization of production by setting

several activities productive such as defining cultural-artistic standards and public opinion,

which redefined the role of intellectuals in society as mass intellectuality (Lazzarato, 1994: 132-

133). Intellectual skills traditionally defined as ‘professional’ diffuse into society while human

abilities such as communicative and cognitive competencies become productive (Virno, 2007;

2004: 110). While digitalization supported mass intellectuality, datafication captures the value

created by mass intellectuality and monetizes it in various ways (Turow, Mcguigan & Maris,

2015; Cote, 2014). One of these ways is putting mass intellectuality into work in advertising

production. This presents a challenge for the traditional occupations that produce culturalintellectual content of commodities. Advertising practitioners are one of these groups who

have been strongly facing this challenge. Although the agency of consumers/users has

long been debated via ‘prosumer’ or ‘digital labor’ concepts, the relationship between mass

intellectuality and labor in cultural industries attracted limited attention. Furthermore, the

role of advertising practitioners in the creation of value was substituted with the productivity

of mass intellectuality (2007). However, advertising practitioners’ experience of encountering

mass intellectuality captured by datafication tells us a more complicated story. Research

Questions -In what ways does datafication capture mass intellectuality? -How does datafied

mass intellectuality affect the work of advertising practitioners? -What is the relationship

between communication labor in the advertising industry and mass intellectuality? Research

Techniques A case study was carried out in the Istanbul office of a global communications

agency in Turkey which is one of the few that included a data department in its body. The

research drew on qualitative research techniques. Semi-structured in-depth interviews with

agency professionals including data analysts and creatives from the conventional and digital

teams were carried out. Semi-structured in-depth interviews with advertising/marketing

professionals outside the agency were conducted. Related white papers and sector magazines

were analyzed as supplementary sources. Results Datafication captures and monetizes mass

intellectuality in various forms such as online/offline consumer data, interaction rates on social

media or brand communities. Thus, intellectuality is put to work in advertising production.

Datafied mass intellectuality might limit the autonomy of advertising practitioners and lead

to the degradation of cultural work and require reskilling. Implications Mass intellectuality is a

new actor in advertising production; however, it is not the sole creator of the cultural content. There is a delicate relationship between mass intellectuality and communication labor in the

creation of value. It is also difficult to ascertain the political role of intellectuality from this

research; however, it is possible to say that the direct relation of intellectuality to economic

production is closer than ever.

References: Gramsci, A.(2000). “Intellectuals and Education”, The Gramsci Reader:Selected

Writings 1916-1935. Ed. David Forgacs.(300-322). New York University Press. Virno, P.(2004). A

Grammar of Multitude: For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life. Semiotext(e). Lazzarato,

M.(1996). “Immaterial Labor”. Radical Thought in Italy:A Potential Politics. Eds. Paolo Virno

&Michael Hardt.(133-150). University of Minnesota Press. Turow, J., McGuigan L.&Maris, E.

R.(2015). Making data mining a natural part of life:Physical retailing, customer surveillance

and the 21st century social imaginary. European Journal of Cultural Studies. 18 (4-5),464–

478. Coté, M.(2014). Data Motility:The Materiality of Big Social Data. Cultural Studies Review,

20(1),121-149. Arvidsson, A.(2007). Creative Class or Administrative Class? On Advertising and

the ‘Underground’. Ephemera Theory&Politics in Organization, 7(1),8-23.