Call for Abstracts: Academic Labour, Digital Media and Capitalism



Special Issue of tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique
Guest Editors: Thomas Allmer and Ergin Bulut


Modern universities have always been part of and embedded into capitalism in political, economic and cultural terms. In 1971, at the culmination of the Vietnam War, the Chomsky-Foucault debate reminded us of this fact when a young student pointed a question towards Chomsky: “How can you, with your very courageous attitude towards the war in Vietnam, survive in an institution like MIT, which is known here as one of the great war contractors and intellectual makers of this war?” (Chomsky and Foucault 2006, 63) Chomsky responded dialectically, but also had to admit that the academic institution he is working for is a major organisation of war research and thereby strengthens the political contradictions and inequalities in capitalist societies.

Edward P. Thompson, one of the central figures in the early years of British cultural studies, edited the book “Warwick University Ltd” in 1970. Thompson was working at the University of Warwick then and published together with colleagues and students a manuscript that discovered, as the title suggests, the close relationship of their university with industry and industrial capitalism. The book also revealed some evidence of secret political surveillance of staff and students by the university uncovered by students occupying the Registry at Warwick at that time.

The relationship between state control and global capitalism has intensified in the last decades. With the collapse of the welfare state and the drop of public funds, universities are positioning themselves as active agents of global capital, transforming urban spaces into venues for capital accumulation and competing for international student populations for profit. In this environment, students have to pay significant amounts of tuition for precarious futures. Similarly, teaching and research faculties across the globe have to negotiate their roles that are often strictly defined in an entrepreneurial manner. Increasingly, the value of academic labour is measured in capitalist terms and therefore subject to new forms of control, surveillance and productivity measures. As the recent cases of Steven Salaita (USA), Academics for Peace (Turkey) and the crackdown against students in India reveal, academic labour and academics in general are also facing immense challenges in terms of state control and freedom of speech.

Situated in this economic and political context, the overall task of this special issue of tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique is to gather critical contributions examining universities, academic labour, digital media and capitalism. We are thus particularly interested in articles focusing on (1) the context, history and theoretical concepts underlying academic labour, (2) the relationship between academic work and digital media/new information and communication technologies/the Internet/social media and (3) the political potentials and challenges within higher education.

We welcome submissions that cover one or more of the following or related questions.

1. Contextualising and Theorising Academic Labour

  • What is the historical role of universities and academic labour and how has it changed over time?
  • What is the role of universities for capitalist development in the age of neoliberalism and post-Fordism (e.g. employability, market-driven and industrial research)?
  • How far can the neoliberal university be considered as medium and outcome of informational capitalism?
  • How far can the university expansion be understood as a dialectic development of progress and regress, social achievement and advanced commodification?
  • What is meant by concepts such as Warwick University Ltd, McUniversity, academic proletarianisation, edu-factory, corporate university, academic capitalism, entrepreneurial university, university gamble, digital diploma mills, global university, DIY university, etc. in the context of academic labour? How are these concepts related to the wider social context and the existing capitalist order? How can a systematic typology of the existing literature be constructed?
  • What is the role of the concept of value for understanding academic labour?
  • What is the role of the concepts of the working class and the proletariat for theorising academic labour?
  • How should we define academic labour; who is included/excluded by this understanding? Where does adjunct labour stand?
  • What kind of workers are academics and how are they related to knowledge, informational and cultural workers?
  • How far can the outcomes of academic labour be considered as part of the information and communication commons?
  • To what extent rests informational capitalism on the commons produced at universities?
  • What are the important dimensions for constructing a typology of working conditions within higher education (e.g. new managerialism, audit culture, workload, job insecurity)?
  • How do different working contexts and conditions in academia shape feelings of autonomy, flexibility and reputation on the one hand and precariousness, overwork and dissatisfaction on the other?

2. Academic Labour and Digital Media

  • Given that the academic work process is today strongly mediated through digital media, to what extent can academic workers be considered as digital workers, and academic labour as digital labour?
  • In how far can digital education and online distance learning be understood as a new capital accumulation strategy that aims at attracting international students in a commodified and competitive higher education market?
  • In how far can digital education be regarded as a response to neoliberal conditions within higher education?
  • How do digital media/new information and communication technologies/the Internet/social media frame the working conditions of academics?
  • How are the working conditions of academics characterised by intensification and extensification in the realm of the digital university (e.g. the blurring of working space and other spaces of human life, the blurring of labour and free time, fast academia, always-on cultures, deskilling, casualisation, electronic monitoring, digital surveillance, social media use for self-promotion, new forms of intellectual property rights)?

3. Politics, Struggles and Alternatives

  • How do the broader political realities and potentials in terms of solidarity, participation and democracy at universities look like?
  • What is the relationship between the state and academic labour? What are some of the lessons that we can learn from global crackdowns on academic labour?
  • What are the challenges in order to reclaim the university as site of struggle for both academics and students?
  • How far can the struggle at universities be connected to the global struggle against capitalism?
  • How do the political potentials of alternatives within higher education look like (e.g. informal learning processes, co-operative education, open education, open access, copyleft, creative and digital commons, Wikiversity)?


Abstract submission: 31 October 2016

All abstracts will be reviewed and decisions on acceptance/rejection will be communicated to the authors by the end of November 2016.

Full paper submission: 15 April 2017

Please submit article title, author name(s), contact data, e-mail address(es), institutional affilation and abstract of 200-400 words to: Thomas Allmer, and Ergin Bulut,

About the Guest Editors:

Thomas Allmer is Lecturer in Digital Media at the University of Stirling, Scotland, UK, and a member of the Unified Theory of Information Research Group, Austria. His publications include Towards a Critical Theory of Surveillance in Informational Capitalism (Peter Lang, 2012) and Critical Theory and Social Media: Between Emancipation and Commodification (Routledge, 2015). For further information, please see:

Ergin Bulut is Assistant Professor of Media and Visual Arts in Istanbul. His research interests include political economy of media, digital media and politics, and media labor. Together with Michael A. Peters, he edited Cognitive Capitalism, Education and Digital Labor (Peter Lang, 2011). His work has been published in TV & New Media, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, Media, Culture and Society, and Journal of Communication Inquiry.

About the Journal:

tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society,

Editors: Christian Fuchs, University of Westminster, UK, and Marisol Sandoval, City University London, UK

tripleC is a journal that focuses on critical studies of communication in and beyond capitalism. Articles in it should employ critical theories and/or empirical research inspired by critical theories and/or philosophy and ethics guided by critical thinking as well as relate the analysis to power structures and inequalities of capitalism, especially forms of stratification such as class, racist and other ideologies and capitalist patriarchy.

tripleC is indexed in the databases Communication Source, Scopus and Web of Sciene Emerging Sources Citation Index.


Chomsky, Noam and Michel Foucault. 2006. Human Nature: Justice vs. Power (1971): A Debate between Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault. In The Chomsky-Foucault Debate: On Human Nature, edited by Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault, 1-67. New York: New Press.

Thompson, Edward, ed. 1970. Warwick University Ltd. London: Penguin Books.