Introduction: A gathering of feminist perspectives on digital labor
First Monday

Introduction: A gathering of feminist perspectives on digital labor by Carolyn Elerding and Roopika Risam

The following introduction locates the special issue within digital labor studies, Internet studies, and gender and sexualities studies, as well as contextualizing the project in relation to current events and popular debates.


Digital labor and embodiment
Digital labor and social reproduction
Networks of care



It matters what thoughts think thoughts. It matters what knowledges know knowledges. It matters what relations relate relations. It matters what stories tell stories. — Donna Haraway [1]

Elerding: Likewise, it matters on what terms we term terms if we wish to foster a counterpoint among feminist theories and practices that avoids erasing their differences [2]. In this special issue, an array of feminist scholars converge — to an extent — around the terms ‘gender’ and ‘digital labor.’ A flexible and open theme balancing difference and affinity was one of our terms. To protect it, we adopted the feminist editorial principles developed by the editors of the Fembot Collective’s journal, ADA: A Journal of Gender, New Media & Technology, guidelines designed to honor difference. One suggestion in the “Notes for Reviewers” is to “[r]espect what the author is trying to do in their writing without imposing your own idea of what they should be arguing. A common shortcoming in reviews is when the reviewer is really asking the author to write a totally different essay or book.” [3] Another recommendation explains that “[y]ou may personally disagree with the thesis of the argument. Say that, but also keep your own comments limited to how well the author supports the argument rather than an ideological or political diatribe. This can be hard to do.” [4] To support a generative, empowering, and liberating review process, we focused on effectiveness of insight, expression, research, and writing rather than on securing consensus.

Other terms shaped this project as well. Two main goals led me to organize the interdisciplinary conference panel that has now evolved into this special issue. One was an interest in cultivating practices of decentering privilege. In this, the panel was more successful, perhaps due to the ephemerality of the stakes involved. The other aim was to examine digital labor through diverse feminist frameworks. They might be called intersecting feminisms, hoping to involve intersectionality as well as critiques of intersectionality theory from among its practitioners, and also engaging Marxist and materialist feminism as well as feminist studies in media, science, and technology [5]. In particular, Lisa Nakamura’s (2014) research on the labor of indigenous women in the history of electronics manufacturing helped me, as a scholar committed to both ‘old’ and ‘new’ lefts, to imagine possibilities for bridging these often antagonistic traditions without disregarding their considerable differences. I am especially interested to avoid fueling toxic, circular, and frequently ‘ad feminem’ debates positioning ‘identity politics’ and anti-capitalist critique in opposition to one another. In my view, this special issue on gender and digital labor has fulfilled the second purpose very well.



Digital labor and embodiment

Elerding: Some of the articles presented here, such as Kylie Jarrett’s “Laundering Women’s History: A Feminist Critique of the Social Factory,” address the role of embodiment in digital labor in terms of the physicality of the socially constructed gendered body. Others reflect on the online representation of social differences, including gender. All reveal expanded significance in the myriad and unevenly distributed ways that bodies labor online, producing monetary value as well as cultural values.
In “Digital Detritus: ‘Error’ and the Logic of Opacity in Social Media Content Moderation,” Sarah T. Roberts analyzes the gendered political economy of user-generated content, exploring the interrelated implications of sexual objectification, profit-driven representation, and erasure of the female body in international politics, journalism, and the gendered history of capitalism. Roberts enlists Adorno’s concept of ‘flattening’ to examine how content moderation — performed more by workers than by algorithms — narrows the political meaning of non-erotic images of the nude female body that interfere with relations between capital and state. Roberts’ analysis furthermore shows how the embodied labor of a global low-wage workforce gets obscured behind utopian narratives about automation.
Mél Hogan examines complementary questions of embodiment by considering techno-politics from a new materialist point of view. “Data Is Airborne, Data Is Inborn: The Labor of the Body in Technoecologies” attends to the obfuscation of bodily materiality itself in cultures of remote data storage and wireless surveillance. Hogan traverses a range of examples from art, fashion, and engineering to speculate on future ramifications of wirelessness. Hogan’s critique of the strong possibility of utilizing DNA as a data storage medium suggests a dystopian non plus ultra of objectification and commodification uniting production and social reproduction into a single process.
These contributions offer revitalized framing for practices of resistance within regimes of digital labor. Roberts’ article, for instance, provokes questions on the political significance of the automated work performed by algorithms. If algorithms rely on a basis of worker labor, it is also true that part of the work that users perform online is, as Antonio Casilli argues, teaching algorithms “to learn how to improve.” [6] What might this mean for feminist theory and practice?

Risam: What these articles do quite effectively is emphasize the significance of embodiment in the performance of digital labor. While formulations like those of Fuchs and Sevignani (2013) play an important role in conceptualizing the unique nature of digital labor performed by social media users, the articles here eschew universal theorization of this labor to attend to the particularities that unfold through overlapping and compounding axes of oppression — the true definition of intersectionality theorized by Kimberlē Crenshaw (1991).
If algorithms are already embodied in spite of their fictive neutrality, as scholars like Safiya Umoja Noble (2013) and Cathy O’Neil (2016) suggest, how could this embodiment be reappropriated to undermine these algorithms? Typically, the answer to the problem of the algorithm is to build better ones or to better educate programmers, preferably with knowledge produced in the realm of the humanities. However, taking resistance as a starting point, are there ways to foster interventions like algorithm jamming in response to existing algorithmic structures and logics that are overdetermining digital cultures?

Elerding: We can see that, though many differences obtain among theories and practices involving algorithms, a panorama of possibilities emerges with recent technologies, organizations, and publications created by contemporary resistance efforts. For instance, the freely downloadable Bronx, New York-based app Bail Bloc converts unused personal computing processing power into cryptocurrency in order to release low-income individuals from pre-trial incarceration. Ecosia, a non-profit search engine that spends its data revenues on reforestation, offers another practical example. In terms of organizations that include both algorithms and digital labor in their critiques, I think of Wages for Facebook, the Pervasive Labor Union (formerly the Immaterial Labor Union), and the neo-cyberfeminist Xenofeminist Manifesto by Laboria Cuboniks, all of which I am primarily familiar with through their publications. Regarding academic theorizations, two examples come to mind, both influential visions of repurposing algorithmic technology as the basis for a digital society predicated on the equitable redistribution of wealth: Tiziana Terranova’s development of the “red stack” as “social software” and Nick Dyer-Witheford’s (2013) illumination of how another communism is possible (i.e., different from what became of the authoritarian Soviet model) thanks to contemporary computing’s social media and algorithms [7]. Revisiting these theories and practices prompts me to add further questions, if only on a rhetorical basis for now: In what ways and to what extent do these approaches address the complex social inequalities illuminated by the feminist analyses of digital labor in this special issue? How might their aims overlap with and support one another? And in that case, what potentially oppressive consequences might be reproduced, and how might the harm effectively be avoided?



Digital labor and social reproduction

Elerding: Speaking of ‘theory with a T,’ several of the articles in this special issue address theoretical currents in materialist and Marxist feminisms (sic), exploring possibilities for applying them to digital labor studies. Generally, I associate the essays by Kylie Jarrett, Sarah Roberts, and myself more with traditions in Marxian digital studies stewarded by such researchers as Ursula Huws and Laurie Ouellette. Mél Hogan’s essay engages with feminist new materialism, extending and diversifying lines articulated by such theorists as Stacy Alaimo, Karen Barad, and Donna Haraway. Elizabeth Losh’s article expands upon work such as Karen Abbate’s and resists the epistemological pull of entrenched concepts and terms contoured by political economy’s histories of androcentric and eurocentric bias. This prismatic combination of perspectives begins to demonstrate the considerable potential in gathering around an apparently simple term or terms — here, digital labor — from a variety of disciplinary, methodological, and theoretical feminist trajectories, as well as writing styles and processes [8]. I say ‘begins,’ because the extent of this project’s value may only become visible over time in subsequent discourse.
Kylie Jarrett’s article, “Laundering Women’s History: A Feminist Critique of the Social Factory,” is sure to catalyze further research. A fundamentally important intervention, Jarrett’s argument subverts conceptualizations viewing ‘immaterial labor’ as distinct to the digital ‘post-industrial’ era. To the contrary, by exploring the example of the Irish Free State’s Magdalene Laundries, Jarrett reinforces social reproduction feminists’ arguments that gendered processes of cultural, cognitive, and affective labor have underwritten capitalism throughout its history. In keeping with the overall trajectory of Jarrett’s numerous contributions to feminist digital studies, this new article offers significant resources for better understanding, critiquing, and opposing exploitation and oppression in the digital era.
“The Digital Labor of Queering Feminist Web TV” constitutes an example of Jarrett’s influence. It also represents my ongoing efforts to coordinate feminist, Marxist, and queer materialisms in my thinking. The article utilizes feminist analyses of digital labor and social reproduction in close readings of two queer feminist Web TV programs and their online distribution platforms. My goal was to connect theories of the audience commodity and digital labor with an investigation of the programs’ political significance as ‘networked immaterial social reproduction’: the cultural, cognitive, and affective side of caring for one another and articulating networks of resistance.
While the theoretical resonances among some of the articles might help to strengthen certain currents in feminist digital studies, collaborating across disciplinary, methodological, and conceptual differences seems to have shifted some contributors’ relationships with theory in potentially useful ways. In my case, it has encouraged fresh consideration for the frequently overlooked centrality of Marxist and materialist concepts such as labor to theories that continue to influence feminist media criticism, much of which avoids referring to capitalism. For example, Nancy Hartsock’s (1983) groundbreaking article articulating feminist standpoint theory was based firmly in Marxist thought on gender and the division of labor. Donna Haraway’s (1985) equally incisive intervention refers to Marxism in its title, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s.” It is worth noting that, as mentioned previously, this special issue was inspired in part by feminist research on labor that, though not necessarily pro-capitalist, does not include a critique of the socioeconomic system in its framework. Yet, a major recession has brought the word ‘capitalism’ back into popular circulation. It therefore seems very important to preface this special issue with reflection on the advantages but also limitations of concepts from leftist political economy in the development of contemporary standpoints. Some questions that come to mind are: How best might concepts from political economy serve the aims of contrapuntal digital feminisms moving forward? In particular, what work can ideas about labor, including digital labor, do to promote gender equity and justice? What reservations and responses need to be articulated when circulating ideas with histories in patriarchal and ethnic bias?

Risam: My own scholarship has been critically shaped by feminist standpoint theory, as have my experiences as a woman of color in the academy. In my article, “Toxic Femininity 4.0,” which appeared in First Monday in 2015, I examined how intersectional feminist activism online has been constructed by white feminists as a toxic form of femininity, by virtue of the affective dimensions of utterances by intersectional feminists on Twitter. While I did not frame this as a matter of affective digital labor at the time, it certainly qualifies. It further speaks to the ways that the feminized forms of labor — like producing affects — are not only devalued but also used to delegitimize critique that is using registers of negative affects — or ugly feelings, as Sianne Ngai (2004) terms them — for political ends. My personal experiences navigating academia have borne striking resemblance to the dynamics I articulated in “Toxic Femininity 4.0,” as well as the diversity trap I articulate in my essay in this special issue. Namely, we are expected to be ‘diverse,’ participate in diversity initiatives, and support students of color. Doing so effectively, however, puts us in a position where we are trafficking in negative affects. This reflects Sara Ahmed’s articulation of ‘affective economies,’ where emotions circulate between subjects, with the capacity to link or promote divisions between them (Ahmed, 2004). In this regard, as she suggests, emotion serves as a form of capital, precisely because affect has value under capitalism. These range from having ‘difficult’ conversations to making those who occupy positions of privilege feel discomfort. This burden often falls on untenured faculty, adjunct faculty, staff, or others without job security, forcing us to choose between our ethical commitments to social justice praxis and our livelihoods. And precisely because the affective labor these tasks require is relational and interpersonal, it is not valued for its transformative possibilities. This is reflected in performance evaluations where, at best, it might be understood as ‘service.’ Yet, ‘service’ — itself a feminized dimension of academic labor — does not adequately capture the ways this diversity work is performed in hallways, during office hours, over lunch, by the water cooler, or, increasingly, through our interactions on social media — where they engage our digital labor.

Elerding: These concepts of affective economies and ugly feelings could be used to examine the institutional histories of theories, specifically who gets to theorize political economy, in what way, and with what material support. I am reminded of how, in their 2006 book The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It), Gibson-Graham include a chapter called “The economy, stupid!: Industrial policy discourse and the body economic,” the title of which encapsulates a typical response to potentially significant insights from voices marginalized socially and academically. A project such as Gens, a collective for studying capitalist inequality that was created by feminists of color and cultural anthropologists Laura Bear, Karen Ho, Anna Tsing, and Sylvia Yanagisako, incisively delineates the need for different concepts and terminology of political economy, but their manifesto represents only a beginning. I wonder if the sea change that appears to be taking place in mainstream feminism and anti-racism might reinforce diversity theory.

Risam: We have seen the scholarly and personal dimensions of the affective labor of academic diversity work — particularly the dynamics of its digital dimensions — coalescing for academics through the #metoo hashtag. The concept of ‘Me Too’ was created by activist Tarana Burke in the mid-2000s to promote empathy and empowerment for women of color around their experiences of sexual violence. The hashtag ‘#metoo’ began trending on Twitter in late October 2017, in response to public revelations about Harvey Weinstein’s sexual predation [9].
Overwhelmingly, tweets on the hashtag suggest that ‘Me Too’ has promoted the empathy and empowerment that Burke envisioned for the concept. Unsurprisingly, it has also been subject to co-optation through trolls denying the legitimacy of the stories shared in tweets. Critics have raised a number of issues, some fair, like the erasure of Burke, a black woman, in the origin story of #metoo, paired with the heavy use and amplification of the hashtag by white women, whose pain may be more recognizable than that of women of color (Purtill, 2017). Gabrielle Union captured the complex, intersectional dimensions of this phenomenon, stating, “I think the floodgates have opened for white women. I don’t think it’s a coincidence whose pain has been taken seriously. Whose pain we have showed historically and continued to show. Whose pain is tolerable and whose pain is intolerable. And whose pain needs to be addressed now.” [10] We need only to remember the struggles of Anita Hill, a lawyer and academic, a black woman who blew the whistle on Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas for sexually harassing her while they worked together at the U.S. Department of Education and, ironically, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thomas, of course, became a Supreme Court justice, while Hill was vilified.

Elerding: There seems to be some hope that this turn in Internet feminism, including the critiques it has provoked, will help to promote lasting change in diverse economic contexts. Alicia Garza, a founder of #BlackLivesMatter, now works for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and, engaging with the #MeToo movement, she and Mily Treviño-Sauceda of the National Alliance of Women Farmworkers emphasized the sexual harassment and violence experienced in less privileged work sectors, in which women of color and immigrant women are overrepresented. A month later, Burke and other leading feminists of color, such as Ai-Jen Poo of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, accompanied Hollywood feminists on the red carpet at the prestigious Golden Globes awards ceremony, focusing media attention on the gendered and racialized intersections of material labor. Bringing these events to bear on our theme, I want to mention how so much of what is referred to as digital labor is relatively privileged ‘immaterial’ (non-manual, ‘white collar’) labor. One aspect of these interventions is that they show the value of feminist critiques specifying socioeconomic status in conjunction with gender, race, and other factors. I would say that they also serve as a reminder that #MeToo, like all hashtag campaigns, leverages the profit-driven nature of corporate social media to exceed the purpose of consolidating economic value, demonstrating its power on behalf of social reproduction — caring for life by arguing and organizing for equality.

Risam: I see the power of the hashtag being derived from the performance of affect in tweets. While the fact that sexual violence is pervasive should be shocking to no one, the volume of tweets speaking the pain of the experience of sexual violence quickly captured the attention of media and the public. Moreover, the phenomenon was facilitated by the affordances of the Twitter platform: the mechanism of the hashtag, a large user base, amplification through celebrity (here, Alyssa Milano), the power to retweet.
The role of affect in the campaign raises the question of why recognizing the extent of sexual violence requires the public performance of affective digital labor, of pain, grief, anger, and sadness on social media. Indeed, the very ordinariness of sexual violence and its routine infiltration into our lives and careers is at odds with the sense of extraordinariness that the volume of affective performance on #metoo provoked. This further raises the question of whose experiences are being validated.
The inroads of the #metoo phenomenon within academia have called attention to its routinized sexual violence. For example, Seo-Young Chu (2017) published a gut-wrenching essay describing her experiences as a graduate student at Stanford, where she was raped by renowned English professor Jay Fliegelman. Also feeling empowered by public attention to sexual violence, Kimberly Latta composed a Facebook post revealing her rape by Franco Moretti, one of the towering figures in digital humanities [11]. Karen Kelsky sought to examine the extent of sexual violence in academia through a crowdsourced survey.
The stories about Moretti hit me hard, for several reasons. Although my research and professional networks are situated in digital humanities, my backchannels had failed me: while some senior scholars seemed to have heard the rumors, many of us, particularly junior women, hadn’t been warned. How can we know how to protect ourselves, our students, and each other if our whisper networks aren’t robust? In the conversations that followed Latta’s brave Facebook post and its high-profile circulation on Twitter, it also became clear that the breakdown of the whisper network wasn’t simply confined to Moretti — we all had stories, some from personal experience, some secondhand, but this knowledge was unevenly distributed. We found gaps in each other’s knowledge and gaps in our own, often because we were assuming other people knew too.
Given the geographies of academic employment, we are also dispersed, so we rely on our social media backchannels to pool information, which meant that knowledge relies on not only who you know and who you talk to but also being willing to put these stories, these names, in messages sent back and forth on social media and to trust that the recipients would treat the information judiciously. We were counting on a poor mechanism for protection and, predictably, it failed us and, in turn, we failed each other. All the while, across the backchannels, we were spending hours providing digital carework — a form of affective digital labor — to each other as we negotiated these failures.
These conversations also raised the spectre of having been failed by the institutions in which we work. Latta’s experience with Stanford’s Title IX officer, for example, reflects the dysfunction of how universities adjudicate harassment and sexual misconduct. For me and no doubt for others, these stories aggravate our own experiences of universities failing to protect us, of complaints made that were swept under rugs, dismissed as miscommunication, or initiated processes that brought as much, if not more, grief than the reasons we spoke out in the first place. Sarah Ahmed has clearly articulated the challenges of complaint: “A complaint teaches about institutional direction because a complaint is often treated as misdirection by the institution. Another way of saying this: to locate a problem is to become the location of a problem.” [12]
What’s striking is, as Ahmed notes, such complaints have a way of mysteriously evaporating: “Erased from memory, a complaint can become like an unused path; it is harder to follow, becoming faint, becoming fainter, until it disappears. You can hardly see the sign for the trees. A complaint can be covered by new growth; new policies; new statements of commitment; action plans, reports.” [13] Ernesto Priego has made an interesting point in a tweet about how digital technologies might help preserve the complaint: “Why documentation matters. IMHO digital object identifiers can help academic complaints, critiques not being erased & forgotten.” [14]
I hope the attention to sexual violence and the emergence of possible solutions pan out because the failures of justice have significant repercussions for the careers of those who negotiate these experiences in the academy. Classicist Donna Zuckerberg notes, “The library of ideas, thoughts, and arguments written about the ancient Mediterranean is so large that any individual can fathom only a tiny fraction of it. But in its shadow is a second library — at once infinite and infinitesimal — of essays, articles, and books that will never be written because the people who would have written them were pushed out of the field by harassment and abuse.” [15] But this is not only a matter of people who have left. It’s also about the consumption of energies, time, affects, and attention of those who remain within institutions. Indeed, this is also a matter of those mentors, colleagues, and friends who generously provide affective labor to those who are struggling. Managing the failures of academic institutions to protect their employees and their students, like diversity work itself, is an intense, unrecognized form of labor integral to the function of universities. As a result, it comes at the expense of the primary objectives of the academic enterprise: research and teaching.



Networks of care

Elerding: By way of conclusion, I’d like to focus a bit more on this topic of networks of care, because their significance in knowledge production is so often obscured and devalued.

Risam: Managing the repercussions of sexual violence in academia is one manifestation of the importance of networks of care. As Elerding’s essay discusses, these networks of care, in turn, can become networks of resistance, imbued with the power to transform social relations. The transformative function of networks of care is taken up by two other essays in this issue.
In her essay, “Home Inspection: Mina Rees and National Computing Infrastructure,” Elizabeth Losh argues that attention to technological carework provided by “mothers of invention” challenges the myth of the solo white male inventor. In this case, the career of Mina Rees decenters Vannevar Bush in the rise of national computing infrastructure in the United States. Losh invokes the “mothers of invention” to examine the contributions of women whose labor involved connection, mediation, and caregiving, to reframe rhetoric of “invention and delivery, innovation and maintenance, and skill” attributed to programming. In the context of the memex, Bush’s hypothetical system of hypertext that could expedite digitization, Losh argues, the material and immaterial dimensions of care and repair are overlooked, reflecting the broader elision of these forms of labor from computing. This is despite the fact that “technological carework” has profound consequences for emerging digital technologies. Attending to these forms of labor, Losh suggests, facilitates remediation of patriarchal narratives for technological development. The women undertaking this foundational labor, like Mina Rees, could be understood as participating in networks of care that require affective labor and are indispensable but overlooked sources of labor subtending the design of digital technologies.
Digital technologies themselves are further facilitating the emergence of networks of care that are integral to supporting, maintaining, and sustaining institutions — like the academy — that are engaged in knowledge work. Melissa Gregg’s groundbreaking work identifies the changing nature of labor facilitated by the emergence of information and communications technologies. Such technologies, like e-mail and access to the Internet allow many workers to perform their job functions at home, blurring boundaries between ‘home’ and ‘work’ and pressuring workers to be available at any given moment (Gregg, 2009).
My article argues that these dynamics are amplified for university faculty, librarians, staff, and administrators who engage in diversity work — explicit and implicit expectations on people of color, women, LGBTQ scholars, and others whose identities are marginalized within higher education — to participate in diversity initiatives at universities. This mandate — sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken — has given rise to forms of digital carework, or networks of care that rely on expending affective labor to diversify knowledge production and providing this labor to support others who are engaging in similar work. Given the role of information and communication technologies for both creating knowledge and facilitating a scholarly community for digital humanities practitioners, the weight and expectation of diversity work in digital humanities is a useful framework for understanding the relationship between diversity work and digital carework in the contemporary landscape of higher education.

Elerding: The light the articles in this dossier shed on networks of care should encourage us to reflect as well on the kinds of digital carework that have facilitated our scholarly careers. I, for instance, redirected my research and teaching as a consequence of participating during graduate school in the Fembot Collective and in FemTechNet, where I met this issue’s consulting editor Radhika Gajjala. Fembot is also among Gajjala’s many long-term commitments, as well as Roopika Risam’s. It therefore seems appropriate to conclude this conversation, for now, with a question — or a challenge — for our readers: In what ways do the networks of care that sustain you also function as networks of resistance? End of article


About the authors

Carolyn Elerding is a recent Ph.D. teaching on culture, media, and technology in the New York City area. A recipient of the Ohio State University’s Presidential Fellowship and of the Sprinker essay prize, Elerding’s research and criticism is published in journals including Postmodern Culture, Mediations, Reviews in Cultural Theory, and Communication, Culture & Critique.
E-mail: carolyn [dot] elerding [at] gmail [dot] com

Roopika Risam is Assistant Professor of English and Chair of the Program Area for Content Education at Salem State University.
E-mail: rrisam [at] salemstate [dot] edu



The editorial team would like to attempt to acknowledge all who have offered suggestions and support as we crafted this special issue, though there is not enough room for a truly comprehensive list. Our thanks to: the anonymous reviewers of the articles in this special issue written by Carolyn Elerding and Roopika Risam, Beth Coleman, the Fembot Collective, FemTechNet, Jen Jack Gieseking, Max Haiven, Lilly Irani, Sharon Irish, Winnie Kaur, Kim Knight, Krista Geneviève Lynes, Martha Michailidou, Padmini Ray Murray, Lee Nickoson, Monika Sengul-Jones, Carol Stabile, Beth Strickland, Imre Szeman, Toneisha Taylor, Cassie Thornton, and Edward Valauskas, as well as the participants and audience of the “Materiality, Difference, and Digital Labor” panel at MLA 2017.



We dedicate this special issue to two of the scholars in digital studies whose work has inspired us, Lisa Nakamura and Christian Sandvig, in memory of Laura.



1. Haraway, 2016, p. 35.

2. Following numerous precedents in feminist writing, the authors of this article write separately to respect and benefit from differences of opinion, writing process, method, discipline, and political priorities.

3. Fembot Collective, 2012–2018, n. pag.

4. Fembot Collective, 2012–2018, n. pag.

5. For examples of widely read critiques furthering the continuing improvement of theories and practices associated with intersectionality, see Collins (2015) and Nash (2017, 2016, 2014, 2010, 2008), and Puar (2011).

6. Cassilli and Ciccarelli, 2017, n. pag.

7. Terranova, 2014, n. pag.

8. For exemplary use of this strategy, see the Canadian feminist journal nomorepotlucks (

9. In just two days, the hashtag produced half a million tweets (France, 2017). People who had experienced sexual violence used the hashtag to share their experiences, ranging from detailed accounts of their experiences to tweets that consisted simply of “#metoo.” The hashtag has also trended in more than 85 countries (Strum, 2017). The cultural significance of the hashtag was memorialized in Time naming “The Silence Breakers” the Person of the Year for 2017.

10. Union in Vagianos, 2017, n. pag.

11. Latta’s revelation was followed by others: Jane Penner, who detailed Moretti’s unwanted sexual overtures, and a former graduate student at Johns Hopkins, who declines to be named.

12. Ahmed, 2017, n. pag. Elerding: For those unfamiliar, Ahmed’s widely read blog has recently featured a series of essays about her research on diversity and inequality in academic institutions.

13. Ahmed, 2017, n. pag.

14. Priego, 2017, n. pag. Elerding: This seems like an appropriate moment to mention Callisto, one of several techno-solutions that have appeared in the aftermath of #metoo. It archives complaints in a searchable database and offers several features designed to minimize victims’ affective labor burden.

15. Zuckerberg, 2017, n. pag.



Sara Ahmed, 2017. “Complaint as diversity work,” feministkilljoys (10 November), at, accessed 7 December 2017.

Sara Ahmed, 2004. The cultural politics of emotion. New York: Routledge.

Laura Bear, Karen Ho, Anna Tsing, and Sylvia Yanagisako, 2015. “Gens: A feminist manifesto for the study of capitalism,” (30 March), at, accessed 19 December 2017.

Antonio Casilli and Roberto Cicarelli, 2017. “Antonio Casilli: ‘Workers are the heart of the algorithm’,” il manifesto (12 December), at, accessed 15 December 2017.

Seo-Young Chu, 2017. “A refuge for Jae-In Doe: Fugues in the key of English major,” Entropy (3 November), at, accessed 7 December 2017.

Fembot Collective, 2012–2018. “Review process,” at, accessed 20 January 2018.

Patricia Hill Collins, 2015. “Intersectionality’s definitional dilemmas,” Annual Review of Sociology, volume 41, pp. 1–20.
doi:, accessed 7 February 2018.

Kimberlē Crenshaw, 1991. “Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color,” Stanford Law Review, volume 43, number 6, pp. 1,241–1,299.
doi:, accessed 7 February 2018.

Lisa Respers France, 2017. “#MeToo: Social media flooded with personal stories of assault,” (16 October), at, accessed 7 December 2017.

Christian Fuchs and Sebastian Sevignani, 2013. “What is digital labour? What is digital work? What’s their difference? And why do these questions matter for understanding social media?” tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique, volume 11, number 2, pp. 237–293, and at, accessed 18 January 2018.

J. K. Gibson-Graham, 2006. The end of capitalism (as we knew it): A feminist critique of political economy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Melissa Gregg, 2009. “Learning to (love) labour: Production cultures and the affective turn,” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, volume 6, number 2, pp. 209–214.
doi:, accessed 7 February 2018.

Donna Haraway, 2016. Staying with the trouble: Making kin with the Chthulucene. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

Donna Haraway, 1985. “A manifesto for cyborgs: Science, technology, and socialist feminism in the 1980s,” Socialist Review, number 80, pp. 65–108.

Nancy Hartsock, 1983. “The feminist standpoint: Developing the ground for a specifically feminist historical materialism,” In: Sandra Harding and Merrill Hintikka (editors). Discovering reality: Feminist perspectives on epistemology, metaphysics, methodology, and philosophy of science. Boston, Mass.: Reidel, pp. 283–310.

Lisa Nakamura, 2014. “Indigenous circuits: Navajo women and the racialization of early electronic manufacture,” American Quarterly, volume 66, number 4, pp. 919–941.
doi:, accessed 7 February 2018.

Jennifer Nash, 2017. “Intersectionality and its discontents,” American Quarterly, volume 69, number 1, pp. 117–129.
doi:, accessed 7 February 2018.

Jennifer Nash, 2016. “Feminist originalism: Intersectionality and the politics of reading,” Feminist Theory, volume 17, number 1, pp. 3–20.
doi:, accessed 7 February 2018.

Jennifer Nash, 2014. “Institutionalizing the margins,” Social Text, volume 32, number 1, pp. 45–65.
doi:, accessed 7 February 2018.

Jennifer Nash, 2010. “On difficulty: Intersectionality as feminist labor,” Scholar & Feminist Online, volume 8, number 3, at, accessed 7 February 2018.

Jennifer Nash, 2008. “Re-thinking intersectionality,” Feminist Review, volume 89, number 1, pp. 1–15.

Sianne Ngai, 2004. Ugly feelings. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Safiya Umoja Noble, 2013. “Google search: Hyper-visibility as a means of rendering black women and girls invisible,” InVisible Culture, number 19 (29 October), at, accessed 26 December 2017.

Cathy O’Neil, 2016. Weapons of math destruction: How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy. New York: Crown.

Ernesto Priego, 2017. “Why documentation matters” (27 November), at, accessed 18 January 2018.

Jasbir Puar, 2011. “‘I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess’: Intersectionality, assemblage, and affective politics,” eipcp, at, accessed 21 January 2018.

Corinne Purtill, 2017. “MeToo hijacked black women’s work on race and gender equality,” Quartz at Work (6 December), at, accessed 7 December 2017.

Roopika Risam, 2015. “Toxic femininity 4.0,” First Monday, volume 20, number 4, at, accessed 7 February 2018.
doi:, accessed 7 February 2018.

Lora Strum, 2017. “Twitter chat: What #MeToo says about sexual abuse in society,” PBS News Hour (25 October), at, accessed 7 December 2017.

Tiziana Terranova, 2014. “Red stack attack! Algorithms, capital, and the automation of the common,” Effimira (11 February), at, accessed 21 January 2018.

Alanna Vagianos, 2017. “Gabrielle Union on the #MeToo Movement: ‘The floodgates have opened for white women’,” HuffPost (7 December), at, accessed 7 December 2017.

Donna Zuckerberg, 2017. “The lost library: E(i)ditorial — Philomela’s tapestry,” Eidolon (1 December),, accessed 20 January 2018.


Editorial history

Received 22 January 2018; accepted 7 February 2018.

Copyright © 2018, Carolyn Elerding and Roopika Risam.

Introduction: A gathering of feminist perspectives on digital labor
by Carolyn Elerding and Roopika Risam.
First Monday, Volume 23, Number 3 - 5 March 2018

A Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library.

© First Monday, 1995-2019. ISSN 1396-0466.