Accepted paper:

Learning machine economies

Authors:

Oana Mateescu (University of Bergen)

Paper short abstract:

Based on participant observation and a critical reading of Marx's Fragment on Machines, this paper explores informal IT and smart city pedagogies in Cluj-Napoca for the paradoxical reductions they perform on the conjoined notions of knowledge and economy.

Paper long abstract:

Earnestly dubbed as the East European Silicon Valley, Cluj-Napoca (Romania) hosts a growing IT industry that thrives as an outsourcing market in constant need of labor. Information technology has become key to personal as well as city-wide projects of transformation. This paper analyzes two contemporary contexts of informal learning in Cluj for the paradoxes they reveal about contemporary concatenations between knowledge, technology and economy: a two-month IT introduction class geared towards personal professional reconversion and a bi-monthly community meet-up of participants from city government, IT industry clusters and media convened for the purposes of developing a smart city strategy for Cluj. In the first case, participants drawn in by the compelling mirage of well-paid IT jobs strive to become initiated in the basics of algorithmic thinking and computer programming. In the second, experts as well as interested citizens aim to recalibrate the categories of urban life to the algorithmic fixes of smart technology. I explore both pedagogical contexts through the lens of Marx's Fragment on Machines. Invested with famous optimism in the postoperaismo tradition as well as in more recent proposals of postcapitalism and accelerationism, the Fragment has provoked much debate about the shape of value, but less so about the shape and distribution of knowledge. For heuristic as well as critical purposes, I reduce knowledge to data in an effort to capture the algorithmic stripping of economy that is, paradoxically, at the core of these pedagogical object lessons in the capacity of technology to deliver radical change.

panel P129
Marx @200: historical materialism for today's world [IUAES Commission on Global Transformations and Marxian Anthropology]