Gilbert Simondon once noticed that industrial machines were already ‘information relays’, as they were bifurcating for the first time the source of mechanical work (natural energy) from the source of information (the worker)… this essay is an exercise of retro-avantgarde, or anterior future: it attempts to show that the past was already enough futuristic, that industrial workers were already information workers and that we find ourselves today in the society of metadata and not anymore in the information society…
Matteo Pasquinelli, “Italian Operaismo and the Information Machine”, Theory, Culture & Society, first published on February 2, 2014. doi: 10.1177/0263276413514117 +PDF
Abstract. The political economy of the information machine is discussed within the Marxist tradition of Italian operaismo by posing the hypothesis of an informational turn already at work in the age of the industrial revolution. The idea of valorizing information introduced by Alquati (1963) in a pioneering Marxist approach to cybernetics is used to examine the paradigms of mass intellectuality, immaterial labour and cognitive capitalism developed by Lazzarato, Marazzi, Negri, Vercellone and Virno since the 1990s. The concept of machinic by Deleuze and Guattari (1972, 1980) is then adopted to extend Marx’s analysis of the industrial machine to the algorithms of digital machines. If the industrial machine can be described as a bifurcation of the domains of energy and information, this essay proposes to conceive the information machine itself as a further bifurcation between information and metadata. In conclusion, the hypothesis of the society of metadata is outlined as the current evolution of that society of control pictured by Deleuze (1990) in relation to the power embodied in databases.
Keywords. Algorithm, cognitive capitalism, information machine, immaterial labour, metadata, operaismo.