Towards a Psychoanalytic Concept of Affective-Digital Labour

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Towards a Psychoanalytic Concept of Affective-Digital Labour

  • Jacob Johanssen Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI), Faculty of Media, Arts and Design, University of Westminster, UK

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Abstract:  This article draws on the argument that users on corporate social media conduct labour through the sharing of user-generated content. Critical political economists argue that such acts contribute to value creation on social media and are therefore to be seen as labour. Following a brief introduction of this paradigm, I relate it to the notion of affective labour which has been popularised by the Marxist thinkers Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. To them, affective labour (as a sub-category of immaterial labour) denotes embodied forms of labour that are about passion, well-being, feelings of ease, immaterial products and generally a kind of communicative relationality between individuals. I point to some problems with a lack of clarity in their conceptualisation of affective labour and argue that the Freudian model of affect can help in theorising affective labour further through a focus on social media. According to Freud, affect can be understood as a subjective, bodily experience which is in tension with the discursive and denotes a momentary feeling of bodily dispossession. In order to illustrate those points, I draw on some data from a research project which featured interviews with social media users who have facial disfigurements about their affective experiences online. The narratives attempt to turn embodied experiences into discourse.

Keywords:  affective labour; digital labour; psychoanalysis; social media



© Jacob Johanssen. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.