Cyber Slave Labor


The  writer’s lot in cyberspace is pathetic, resembling the vicissitudes of Roman slave labor.  The fact that these exploited individuals are solely responsible for the historically unprecedented, ever-green growth of the Internet from an exclusive, elitist club to the present-day worldwide of billions of individuals called the World Wide Web, is paradoxical and ironic. There is nothing about a writer being humiliated and treated with indifference the world over. There is no difference between the whims of court patrons of old and the cyber deities of today, as the poor scribe is at the receiving end all the same.

The matrix of cyberspace through the medium that is the Internet is dominated by big money. In the scheme of things, the writer is at the lowest rung of the ladder in cyberspace. This in no way means that the importance of the writer is diminished in any way; rather, this implies that only a few exceptional individuals can make a living in cyberspace through their writing. The freelancer has found new, often surprising and sometimes even plain puzzling, shades of meanings in this other-worldly dimension that is cyberspace.

There are many various writing assignments available in cyberspace, ranging from web content for porn sites to sites run by Puritans, Nazis or Zionists to terrorists, criminal mafias and seditious entities. In the United States and the Western world, the Internet has become an essential part of modern living and non-computer literate people (they are usually labeled as Luddites) are an obsolete breed stranded to the point of extinction. In poor and developing countries, computer literacy is a saving grace but for a common man in the West, computer usability and friendliness is a must to make a living. These individuals are nothing more than silhouettes of Albert Camus’s metamorphosed world and the specter of George Orwell’s Big Brother in 1984

 Whatever the origin, purpose and functioning of web sites, specifically newspapers, magazines, news letters or social media platforms, a professional writer is needed every step of the way, from the reading to signing of legal documents or just a two-line sentence for Twitter or a status update on Facebook. Businesses, depending on their budget, employ the best money can buy but the majority is interested in cheap content producers and word spinners, a unique albeit scantly creative species of Internet writers.

In complete contrast to the above, cyber authors who possess the creative talent to go viral with their work is the ultimate high. Going viral is a basic requirement set by the inherent power dynamics of cyberspace, in order for an enterprise or an individual to gain access to worldwide exposure which, to a cyber author, means worldwide readership. The power of cyber writers, though they are essentially nothing more than slave labor competing for slave wages given in lieu of their services, as if in charity and eking out a slave existence, can only be underestimated at one’s own peril.

Commentary by Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada



The Nation


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