The Cubicle Island
23823
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The Cubicle Island

The term microwork represents a series of small tasks that are completed by many people over the Internet to comprise a large unified project, such as this book. Microworkers are considered to be the operators of the smallest unit of work in a virtual assembly line. They are most often used to complete tasks for which no efficient algorithm has (yet) been devised. Microworkers find themselves in an important moment in the History of Labor; a stepping stone to Artificial General Intelligence’s (AGI’s) exponential acceleration of technology that ‘promises a new era in social and economic abundance’. Microwork, whose distributed (human) deployment, platform-mediated, zero-hour contract regime has all the perks of minimal transactional frictions and absolute circumvention of applicable minimum wage laws. Microwork is a sort of a cheap AI. It has been dubbed AAI. The Cubicle Island is an experiment with the distributed ramifications of digital labor whose pages labor silently through the products of an extremely deskilled textual workforce, both human and non-human. This book collects hundreds of desert island cartoons (a genre that reached its peak of popularity in 1957, possibly as an expression of a Cold War fear of the bomb) whose original text captions have been detexted. I solicited, through the interface of a popular digital labor platform, a couple of thousand people to submit a total of 17,000 textual contributions. With varied formulations for each subsequent call, I was explicitly asking microworkers to provide a funny text between 50-70 words for each of these cartoons – with high expectations but mixed results. Limited print run, published by La Cinquieme Couche (BE) and Forlaens (DK). The Cubicle Island is a durational performance based on 50 years of desert island press cartoons that highlights the extreme isolation that comes with new regimes of work in the making of an international class of precarious cognitive workers. Without sacrificing the cartoon’s semantic complexity and reader engagement, the book puts the emphasis of comics in their (digitally) distributed, partly human labor. The percolation of the comic strip units through the reader swarm of the digital factories and their cheap algorithmic surrogates, calls into question the primacy of the punchline and the drawing as the defining factors of the cartoon format and the comic industry. In the age of surveillance capitalism’s selective transparency, it thematizes new formations of labor and leisure.

1500 pages | hardcover edition
CMYK | 2020 | 178mm x 254mm

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