Web2.0 and Labor1.0 – and a Call to Action on the Millennium Development Goals

Over the past couple of months I’ve been writing sporadically about what I’ve termed “Labor2.0” – that is, the grimy world of work, of labor, that lies underneath the glossy surface of our Web2.0 world – of World2.0 – or maybe we should say Capitalism2.0 (except it feels like we are up to version 3 or 4, at least, on that).

In my first couple of discussions of the topic, I focused on systems like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and other forms of content creation that seem exploitative in the labor practices they involve – ranging from Mechanical Turk’s digital sweatshop to the unpaid work that we all seem happy to do for large media corporations to the expropriated labor that formed the basis for GraceNotes and IMDb.com.

More recently, in my discussion of toxic exposure in a Chinese factory assembling components for, among other things, Apple iPhones, I tried to highlight the linkages between the world of Web2.0 and much more traditional forms of exploitation and violence, in the way that the supply chain that produces our goodies has its beginning in often appalling working conditions.

Here’s a reminder that Labor1.0 – the Dickensian world of child labor in primitive factories – is still very much with us:

Sweatshop girl ‘has no choice but to work’: As part of a series assessing whether Bangladesh is on track to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, the BBC’s Alastair Lawson visits a safety pin factory in the capital, Dhaka, which employs children

The electricity supply in the sweatshop in the crowded part of old Dhaka where Asma, 10, makes safety pins for a living is so dangerous that the foreman can only turn on the lights using a broomstick.

“If I use my hands I may get an electric shock,” he explains.

(via BBC News.)

After watching the video that accompanies this story, and looking at the other material in the BBC series on Bangladesh and the Millennium Development Goals, I hope you’ll take the time to check out – if you aren’t already familiar with it – the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in more detail.

Of course they are not perfect, and are full of compromises, but they do represent a real attempt to come to grips with problems like poverty and hunger, underdevelopment, climate change and the status of women.

There’s a conference – a summit – being held at the UN in September, and I would love to see a demonstration there, a gathering of radicals from around the world such as we see at G8 and IMF meetings. Not to enact a violent refusal, though, as is done at those events, but rather to articulate (qualified) support for the Millennium Development Goals; to demand that world governments live up to the commitments they’ve made to take steps against poverty, hunger, disease and climate change; and to put forward visions for even more radical “development” goals, for transformation goals.

With only five years left until the 2015 deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on world leaders to attend a summit in New York on 20-22 September 2010 to boost progress towards the MDGs.

(via United Nations Millennium Development Goals.)

Let’s tell them what our millennium goals are, show then our vision of globalization, of a world for people not profit. Let’s “make poverty history” for real – not with t-shirts, wrist bands and pop concerts, but with real social change.

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