Notes on labor and inequality in infrastructures

Much perspectives come in place while writing this note that comes as a reflexive and self-awareness text on many issues such as my cognitive sovereignty, my perception and understanding of time in a present scale also in its multiplicity and implications, the understanding that my every decision or action is, undeniably, tied to my context and agency society gives me, and comes with consequences whether I can witness them or not which talks about certain privileges I came to have at this stage of my life, but could easily not have if having not taken certain actions that I know sums into the chain of negative footprints, like getting two flights to get here, plus the amount of clicking those tickets implied since plenty other flights were canceled before due to the ongoing pandemic.

As a South-American woman in my early 30s being a student in Helsinki, it is inevitable to compare infrastructure and systems and their affect on the non-standard citizens. The first obvious contrast with my previous infrastructure reality is the facilitating presence of proper, digitally connected, public transportation – that I came to discover that as in any other place has its spotless functionality grounded on location, more on that later. Second, and almost on an overwhelming side, I came to experience the huge reliance on digitalization which goes from mundane tasks, such as getting the metro on time to more important matters as bank services access. Everything is profoundly connected to the ID authentification system, which not only implies a matter of public control but also a powerful border setter. [1]

Digital infrastructures, such as those, hold the power to create huge class gaps; frame as a simple understanding of differentiation between those who are part of the digital systems and those who are not. The reality is that there is a more complex creation of classes based on the accessibility to the digital infrastructure and requirements of certain devices that fit the system. As a result, there are different sorts of citizens: lawful citizens, temporal citizens, outcast citizens, non-citizens, international students – which somehow belong to their own gray area, temporal international students, unlawful citizens, illegal subjects, and so on.

By exploring this phenomenon we understand that the infrastructure itself is labeling us, restricting our relational identities and agency in the society frame, fitting us in specific spheres of action. This naming affects the capacity of access to certain services and benefits, such as banking loans or housing leases, affecting also the quality of services provided like public transportation or verified phone lines. Therefore affecting the daily ways of reaching and communicating, distorting physically the perception of time, creating a significant difference between the time of the digital lawful citizens and those, us, on the outside or gray areas.












Consequently, we can discuss that the infrastructure builds upon cognitive capitalism, particularly, on certain types of individuals if we take into account that those out of the system tend to live further from work and city centers, constantly expending more time waiting for their transport, moreover, out of lack of infrastructure, many have to live in remote areas to be close to work in Helsinki, there are just two railway corridors from the core area along the main railway line and the coastal line [2]. Another key aspect of the affects on the cognitive state of digital infrastructure and infrastructure on individuals is the impossibility to access online services and have to invest more time on phone ques or presential meetings for any required matter, there is no time to rest, no infrastructure to make it possible neither.

Time is scarce and the limited that some can access is manly to be able to cover for already invested time -say returning for those borrowed waiting hours. We are again in an industrial-ish era working around the clock, not even being able to make the most out of the minute, minutes feels like seconds, but at the same time can feel like days in a restless laboring routine [3], and big companies are taking advantage of this digital class gaps turning the demand of the digitalized ones into the restless routine of the outsiders by turning overnight their lives into a 24/7 shifts. We can see for example the case of the “megacycles” of Amazon which runs on unthinkable hours, not considering traveling times, other living responsibilities nor resting times, coming to be a maximum degree of digital labor and for that matter “boiproduction” [4].

On a final thought from the gray side, as a student of new media, I came to realize certain inequalities in opportunities, perception and navigation of today’s society. There is a bigger breach among individuals that have been surrounded by technology from childhood and understand its limits and possibilities oppositely to those just coming to know it, but this understanding of the gap may be also a fake understanding of our social reality, based on the illusion of the “creation of power” with this digital skills [3].

Being educated as a kid on computer skills, and software manipulation, even basic coding nowadays, comes with the promise of giving a range of abstract understanding and deconstruction and of course, a set of tools most likely required in our context. When facing the question of “skills” and experience there is a huge difference regarding the early accessibility to digital infrastructure; that doesn’t correspond to the individuals own interests and practices but to the social contexts and its limitations, giving some individuals advantages and putting others in specific action spheres that could be carried on in time, limiting their access to digital infrastructures out of fear, embarrassment, or just being uncomfortable to face something so familiar “so late”, under the eye of the capitalist society that kept them to the margin in the first place.

There are some cases, where the question is raised, whether this division is made by the capitalist itself and if everyone does, really, need these infrastructures to be part of this global system [5], but as long as the world is functioning on certain parameters there is no doubt that it should be a right for everyone to have the same access and understanding of how things are developing, and to be up to the individual to decide whether or not to be part of it, but in terms of voluntary action not in terms of lack of information, illiteracy or inaccessibility the same applies for government policies on digitalizing identities if its not possible for everyone it shouldn’t restrict and affect those who cannot be part of it.



1. Governing ID: Principles for Evaluation. Bhandari, V. Trikanad, S. Since, A. 2020. A project of the Centre for Internet and Society, India Supported by Omidyar Network

2.Urban Form in the Helsinkiand Stockholm City RegionsDevelopment of Pedestrian, Public Transport and Car Zones. Söderström, P. Schulman, H. Ristimäki, M. 2015.

3. Cultural Techniques of Cognitive Capitalism: Metaprograming and the Labor of Code in Cultural Studies Review. Parikka, J. 2014, University of South Hampton. pp 30 – 52

4. Amazon Is Forcing Its Warehouse Workers Into Brutal ‘Megacycle’ Shifts. Kaori Gurley, L. 2021

5. Water, Energy, Access: Materializing the Internet in Rural Zambia, in Signal Traffic: Critical Studies of Media Infrastructures,Parks, L. Starosielski, N. 2015 Urbana, Chicago And Springfield: University Of Illinois Press. pp 115-136.