Wages For Facebook Laurel Ptak

September 8, 2014 - May 1, 2015

Laurel Ptak, Wages For Facebook (2014).

Every fall the Blackwood Gallery commissions an artist to produce a work for the Bernie Miller Lightbox, a billboard sized (108" x 72") venue installed on the outside of the William Davis Building (formerly known as South Building) where the two wings of the building meet at the end of the "Five Minute Walk". The commissioned work stays throughout the school year.

Wages For Facebook is commissioned by Director/Curator Christine Shaw for the exhibition FALSEWORK on view from September 15 – December 7, 2014.

Wages For Facebook: Poll

Are you a Facebook user? Why or why not?

What do you mostly use it for?

How often do you update Facebook?

How does social media affect your interactions with other people?

Does social media feel like work to you?

Do you care that Facebook is making money off of your newsfeed?

Would being compensated for using social media change how and why you use it?

What type of Facebook work could logically be compensated?

What kind of governing body could represent workers of Facebook?

Are you interested in participating in the Wages For Facebook campaign? Why or why not?


* This poll was conducted by students of the University of Toronto Mississauga, from October 6th to October 20th, 2014.

Project Statement

Wages For Facebook draws on the 1970s feminist campaign Wages For Housework to think through the relationships of capitalism, class, and affective labour at stake within social media today. Wages For Housework demanded that the state pay women for their unwaged housework and care-giving, as the market economy was built upon massive amounts of this unacknowledged work—and its labourers could be seen to constitute a huge working class. Wages For Housework built upon anticolonial discourse to extend the analysis of unwaged labour from the factory to the home. Along these lines, Wages For Facebook attempts to extend the discussion of unwaged labour to new forms of value creation and exploitation online. The launch of a manifesto website, wagesforfacebook.com, in January 2014 clearly hit a collective nerve. Since then the project has been debated widely via social media, at universities, and in the press, setting off a crucial public conversation about workers’ rights and the very nature of labour, as well as the politics of its refusal, in our digital age.

Project History & Artist Biography

As soon as the site wagesforfacebook.com launched in January 2014 it was graced with over 20,000 views (and counting) and rapidly and internationally debated on social media platforms and message boards, as well as in mainstream and left press including The Nation, International Business Times, Dissent, The Atlantic, Jacobin, and The Hindu. It has been analyzed at conferences by academics across disciplines of geography, cultural studies, anthropology, public health, and labour; used to support the argument for Universal Basic Income by Pirate Party enthusiasts in Europe; spawned an activist group ready to collectivize and make the demand for wages for Facebook; is being taught to students in universities internationally; and is the subject of workshops and installations in the art context taking place in Chicago, London, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, and Stockholm. Wages For Facebook contributors and supporters include Eric Nylund, Michelle Hyun, Christina Linden, Anna Lundh, Pedro Neves Marques, Laurel Ptak, Mariana Silva, Christine Shaw, Nicole Cohen, as well as numerous University of Toronto Mississauga students, staff, and faculty.

Wages For Facebook, 2014. Design by Eric Nylund. Image courtesy of Laurel Ptak.

Laurel Ptak works across curatorial, artistic, and pedagogical boundaries to address the social and political contours of art and technology. Together with artist Marysia Lewandowska, she is co-editor of the book Undoing Property (Sternberg Press, 2013) which explores artistic practices in relationship to immaterial production, political economy, and the commons. Recent collaborative projects include: To Have and To Owe (2012) an exhibition and event series created with numerous artists, theorists, and activists exploring debt’s aesthetic and affective dimensions; What Do We Do Now? (2013) an alternative economies fair featuring discussion around and direct access to practices of mutual aid and cooperation for artists and artworkers; and Wages For Facebook (2014). Ptak teaches in the department of Art, Media and Technology at Parsons, The New School in New York City. In 2014 she was appointed Executive Director of Triangle Arts Association in Brooklyn, a more than 30-year-old artist residency program within an international network of arts organizations around the world. She is currently at work transforming it into a revitalized institution that actively rethinks the site and conditions of artistic production and wonders what an artist residency can be in the year 2014.