Journalistic Labour and Technological Fetishism

Edward Comor, James Compton


This article applies Marx’s concept of the fetish generally and technological fetishism specifically to how digital ICTs are influencing the craft of journalism. A theoretical analysis of technological fetishism is linked to the findings of a 2013 survey among Canadian journalistic workers. These workers are found to hold mixed and often contradictory views on how digital technologies are shaping their work and profession. We understand ICTs as constitutive of journalism and as a technological fetish which mediates its development. In this context, the survey respondents are not ‘wrong’ to recognize that digital technologies seem to possess inherent powers. Because the fetishization of digital technologies is rooted in the social relations of contemporary journalism and neoliberal capitalism, redressing these is what needs to be strategically prioritized. Indeed, both critical thought (applied to the concept of technological fetishism) and political action are needed if the deleterious transformations taking place in journalism are to be modified and the democratizing potentials of digital ICTs fully realized.

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