Digital Taylorism and the Algorithmic Imagination: Reconstituting the Conditions of Capital Accumulation After the 2007-9 Financial Crisis

Lindsey MacDonald

Advisor: Paul Smith, PhD, Cultural Studies Program

Committee Members: Timothy Gibson, Alex Monea

Online Location, Password: 004192
December 01, 2020, 03:00 PM to 05:00 PM


When capital accumulation breaks down in times of crisis, it must not only reconstitute its preconditions, but also conjure up new fictions to conceal its contradictions. Capitalism, in other words, must not only restore profitability, but also its justifying ideologies. This dissertation examines this double maneuver in the context of the 2007-9 financial crisis and its aftermath, with a focus on the production and consumption of goods and services flowing from the cultural industry, financial sector, and the digital gig economy. More specifically, this dissertation stages a three-pronged investigation into objects and practices grounded in the progressive rationalization of the production process, giving rise to what I call the “algorithmic imagination”—that is, a mode of social consciousness oriented around a logic of optimization. Accordingly, this dissertation works to illuminate how this consciousness was forged following the 2007-9 financial crisis, when cybernetic and continuous flow systems based on automatic control took on greater economic centrality and cultural importance. Bringing together a series of case studies in videogames, algorithmic trading, and ride-hailing companies, this dissertation contributes an interdisciplinary understanding of capitalist crisis and recovery.