What if we look at all the revolts of the last few years (from 2010 on) as revolts of the knowledge class or cognitariat? So, we think of knowledge workers broadly -- teachers, adjuncts, civil servants, nurses, Verizon workers, the newly layed off, phone-center employees, programmers, the unemployed students and graduate students -- we read, in other words, the precarious in terms of the majority of knowledge workers (those who generate content and data for communicative capitalism) who have been displaced and disposed because of the very technological innovations that make them knowledge workers. My hypothesis is that all the revolts of the last three years are revolts of these e-proles. The current skirmishes around Google buses are thus absolutely key for understanding the current cycle of struggles. Likewise, university struggles aren't epiphenomenol or derivative. They are major sites of struggle, like factories were in previous cycles.
The problem with much emphasis on the cognitariat has been the focus on the entrepreneuers and billionaires. This emphasis tends to rely on rags-to-riches narratives: homegrown computers and hackers in it for the lulz. But these stories are of course capitalist fairy-tales that displace our attention from workers onto their becoming-capitalist. Success is when they are capitalists, huge amounts of venture capital, successful IPOs, etc. What matters, though, are those who remain knowledge workers.
If this inclination is correct, then the stupid media fixation on Facebook and Twitter in the revolutions is useful: it flags the activity of the cognitariat (I really hate this term, though -- is there another one? like cybertarians? digital proletariat is pretty awful, e-proles? what about e-proles? I think that sounds pretty good ...) It also explains the importance of Anonymous, both as actors and as emblems. And, it links people like Snowden and security questions into the class struggle.
So, looking at the protests and revolts of the last few years as the class struggle of the cognitariat would account for the persistence of personal media, the people protesting, the economic position of the protesters, and the political ambiguity of the protests. E-proles have a strong libertarian bent (I blame 30 years of capital resurgent). They tend to present themselves as post-political, anti-political (for example, in the Spanish movement of the squares). They are so fluid and spongy (whatever beings, imaginary identities -- I talk about this in Blog Theory) that they can be pushed, channeled in different directions (they have a hard time uniting as a class and so tend to concentrate around identity claims). So, the revolt in Ukraine would be part of the same series as Tunisia, Egypt, OWS, and Turkey.
Struggles of e-proles don't look like past struggles of the working class because of the disparate, individualized nature of media under communicative capitalism. But it is a class struggle nonetheless.
Below are excerpts from an essay by Christopher Newfield on the knowledge economy. Much of it is quite useful and interesting. I am posting it because I think it helps provide some good context for the reflections above about the cognitariat. Some folks might recall that this was big a few years ago. The discussion pretty much died down because knowledge workers weren't a revolutionary class. But, I am suggesting that maybe, in fact, we are.