While joining Coursera’s “community” does not resemble a job in the “getting paid” aspect of things, it does require you to sign a “Translator Agreement,” which makes clear that the relationship between Coursera and members of the GTC is subject to employment law insofar as it ensures Coursera’s complete and perpetual ownership of value produced by employees — or rather, “volunteers” — but in every other respect, it is not a job, just a way to be nice.
Coursera’s GTC offers the clearest instance yet of an emerging labor force in digital capitalism, which I suggest we call the voluntariat.
The voluntariat performs skilled work that might still command a wage without compensation, allegedly for the sake of the public good, regardless of the fact that it also contributes directly and unambiguously to the profitability of a corporation. Like the proletariat, then, the voluntariat permits the extraction of surplus value through its labor.
[…] Internships have made work more like non-work by uncoupling it from the expectation of wages. Social media has made non-work more like work by permitting the commodification of spheres of activity previously never conceived of as labor. The emergence of the voluntariat follows logically from both of these developments.