A critique of linguistic capitalism: Provocation/intervention

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Language has always been a tool of power over people and places, yet in today’s world of digital communication and advertising, words flowing through the proprietary platforms of the Web are used increasingly as vessels for the creation and circulation of capital. This method of linguistic capitalism is how Google became one of the most successful and wealthy companies in the world. This article argues that this neoliberal commodification of language has both linguistic and political consequences, affording unprecedented power to Google in the control of the words it sells, and its consequent influence over the wider discourse. The article evokes Orwell’s “Newspeak” as a provocation to critique Google’s hold over digitized language, and introduces a radical new method and artistic intervention called {poem}.py, which fuses Google’s AdWords platform with poetry and code to make visible and subvert the workings and the power of linguistic capitalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-437
Number of pages21
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2018


  • algorithm
  • data
  • Google
  • language
  • poetry


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