: Introduction : Summary : The Theory of Conceptual Labor : Glossary : Why We Need a Theory of Conceptual Labor : How to Use The Theory : The Expanded Theory : Author's Note :



Labor refers to the overall state of acting to produce results.

Work refers to the effort one makes during labor

Project refers to a defined scope of work — the thing you are trying to do. It is the nature of our attention that we subdivide our labor into smaller projects, so whatever conditions that guide our work at any given stage of labor define the project being done


A model is a dynamic representation of the labor required by a project as understood by an observer. This observer is typically a self-aware party that situates themselves as part of the model. The model is comprised of concepts that have the capacity to describe all the conditions that are relevant to the project as understood by this party. One can engage these concepts to produce multiple, hypothetical narratives of how they should go about their labor and what the expected outcomes will be.

However complex these models are, their significant components can be categorized as one of following three fundamental components of labor.

The Fundamental Components of Labor

Actors are anything performing work or work-equivalent actions. An individual at work is the typical actor within a project.

Work is any action taken by an actor that contributes to their labor, designated either before it begins by the actor’s intentions or after it has started by its observed results.

Context is the total set of all conditions that the actors believe to be relevant to the execution of work as part of a project.

In this theory, then, labor is when an actor does work within a context to complete a project, following their model to do so.

Other Terminology

The conventional narrative is the progression of labor from incomplete to complete in which work that does not directly advance the process towards completion is considered illegitimate, non-canonical or not “real work.”

Medium is the material, physical or otherwise, with which we do conceptual labor. Unlike context, the medium of our conceptual labor is not defined by our understanding of it. Medium refers to the total set of conditions, known or unknown, relevant or not, of anything with which we do conceptual labor.