This piece reflects many conversations over the years with different folks. Jyotsna Kapur’s passionate concern with social and economic justice in art and media work has kept me in dialogue with her about this for years. A terrific organizer of adjunct academics, John Hess, taught me about academic labor from his experience and example. Julia Lesage’s many years of making media in, around, and in spite of higher education and a decade-long stretch of irregular employment provided a bedrock understanding of key issues. Gathering information as I was shaping the essay and the Resource piece benefited from advice and references by John Caldwell, Toby Miller, Rick Maxwell, Alisa Perren, Jennifer Holt, Bill Bleich, Larry Knapp, and Janet Wasko. Conversations about The Social Network with Jon Lewis and Jeffrey Skoller gave me new ideas. The deeper background structure to this essay rests on decades of observing and knowing artists, intellectuals, and academics — especially my former students — negotiating the cultural industry system.

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DX1iplQQJTo
[return to page 1 of essay]

2. William Blake’s poem, “And did those feet in ancient time.”

3. http://www.geekosystem.com/

A South Korean animated cartoon featuring “Pororo,” a penguin, was tentatively blocked from US distribution not because of labor conditions, but because some of the labor had been outsourced to North Korea and the U.S. bans imports from the North. After review, the cartoon was allowed import.

4. Hugh Hefner’s Playboy began the 1950s genre of “bachelor magazines,” using slick paper and upwardly mobile lifestyle topics combined with the earlier “girlie pinup” genre photos. Aimed at a middle class or middle class aspirant young male readership, bachelor magazines contrasted with another genre, men’s adventure magazines (aka men’s pulps). Eliminating of the rough macho masculinity of fisticuffs, private eyes who shot their enemies, and swaggering bravado on the battlefront or barroom, was Hugh Hefner’s key change in the men’s magazine tradition. Playboy was targeted at young men who liked things like jazz, sports cars, well-made sport clothing, expensive liquor and hi-fi equipment, attractive well-groomed women, and so forth as opposed to boxing, strip tease, cheap cigars, beer, and floozies.

5. “A striking case of unjust, unpaid labour in the media industries is the internship system. It is increasingly difficult to enter the media and media-related industries in advanced industrial countries without having performed, at some point, a significant period of unpaid work. The fact that young people are willing to do this is a product of the desirability of creative labour, and the over-supply of workers…. The use of such young people performing unpaid labour also depresses wages for workers in the cultural industries. Furthermore, it has a serious impact on which kinds of people are likely to be able to gain entry to the media industries. Young people from wealthy families are much more likely to be able to afford sustained periods without pay. Increasingly, internships are provided as part of media education degrees. Of course many young people want to carry out such internships. But they benefit companies at the expense of time that young people might be spending exploring ideas and broadening their intellectual horizons…” Hesmondhalgh, 2010, p. 276.

6. Recent examples were highlighted by the sale of the online Huffington Post which exposed how much unpaid labor was involved in the site’s content. See for a start: Sam Gustin, “AOL, Huffington Post Seek Another 8,000 Free Bloggers,” April 27, 2011, at wired.com.

The attempt by major new organizations such as the NY Times to crowdsource examination of the Sarah Palin gubernatorial emails was another example: amateur enthusiasts would replace skilled paid journalists in sifting through the documents.

[return to page 2]

7. I’m sure I could get the information eventually with a lot of help from someone who is expert in deciphering government data sources, but the task is daunting. More knowledgeable people I asked suggested various workarounds such as unions and craft guilds. I discuss this with more detail in the annotated resources bibliography on Media Art and Economics in this issue.

8. A useful summary: http://www.ad-mkt-review.com/public_html/docs/fs188.html
The full report can be tracked down, along with contexting information at: http://www.coloarts.state.co.us/

9. Editorial work for some US and European newsrooms is now done partly by workers in India; reported in Toby Miller, “My Global Financial Crisis,” Journal of Communication Inquiry, (2010): 34(4) 436. A Philippine blogger reports digital outsourcing can buy 4 or 5 local talents for the salary of one U.S. based employee doing the same job. Luis Buenaventura, “Sweatshop Blogging Economics,” on Guttervomit, http://guttervomit.com/2008/04/08/sweatshop-blogging-economics/

10. “The Reviving Downtowns,” Wired, June 2011, 134-5.
[return to page 3]

To topPrint versionJC 53 Jump Cut home

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.