Friday, November 18, 2011

Digital Culture: Precarity, (self)exploitation and unspeakable inequalities in the cultural and creative industries

Digital Culture: Innovative practices and critical theories.
ECREA Digital Culture & Communication 3rd workshop
Barcelona, Spain, November 24-25

Abstract keynote speaker Rosalind Gill, King’s college, London

This talk has three aims. Firstly, it will review “what we know” about the features of cultural and creative work, discussing issues such as precariousness, bulimic patterns of working, and the intensification and extensification of work over time and space . It will consider how these now ‘well-established’ ‘facts’ about creative work may be being challenged by co-creation. Is this the ‘ultimate’ in exploitation of ‘free labour’ or a harbinger of a different set of participatory ethical practices in the cultural sphere, a democratization of who gets to ‘make culture’?
Secondly, it will explore the notion of “self exploitation” that has emerged as a key term for theorizing the labouring conditions and subjectivities of workers involved in the cultural and creative industries. Whilst this originated as a critical term from a Foucaultian tradition concerned with theorizing new modalities of power and discipline, its usefulness both as an analytical and political tool will be interrogated. Has it become another neoliberal term of abuse–blaming workers for their own exploitation and rendering invisible the structural conditions in which work is carried out? Why has the word exploitation only become speakable when it prefixed by the notion that we are somehow doing it to ourselves? What would it take for us to start talking about exploitation again? Do we need a new vocabulary to think about labour – especially in the context of co-creation? And what kind of resistance is possible without recourse to this vocabulary?
Finally, the talk will raise questions about what still remains a largely silenced issue in debates about the conditions of cultural workers–inequalities between workers. I will develop from the notion of “unmanageable inequalities” to explore how gender, race and class inequalities have become not simply unmanageable but unspeakable in cultural work–even by those most adversely affected by them. How do we begin to challenge the toxic myths of egalitarianism and meritocracy that circulate in the cultural and creative industries–and in much writing about them? And how can we make sure that questions about inequality are on the agenda of a politics that seeks to challenge and resist contemporary labouring conditions – whether this is the labour of freelancers of employees or of hobbyists who give their time ‘freely’.

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