Self(ie) Labour from Feb 14, 2017
Intrigued with Crystal Abidin’s article, I want to briefly explore “tactic labor” and the practices of work done by both the selfie taker (“Influencer” / instagrammer / producer) and the audience (10). As Abidin explains, Instagram fame is a result of “under-visibilized” work of continuous creating, curating, maintaining, and distributing (10). She explores this labour through selfie production – makeup, lighting, posture, artifice, and editing. Adbid writes about the physical (body modification, contortions, etc.) and mental (design, editing, etc.) work and the monetary investments (camera, high heels, etc.) required to produce the selfie. However, I think that there is more to this labour than just creation since much thought, research, and curation goes into the distribution of selfies. With the need to always be online to either create the selfie, post the selfie, reply to the audience, curate the Instagram feed, discuss business/advertising contracts, develop a unique brand, manage followers, ‘like’ similar creators, etc., there is a continuous self labour inflicted or imposed on the Influencer. Unlike many other forms of work, the work has no schedule, no coworkers, no direct authority, no limits. Rather the work is entirely based on the self – the image, the marketing, the commitment to continuously engage with oneself. This complex self(ie) labour attends to questions like:
- How do we account for this labour beyond monetary gains? And should we account for it?
- To what extent does the ‘self’ lose its ‘essence’ or individuality, once marketed and condensed into the process of work, commodification, and advertising? Is there a loss?
- In what ways is self(ie) labour divided? Gendered? Classed?
- To what extent does the audience contribute to this labour or enact their own kind of work (“creation of consumer consciousness”) in the online industry? For me, this question is rooted in Dallas W. Smythe’s chapter “On the Audience Commodity and its Work”, which argues that “audience power”, and in turn audience labour, is “produced, sold, purchased and consumed” as a priced “commodity” in “monopoly capitalism” for “commercial mass media” (187). With this in mind, audiences then “work to create the demand” (195).
- Career advice from bloggers Anna Runyan (“5 Steps To Get a Job On Instagram”) and Ally Hirschlag (“How to turn your Instagram obsession into your day job”)
- I found many connections between Abidin’s work and Youtube culture. The comparisons between ‘semi-pro’ Instagram selfies and ‘fulltime’ Youtubers prompts questions about the online workforce and new jobs created by new media. So, “Want a career as a full-time YouTuber or blogger? Here’s how” via CBC.
- Selfies and (procreative) labour: “Selfies during Labour” and “Dolled up in the delivery room“
Abidin, Crystal. “‘Aren’t These Just Young, Rich Women Doing Vain Things Online?’: Influencer Selfies as Subversive Frivolity.” Social Media & Society 2.2 (2016): 1-16. SAGE Journals. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.
Smythe, Dallas W. “On the Audience Commodity and Its Work.” Media and Cultural Studies Keyworks. Ed. Meenakshi Gigi Durham and Douglas M. Kellner. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. 185-203. Print.