[iDC] Guidance on Fan Labor?

Mark Deuze mdeuze at indiana.edu
Wed Oct 3 12:26:16 UTC 2007

hi Nancy!

first off: this sounds like a great project! in fact, I am working with 
some students here at IU on a similar endeavor on independent 
production of culture, with case studies in indie gamework, indie 
music, and alternative press. lets exchange what we know :-)

about your question regarding the free labor that fans do and how this 
practice is not only becoming increasingly popular (with as 'trend 
amplifier' digital/networked technologies), but also increasingly 
utilized by both grassroots/bottomup organizations as by mainstream, 
corporate and transnational companies...

as mentioned by others, there are many more knowledgeable on this list 
- so... my road into this topic started with authors such as Michael 
Hardt (on 'affective labor'), Maurizio Lazzarato (on 'immaterial 
labor'), via social theories of work (Ulrich Beck, the late Andre Gorz, 
Richard Sennett), towards exploring some perspectives that look beyond 
'value theories' of labor. I must confess i am more interested in how 
media professionals deal with all this audience/fan activity and how 
they see their own professional identity in the context of having to 
compete with audiences for a chance to create content.

i hope this helps. perhaps it is of interest to know that John Banks 
(QUT) and I are guest editing a special issue of the International 
Journal of Cultural Studies on 'co-creative labor', so let me takes 
this opportunity to invite you and the colleagues on this list to 
submit! the official call for papers will follow soon - but we have a 
working deadline for final paper submissions by August 2008...

cheers, Mark

Mark Deuze
Department of Telecommunications
Indiana University, USA
Professor, Journalism and New Media
Leiden University, The Netherlands
m: 1-812-606-9742
www: deuze.blogspot.com

> Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2007 09:21:39 -0500
> From: Nancy Baym <nbaym at ku.edu>
> Subject: [iDC] Guidance on Fan Labor?
> To: "idc at mailman.thing.net" <idc at mailman.thing.net>
> Message-ID: <p06230902c327fa4f4fce@[]>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
> Hi all,
> Many on this list seem to be interested in issues of the unpaid labor
> that internet users do. I am working on a project in which I have to
> say some things about this, but labor is far from my own areas of
> expertise (those would be fandom, online community, relationship
> formation and maintenance, online language use) and I tend to get
> lost and/or overwhelmed when the topic arises on this list. I am
> going to throw out a brief description of the project and am hoping
> that some of you will be able to offer some insights into these
> issues that might help guide my analysis. I know the theory and
> exemplars are out there, but I don't know where to begin.
> I am looking at the relationships amongst independent music labels,
> musicians, and very active online fans in the Swedish music scene.
> I've written a paper describing how this scene is organized across
> multiple international online sites and geographic locations called
> "The New Shape of Online Community" which is available here:
> http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue12_8/baym/index.html  .
> What draws me to this topic (aside from the excellent pop songs) is
> the phenomenon where (unpaid) fans, most of whom are not in Sweden,
> are serving as publicists for the music, and doing a really good job
> of getting it out of Sweden and into international ears. These labels
> are selling most of their CDs outside of Sweden with minimal
> marketing abroad (though they do make heavy use of MySpace and in
> some cases license the recordings to international indie labels).
> These fans do things like write English language mp3 blogs and run
> Swedish-music-only club nights in places like London, Glasgow, Madrid
> and Washington which barely break even. Some act as volunteer booking
> agents, managing tours for these bands in their own countries.
> There's a tiny bit of money to be made for the most successful of
> them, but none is in it for that reason, and very few are doing
> anything that has potential to bring in money (like placing ads on
> their sites).
> Now, no one is really making substantial money on this scene, so it
> is not a case where user labor is lining the pockets of others. It's
> a labor of love for everyone involved -- most of the musicians and
> label people either have day jobs or are poor. However, there are
> still issues of potential exploitation (e.g. I interviewed someone
> who was responsible for consciously and strategically manufacturing
> the buzz that got an unknown band international record contracts,
> financially benefiting the labels and the band but not himself). I am
> trying to make sense of what motivates the fans to do this, and how
> the labels and musicians make sense of what these fans are doing.
> I'm also intrigued by the shifting power dynamic in which fans are
> the tastemakers and filters rather than the labels and traditional
> media (in this case radio and music magazines). I might add that I do
> a bit of this myself on a small scale, in that I write reviews for
> one of the mp3 blogs about which I'm writing.
> I'm hoping that someone can point me to some smart ways or resources
> to theorize the free-labor dimensions of what I'm getting at above.
> Thanks,
> Nancy
> --
> Nancy Baym	http://www.ku.edu/home/nbaym
> Communication Studies, University of Kansas
> Blog: http://www.onlinefandom.com

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