Free Labor On-Line and On Stage

Looking at Terranova’s essay, “Free Labor,” she raises strong points on the distribution of labor and how our society and culture have defined the term. It is classically defined as a type of work performed for payment, but as the digital age prospers, the meaning of “labor” loses this classical identity. Much of what Terranova notes is the idea of “free labor” and the expectations society places on the digital industry, whether on building software, writing code, or making digital art. People have allowed themselves to theoretically take pay cuts in order to do what they most enjoy. This has changed the way we view work and the compensation put towards specific industries. Terranova writes, “Free labor…is a trait of the cultural economy at large, and an important, and yet undervalued, force in advanced capitalist societies.”

This growing trend of free labor has altered the way society views specific industries. This creates a wider and wider gap as some industries flourish and others seem to remain stagnant. For example, we notice those in the financial industry receive high paying internships while still attending college, but performers must continuously perform in a variety of shows for free to build a resume before being considered for the “labor” industry in their field.   As Terranova argues, “Although the shift from factory to office work, from production to services is widely acknowledged, it just isn’t clear why some people qualify and some others do not. The ‘knowledge worker” is a very contested sociological category.”

Focusing on those key performers who created a theatre troupe and came to New York City to establish a theatre in Greenwich Village, it is clear that the initial struggle of performing free labor is necessary for one to fully pursue his or her true passion. Finding these vulnerable industries is crucial to finding this “free labor” because compensation is less of an active incentive to perform the task. Terranova’s speaks of these ideas in the digital age and their importance and growing necessity in today’s culture. She writes, “After all, if we do not get on-line soon, the hype suggests, we will become obsolete, unnecessary, disposable.” She uses the “NetSlaves” to highlight the facilitators of a product that all western societies utilize.


~ by mjs716 on April 1, 2014.

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