“The Economy of Aspiration: Gender, Creative Labor, and Self-Branding on Social Media” Brooke Erin Duffy, Temple University
From Sean Miller on October 19th, 2015
Against the backdrop of profound transformations in the technologies and economies of creative work, legions of young women are flocking to digital media platforms with aspirations of capitalizing on their passion projects. Fashion blogs, beauty vlogs, and digital styling sites, among others, are populated by individuals who articulate social media production as a path to a successful and rewarding career. This talk argues that the activities of this new class of cultural workers can be understood within the framework of what I call “aspirational labor.” Aspirational laborers pursue creative activities that hold the promise of social and economic capital; yet the reward system for these aspirants is highly uneven. Indeed, while a select few may realize their professional goals—namely to get paid doing what they love—this labor ideology obscures problematic gender and class politics. Moreover, despite the rhetoric of creative production, the aspirational labor system ensures that female participants incessantly consume and promote branded goods.