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Article

Amid the rise of atypical and casual employment across economic sectors and the decline in profits taking place in media organizations internationally, the conditions under which journalists work are changing and, for many, worsening. The number of employed journalists has declined significantly since the late 20th century, and the real salaries of the remaining journalists have decreased or remained mostly stagnant. Female journalists, freelancers, and online journalists are paid (often significantly) less than male employees working for traditional media. These trends are particularly well documented for the United States, but they are international in scope. Although job satisfaction is traditionally robust among journalists, it is starting to decline, as some studies have indicated, together with the perceived level of autonomy over the labor process. Although those who continue to hold permanent jobs in news organizations do journalism from a position of having a steady income and social security, a growing number of freelancers work for multiple clients, experience fluctuating incomes, and must shoulder greater risks (such as legal challenges potentially arising from their reporting). Staff journalists encounter increased workloads in newsrooms as they take on the tasks of laid-off colleagues. Freelancers, on the other hand, find it increasingly difficult to earn enough from doing journalism alone and take on secondary jobs or assignments, including in public relations. Their stress is more related to ensuring that they have ongoing work; juggling multiple jobs; and doing self-promotion, administrative work, and budget planning on top of journalism. Despite this, freelancers consistently report enjoying the flexibility and autonomy their employment status affords, pointing to a complex interlinking of freedom and constraint at the core of their work experience. It is not yet clear whether emerging ways of organizing and financing journalistic labor, such as journalism cooperatives, news start-ups, and crowdfunding, offer sustainable alternatives to the waning employment opportunities in the big news organizations or to the model of the lone freelancer. So-called entrepreneurial journalism does not only tend to emphasize teamwork across professional boundaries; it also assigns a defining importance to digital technologies. The impact of the latter on journalistic labor overall varies; some research foregrounds the increased mobility and autonomy of multiskilled reporters, and other research mentions deskilling, labor rationalization, and the increased monitoring and measuring of journalistic performance.

Article

Labor in the global neoliberal economy is configured by overlapping networks of power in a manner that sustains imperial patterns between nations and the profitability of transnational corporations (TNCs) in many ways. New forms of institutional controls enabled by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund usher in new categories of workers—part-time, temporary, flexible—and precarious forms of work. The advancement of technology is increasingly interdependent on the exploitation of labor. This article critically explores the implications of neoliberalism in transnational labor involving women employees and the employees in the offshoring industry in general in the global South—the two workforce categories boosting profits for TNCs but remaining invisible for the most part and suffering precarity while driving global capitalism.

Article

Within the field of communication, scholars have argued that the work organization has become the central institution in modern society, often eclipsing the state, family, church, and community in power. Organizations pervade modern life by providing personal identity, structuring time and experience, influencing education and knowledge production, and directing news and entertainment. In the work context of the early 21st century, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between our public and private lives, work and family, labor and leisure. Work—and its related institutions—has come to dominate our lived experiences as employees, family members, and citizens. Scholars who focus on the relationship between labor, culture, and communication explore how organizations significantly influence our lives in ways that often go unnoticed or, at the least, are taken for granted. They have studied how, over time, workers have developed naturalized assumptions about how work should function and what role it should play in our lives. For example, many of our cultural institutions—and related public policies—are organized around logics that prioritize work over other realms of life (e.g., developing welfare to work programs, rehabilitating prisoners to be “productive” citizens, shifting university education to job-related training, reducing unemployment insurance to motivate workers). At the same time, a broader consideration of work’s significance is particularly relevant when scholars take into account the values associated with what counts as productive activity. Culturally, the public has developed a range of discursive colloquialisms such as a “real job” to account for legitimate/illegitimate forms of work and have also created presumed claims like “It’s just a job” to justify a range of actions at/through work. Historically, a wide range of scholars have sought to come to terms with cultural understandings and practices of work. While some scholars have explored the discursive manifestations of work, others have studied its material conditions. Only recently, however, have scholars attempted to integrate the seeming bifurcation of these two realms of work-related research. Scholars now seek to reconcile the ways in which broader, cultural discourses that shape an understanding of work are interdependent with the concrete, specific material experience of labor.

Article

Karin Wahl-Jorgensen

Research on emotion and intimacy has been slow to develop in journalism studies. This is due to an allegiance to the model of liberal democracy and the associated ideal of objectivity. However, a growing body of work has shown that despite the historical allegiance to the ideal of objectivity, journalistic texts are—and always have been—profoundly infused with emotion. Emotion and intimacy serve crucial roles in the public discourse of journalism. They are used deliberately and strategically by journalists because they facilitate audience engagement and understanding. Audiences appear to connect with concrete stories of lived experience that dramatize the large and often abstract events that make up the news. Such connection can facilitate the cultivation of compassion—or feeling with others—and thereby engender cosmopolitan sensibilities. Growing scholarly attention to emotion and intimacy in journalism has occurred within the context of a rapidly changing media ecology. Technological changes associated with the digital era, including the rise of user-generated content and the emergence of social media, have ushered in a greater role for “ordinary people” in news production and participation. This has brought about the privileging of more emotional and embodied forms of storytelling. At the same time, these transformations, alongside broader existential threats to journalism, have rendered attention to the emotional impact of journalistic labor particularly urgent.

Article

The critical study of cultural and creative industries involves the interrogation of the ways in which different social forces impact the production of culture, its forms, and its producers as inherently creative creatures. In historical terms, the notion of “the culture industry” may be traced to a series of postwar period theorists whose concerns reflected the industrialization of mass cultural forms and their attendant marketing across public and private spheres. For them, the key terms alienation and reification spoke to the negative impacts of an industrial cycle of production, distribution, and consumption, which controlled workers’ daily lives and distanced them from their own creative expressions. Fears of the culture industry drove a mass culture critique that led social scientists to address the structures of various media industries, the division of labor in the production of culture, and the hegemonic consent between government and culture industries in the military-industrial complex. The crisis of capitalism in the 1970s further directed critical scholars to theorize new dialectics of cultural production, its flexibilization via new communications technologies and transnational capital flows, as well as its capture via new property regimes. Reflecting government discourses for capital accumulation in a post-industrial economy, these theories have generally subsumed cultural industries into a creative economy composed of a variety of extra-industrial workers, consumers, and communicative agents. Although some social theorists have extended cultural industry critiques to the new conjuncture, more critical studies of creative industries focus on middle-range theories of power relations and contradictions within particular industrial sites and organizational settings. Work on immaterial labor, digital enclosures, and production cultures have developed the ways creative industries are both affective and effective structures for the temporal and spatial formation of individuals’ identities.

Article

Bryan J. McCann

The term materialist rhetoric refers to scholarly approaches that seek to account for the relationship between rhetoric and the world that it inhabits. Rhetoricians have differed sharply on the character of this relationship and how it should inform rhetorical theory, criticism, and practice. To be a materialist is to insist that there exists a world outside of human agency that exerts force on human affairs. Marxism is the most influential philosophical tradition for materialist rhetoric, although rhetoricians vary in terms of their adherence to and interpretation of its principles. Karl Marx argued that the antagonistic class relations at the core of capitalism were the chief material determinant for social being. Historical materialism is the primary methodology of Marxist critique, and it rests on the premise that the character of class relations is not governed solely by human volition. Rather, these relations create the conditions of possibility for and shape the trajectory of social life. While Marxism has informed the liveliest debates regarding materialist rhetoric, not all materialist rhetoricians are Marxists. The earliest iterations of materialist rhetoric drew on Marxism for inspiration, but did not adopt an explicitly anticapitalist orientation. Rather, materialist rhetoric initially referred to calls for rhetoricians to better account for the material character of rhetoric itself. Later developments in materialist rhetoric emerged from debates regarding the nature of Marxism as a rhetorical method, the question of whether rhetoric is representational or constitutive, the character of rhetorical agency, and the existence of a knowable material world outside of rhetoric. Classical Marxists in rhetoric have argued that scholars should predicate their work on the presumption of an experiential reality outside of discourse that exerts force on human symbolic activity. They argue that grounding rhetorical critique in a nondiscursive materiality is necessary for ethical judgment and political practice. Others who reject classical Marxism embrace the claim that rhetoric is material—so much so, in fact, that it comprises every dimension of social being. Debates between these perspectives hinge largely on how different scholars theorize contemporary capitalism. Whereas classical Marxists retain faith in the revolutionary agency of the working class, their critics contend that rhetoric itself has become the central modality of labor in the modern economy and, therefore, the chief resource for resistance. Other materialist perspectives do not dwell on theoretical debates regarding Marxism, but instead attend to other dimensions of being beyond human symbol use. Whereas some scholars are interested in rhetoric’s relationship to the human body and physical spaces, others theorize rhetoric in ways that reach beyond the limits of human cognition.

Article

Nikki Usher and Aske Kammer

The rise of news startups in their modern incarnation has taken place on a global scale, and needs consideration as a phenomenon. First, a brief history of news startups is provided, followed by a theoretical framing that explores how they both differ from and normalize existing aspects of professional journalism. News startups stretch the boundaries of the profession through discursive claims about iteration and innovation, but nonetheless draw on the longstanding aspirations of legacy journalists for inspiration. The types of funding models are overviewed (philanthropic/nonprofit, government-funded, venture-backed for-profit, for-profit, and ideological-advocacy) and are posited against a matrix of types of news startups (original-content creators, aggregators/curators, platforms, and business-to-business). News startups face future challenges to their survival and a discussion is needed on their fragility in the context of flexible and venture labor.

Article

Political economy of the media includes several domains including journalism, broadcasting, advertising, and information and communication technology. A political economy approach analyzes the power relationships between politics, mediation, and economics. First, there is a need to identify the intellectual history of the field, focusing on the establishment and growth of the political economy of media as an academic field. Second is the discussion of the epistemology of the field by emphasizing several major characteristics that differentiate it from other approaches within media and communication research. Third, there needs an understanding of the regulations affecting information and communication technologies (ICTs) and/or the digital media-driven communication environment, especially charting the beginnings of political economy studies of media within the culture industry. In particular, what are the ways political economists develop and use political economy in digital media and the new media milieu driven by platform technologies in the three new areas of digital platforms, big data, and digital labor. These areas are crucial for analysis not only because they are intricately connected, but also because they have become massive, major parts of modern capitalism.

Article

A study of social movements advances a people’s history of the United States, providing a window into the ways ordinary people often took extraordinary measures to make laws, workplace conditions, the educational system, the quality of home life, and public spaces more open and responsive to the needs and concerns of marginalized groups. With the rise of industrial capitalism in the early 1800s came a host of social ills that prompted individuals to form organizations that enabled them to operate as a force for social change. As the Native American Chief Sitting Bull is purported to have said, “As individual fingers we can easily be broken, but together we form a mighty fist.” The 1800s through the early 21st century provides numerous examples of people acting together as a mighty fist. As early as 1824, workers in textile mills in the Northeast United States enacted work stoppages and strikes in reaction to wage cuts and deplorable working conditions. The movement to abolish slavery in the mid-1800s provided a way for disenfranchised black men and women, such as the eloquent Frederick Douglass and Maria Stewart, as well as white women, to speak and organize publically. In the area of labor, female and black workers, excluded from the more formal organizing of trade unions through the American Federation of Labor, organized their own labor meetings (e.g., the National Labor Convention of the Colored Men of the United States), unions (e.g., the Women’s Trade Union League), and strikes (e.g., the Uprising of 20,000). By the late1800s through the 1930s, American socialism and the Communist Party, USA, influenced the philosophy and tactics employed by labor activists, many of whom were factory girls who played a formidable role in mass walk-outs in the Progressive Era. Struggles for workplace and civil rights continued throughout the 20th century to undo Jim Crow and segregation, to advocate for civil rights, to advance the rights of women in the workplace, and more recently, to fight for the rights of the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender communities, undocumented workers, and immigrants, and to fight against the police repression of black and brown communities and against imperialism and globalization. Activists’ tools for resistance have been as diverse as their causes and include petitioning formal legislative bodies, picketing and rallying, engaging in work stoppages, occupation of public spaces (e.g., sit-downs, walk-outs, occupying squares and parks), and most recently, using social media platforms, blogs, and other forms of Internet activism to facilitate empowerment of marginalized groups and progressive social change. The Internet has provided an important tool for facilitating international connections of solidarity in struggle. Although what follows focuses specifically on movements in the United States from roughly the 1800s to the present, efforts should continue to focus on the ways movements join forces across and around the globe.