Co-creative relations among professional media producers and consumers indicate a profound shift in which our frameworks and categories of analysis (such as the traditional labour theory of value) that worked well in the context of an industrial media economy are perhaps less helpful than before. Can this phenomenon just be explained as the exploitative extraction of surplus value from the work of users, or is something else, potentially more profound and challenging, playing out here? Does consumer co-creation contribute to the precarious conditions of professional creative workers? This article draws from ethnographic research undertaken from 2000 to 2005 with Auran games (a game development company based in Brisbane, Australia) to engage with debates about the status of user co-creation as labour. The article argues that as a hybrid and emergent social network market these relationships introduce a form of creative destruction to labour relations in the context of the creative industries.
Main Results of the Study
- For waged labour, there is the threat of displacement by unpaid amateurs and the loss or redefinition of work. For amateurs there is the question of whether pursuing their passions through creative production is something to be constructed as ‘enabled’ by commercial entities or ‘exploited’ by commercial entities.
- User-led production is messier and often driven by a diverse range of motivations that cannot be marshalled into the institutional forms of industrial style production. The consequences of commercial enterprises coming to rely on this form of production to varying degrees is not necessarily outright cooptation or appropriation, but the emergence of new social network market institutions and processes, in which the commercial entities are changing shape as they seek to harness the productive activities of amateurs.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
- In trying for a more nuanced account of labour in a networked production environment, we are not seeking to deny the uneven power relations that exist between enterprise and user creators. However, if there is to be any chance of evening up the power relations, users must be understood as having agency, and the characteristics of that agency and the forms of power it generates must be articulated in order to be mobilized.
- In terms of policy and regulation the challenge will be to identify where intervention is necessary, particularly to address matters of equity, but not to stifle the innovation processes in doing so. Understanding the changed form of the market requires that regulatory interventions change as well. In the future, we suggest that research could usefully focus on the role of non-professional creators as they navigate and shape the emerging markets.
Coverage of Study
| Sample size:
| Level of aggregation:
|| Case study
| Period of material under study:
|| 2000 to 2005