I had hoped to get a new chunk of my LTP up today, but I'm still struggling with the last little bit of it and need to make my daily deadline. Plus the idea for this post interrupted that, and wouldn't leave me alone. So here's some even-rougher-than-usual thoughts!
Mo Engel, one of my co-supervisors, has been asking me questions about method all along that have stuck with me in the best of ways. One of them, which we’ve returned to in discussion a few times, has been the question of what (if anything!) holds all the domains I’m looking into together. “Why this and not mommy blogging [as an example of affective labour]?” she’s asked on multiple occasions, and I’ve never had any response—except, “Err, because I don’t know anything about mommy blogging other than the fabulous things Aimée [Morrison] has taught me. Err—uh…” She usually takes pity on me there and we move on to a different topic.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m nowhere close to an answer, really. But while wrestling with my materialism field for my LTP this evening, I did have some thoughts:
I think part of what might draw my study together is that (with one key exception, which I’ll talk about in a minute), most of the types of labour I’m considering have some kind of equivalent offline that is ‘recognizable’ in the sense that it is included under the heading of paid labour.
Blogging, particularly in the ‘professional’ context which I’ve proposed to focus on, is probably the easiest one to support in this respect; I’m paid as a grad student, partially to produce certain documents at particular times, but when I produce writing in a blog like this, even though it directly influences the work I am paid for, I’m not compensated. Similarly, crowdfunding (which, depending on the campaign, can be likened either to an investment in the production of a good, or something more akin to a charitable, caused-based donation) involves labour that has an analogous offline form.
Fandom is a bit more complex, of course. No one is paid only to be a fan, but breaking down fandom into particular genres produces many recognizable forms of paid labour (writing, producing media, art, and analyses). The sticking points here, of course, are the legal ramifications which make some fan products more able to be monetized, but not others.
The obvious outlier then, is piracy. But I also think that’s rather the point. These communities might be deemed the furthest outside a comprehensibly capitalist economy, and many are in fact openly positioned against private property and its various regulatory forms. But they are also the most consistently populated by folks with the most normative privilege.
But wait, still, what about mommy blogs, dammit? Writing is a paid thing! Yes, it is, but I think the reason I feel disinclined to touch this is that reproductive labour remains, in most places, an unpaid gig. Silvia Federici (yes, her again!) and many others have noted that capital in fact depends, and has since its very origins, on the removal of reproductive and domestic work from the category of waged labour. So I think that to get at why it is that most mommy bloggers are not compensated, we would have to ask first about why it is that mothers in general are not paid. And while this is a deeply important question, and is very much related to some of what I’m considering, it also seems to me a fundamentally different one than why it is that forms of labour which are at least semi-comprehensible to capital offline suddenly become less so online.
None of this means, of course, that my domains are set in stone. I already don’t think that what I’ve said entirely holds. But…well, it’s not “err”, so I’mma count that as a victory and go back to LTP-ing now.