While knee-deep in dissertation writing back in 2009, my colleague T.C. Corrigan and I were discussing the commonalities between our respective projects over drinks one night. TC had interviewed amateur bloggers about their routine writing practices and I had interviewed consumer reviewers on the website Yelp about how they utilized the review space as a form of consumer citizenship. As good friends do, we started sharing anecdotes that surprised us; I can’t remember now who brought it up, but at some point we noted how many of our participants were acutely aware of – and quite reflexive about – their position as unpaid laborers, yet justified their voluntary “work” as holding the potential for future employment opportunities: hence, “hope labor.”
Four years of more drinks, talks, conferences and two completed dissertations later, I’m proud to finally present the published version of our collaborative paper, Hope Labor: The Role of Employment Prospects in Online Social Production published as the lead article in the inaugural issue of IAMCR’s (the International Association for Media & Communication Research) newest journal, The Political Economy of Communication.
Despite being a brand new journal, we strategically selected to send our piece to PEC first because we anticipated an open-access, critically-oriented publication with a strong editorial board committed to the rigorous review of received submissions. I think we made a good decision, and the changes recommended during the peer-review process have made for a much stronger conceptualization of hope labor.
I hope you’ll read the issue, find value in this way of thinking about digital labor, and provide your feedback to us soon!