Karel Koch is a Dutch associate lector (professor) for the research group Media, Culture and Citizenship at Inholland University of Applied Sciences. Previously he was lecturer in the Media and Entertainment Management department of Inholland. He initiated and managed GNR8, a student project lab for media experiments and was involved in the development of Netwerk023, a local creative industries community in Haarlem, The Netherlands. Currently he is researching sustainability in business modelling in the media industries.
Beyond Neo-liberal Seduction: Understanding ‘Labor’ from the Perspective of Independent Professionals in the Creative Industries
The digitalization of labor is crucial to how work and work life have changed in the creative industries, our field of research and training as teachers in higher professional education. While corporate outsourcing immediately suggests new forms of exploitation as corporate risk is now carried by individual workers, it is also a source of pride for new independent professionals. In interviews those involved accept new working conditions as a fact of life and as an opportunity to make new lifestyle choices to work nearby or from home on one’s own terms. It would seem narrow-minded to simply see corporate outsourcing as foremost a triumph of neo-liberal policy and ideology when creative workers themselves also see it as a moment for critical anti-system choices that enable living a small ecological footprint and allow for new arrangements of care. How to understand this ideological quandary? Are we looking at the victory of late capitalism or does digital labor also offer opportunities for or moments of real change? Will it solidify gender inequality? Defined in the Netherlands as those professions related to media, the arts and creative business services, the creative industries are now organized as a small number of giant corporations and a multitude of independent professionals working as free-lancers or in small businesses. This paper will inquire into professional identity construction in the creative industries and available discursive means to discuss work, work life and labor conditions. Work such as this is needed to critically assess developments in work culture and working conditions. It is equally important from an educational, an administrative and from an activist perspective. Both self-organization and new labor policy can only be effective when they conform to the ways in which work is understood by all parties involved, including students and teachers.