Jonathan Burston is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. He was previously a professional dancer and now researches issues of digital labor inside entertainment capitalism. A member of Western’s Digital Labor Group (DLG), Burston is now working with the DLG and the Writers’ Guild of Canada on how to secure proper remuneration for writers producing web-related content.
The Future of Organized Labor in the Digital Workplace: Reports from the Digital Labor Group
Amid the proliferation of media devices, formats, and new technologies, work in industries such as film, journalism, and television has become increasingly competitive and insecure, despite continual claims of the “digital,” “knowledge-based,” and “creative” nature of our economy. Workers in media industries that used to be regulated by union contracts are finding that work is more uncertain than ever. How are media workers and their unions and guilds responding to the transformation of work in a digital age? And how should they respond?
This paper reports on the findings of an academic-union partnership on digital labor funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada), and conducted in collaboration with the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, the Writers Guild of Canada, and the Canadian Media Guild. Based on political economic analysis, interviews and surveys, the research assesses the implications of digital technologies for working conditions in general, and for organized labor in particular, in three industries: acting, screenwriting, and journalism. In addition, the paper discusses the collaborative research process between scholars at the Faculty of Information and Media Studies and our labor partners.