Hope Labor
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Hope Labor
Hope Labor is a concept developed by media researchers Kathleen Kuehn and Thomas F. Corrigan (T.C.) based on their conversations with online content creators. We define Hope Labor as "un- or under-compensated work carried out in the present, often for experience or exposure, in the hope that future employment opportunities may follow." To read our full paper on Hope Labor -- published in the peer-reviewed journal, The Political Economy of Communication -- click here: http://www.polecom.org/index.php/polecom/article/view/9
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Humor: What if Hitmen Were Asked to Work for Free?

Humor: What if Hitmen Were Asked to Work for Free? | Hope Labor | Scoop.it
Photographers often get asked to shoot for free in exchange for experience, exposure, future work, and images for their portfolio. What if a hitman were ap
TC Corrigan's insight:
Hope Labor satire!
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McDonald's Asks Indie Band To Play For Free At SXSW, Their Response Is Perfect (UPDATED)

McDonald's Asks Indie Band To Play For Free At SXSW, Their Response Is Perfect (UPDATED) | Hope Labor | Scoop.it
Here's what happens when a major corporation asks an indie band to play their SXSW showcase for free.
TC Corrigan's insight:

"Their selling point was that this was 'a great opportunity for additional exposure,' and that 'McDonald’s will have their global digital team on site to meet with the bands, help with cross promotion, etc'"

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The Independent's Katie Grant: Experience or exploitation? The perils of working without pay

The Independent's Katie Grant: Experience or exploitation? The perils of working without pay | Hope Labor | Scoop.it
After leaving full-time education, many find themselves in a classic Catch-22 situation: it seems virtually impossible to get a job without the necessary industry experience, yet the chance of obtaining that crucial work placement is almost as difficult as getting the dream job with more and more people willing to work for free.
TC Corrigan's insight:

Articles like this highlight a key problem for examining Hope Labor processes. So many of the people quoted by journalists are folks that have successfully secured work through these processes -- a fact that certainly shades their accounts. 

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Millennials Feel Trapped in a Cycle of Internships With Little Pay and No Job Offers

Millennials Feel Trapped in a Cycle of Internships With Little Pay and No Job Offers | Hope Labor | Scoop.it
Unpaid internships are the bane of millennial workers with high aspirations.
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Charlie Hoehn: Is There A Better Way To Find Work?

Charlie Hoehn: Is There A Better Way To Find Work? | Hope Labor | Scoop.it
Charlie Hoehn describes how he built a career by working for free.
Kathleen Kuehn's insight:

Is there not?

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Lachlan Murdoch's DMG Radio Network to Freelance Music Writers: Build Your Portfolio by Writing Music Reviews ... for Free

On Tuesday, DMG was advertising for freelance music writers, anywhere in Australia, to scribble rock reviews for its yoof-oriented network, Nova, and its easy-listening stations, smoothfm. 


"If you're passionate about live music and writing and want to add a little more to your portfolio, this is the perfect opportunity,'' the ad on Pedestrian.tv burbled. 


A catch? Of course. In addition to having to stay awake all the way through a Norah the snorer gig, the job is ''an unpaid volunteer position''.

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Ross Perlin (author of Intern Nation): "The System is Indeed Inefficient and Unethical"

Ross Perlin (author of Intern Nation): "The System is Indeed Inefficient and Unethical" | Hope Labor | Scoop.it

"It's not just about enforcement of the existing law; it's also about that supply of free labor that is generated partly because schools are encouraging internships and because some are even requiring internships. There's a whole culture around internships: this idea that you're going to work unpaid has been completely naturalized. It's something you hear from your parents and teachers, and indeed, it may be required."

TC Corrigan's insight:

Since reading his terrific 2012 book, Intern Nation, I've been waiting for Perlin to weigh in on the latest legal challenges to unpaid internships. His perspective adds to the national conversation about internships in a number of ways. For instance:

 

Perlin notes how challenges to unpaid internships could impact the job market as a whole:

 

"This will represent a kind of real wage floor, which the minimum wage is intended to be, and those workers who have been displaced or in many cases replaced by unpaid labor, by unpaid interns, will benefit. And that's not just other young people. I mean, we have seen the entry level job become an endangered species, partly as a result of unpaid internships. But many older workers have also found that young people working for free, or working for a small stipend that amounts to less than minimum wage, are taking their jobs."

 

He is also highly critical of the role of colleges and universities in normalizing the institution:

 

"I think there are three ways in which schools have been complicit. One is by promoting and advertising unpaid and often illegal internships on campuses. Another is by sustaining these internships through the academic credit system ... And the third way in which schools have played a role is by requiring internships."

 

Most importantly, though, Perlin attends to the historical novelty and cultural acceptance of the institution:

 

Historically... "The term internship goes back to the medical profession, late 19th century, and that word was associated with young doctors in kind of a transition period between medical school and entering the profession. And that was true really into the 1970s and the 1980s ... clearly something has happened in the last few decades, where the meaning of this term has changed. We've seen an explosion of precarious and contingent work arrangements, of which internships are just one kind, including freelance work, the rise of temp labor, permalancers, permatemps -- a whole array of arrangements."

 

Culturally... "it's not just about enforcement of the existing law; it's also about that supply of free labor that is generated partly because schools are encouraging internships and because some are even requiring internships. There's a whole culture around internships: this idea that you're going to work unpaid has been completely naturalized. It's something you hear from your parents and teachers, and indeed, it may be required."

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Sequoia Capital’s Sir Michael Moritz on Our Free Labor for Online Data Factories: “It Means that Life is Very Tough for Most Everyone in America”

Sequoia Capital’s Sir Michael Moritz on Our Free Labor for Online Data Factories: “It Means that Life is Very Tough for Most Everyone in America” | Hope Labor | Scoop.it

"As a technology community, we have to ask whether this shift is sustainable. Can we keep eliminating middle-class jobs and concentrating wealth without consequence? Or will this weakening of the bottom of the pyramid lead to a global financial collapse?"

TC Corrigan's insight:

Hope Labor relates to these developments in that the hope of future job opportunities is one motivation (in addition autonomy, community, ect.) for people pump value into to these online data factories.

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'Free Agent' is New Face of Workforce

'Free Agent' is New Face of Workforce | Hope Labor | Scoop.it

"The economy is shifting beneath the feet of workers, pushing a growing share of them into the role of independent contractor or consultant, temporary worker, freelancer and entrepreneur. More than 40 percent of American workers classified themselves as a “free agent” by the start of 2012, according to Kelly Services research, a huge jump from 2008, when 26 percent of workers gave themselves that label."


Via Skip Boykin
TC Corrigan's insight:

A good illustration of the precarity's structural and ideological dimensions. 

 

Ideologically... "Some workers celebrate the free-agent culture that pushes them to cut their own path to success. Others think it is intimidating and will leave more people behind"

 

Structurally... "Eighty percent of large companies plan to substantially increase their use of contract and temporary workers, according to Intuit, a software firm that publishes reports on the small business economy."

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Campaign to end unpaid internships heads to campus

Campaign to end unpaid internships heads to campus | Hope Labor | Scoop.it
A nascent campaign against employers' use of unpaid interns is taking aim at what critics call some of the longstanding practice's biggest enablers: colleges that steer students into such programs in exchange for academic credit.
Kathleen Kuehn's insight:

As the unpaid internship closely aligns with hope labor motivations, here's another example of young people pushing back against working for free. 

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NYT's Juliet Lapidos: Employers and Interns Alike See Free Labor as Common Sense

NYT's Juliet Lapidos: Employers and Interns Alike See Free Labor as Common Sense | Hope Labor | Scoop.it

"Employers see nothing wrong with soliciting free labor on public forums. This month, a high-level editor at Lean In, the foundation Sheryl Sandberg started to help women “pursue their ambitions,” tried using Facebook to find a “part-time, unpaid” intern “with editorial and social chops” as well as “Web skills.” After an uproar — how could Lean In, of all places, lean on interns? — the foundation president promised to set up a more formal internship program, with compensation.

 

Unpaid internships are, at best, ethically iffy. A necessary precursor to jobs in certain fields, they act as both a gateway and a barrier to entry. Young people believe they have no choice. Anyone unable to forgo pay risks being shut out."

TC Corrigan's insight:

Not a ton of new information here; however, it is interesting that Lapidos notes that "Employers see nothing wrong with soliciting free labor on public forums" and that "Young people believe they have no choice" since upaid work is "a necessary precursor to jobs in certain fields." These points underscore that contemporary free labor dynamics have an ideological basis -- they're seen as common sense by BOTH groups that benefit from the status quo AND those that are subordinated by it.

 

Of course, ideologies must continually be reproduced if the arrangements they're constituted by and constitutive of are to be perpetuated. Thus, free labor NEEDS these expressions by employers that "see nothing wrong" and accounts by interns and other hope laborers that their activities really are "a necessary precursor to jobs." The marketing push for the free labor economy may never be more important than it is right now.

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UK Illustrator and Animator Mr. Bingo's Response to a Free Work Request (Language)

UK Illustrator and Animator Mr. Bingo's Response to a Free Work Request (Language) | Hope Labor | Scoop.it
TC Corrigan's insight:

well at least he's clear.

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Garbage respond to photographer’s refusal to grant use of pictures for free in new book | Complete Music Update

Garbage respond to photographer’s refusal to grant use of pictures for free in new book | Complete Music Update | Hope Labor | Scoop.it
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Adecco: An entitled generation? Half of UK young people willing to work for free to get on jobs ladder

Adecco: An entitled generation? Half of UK young people willing to work for free to get on jobs ladder | Hope Labor | Scoop.it

"Half (49%) of all young people are willing to work for free to get on the jobs ladder, according to a unique research project from recruitment experts Adecco looking into Britain’s youth unemployment crisis ... The survey found that the higher the level of education the more willing young people are to work for free ... The research also revealed how tough it can be to secure an interview ... And over half (54%) of young people cited lack of work experience as the main reason for rejection at interview stage."

TC Corrigan's insight:

Adecco's Alex Fleming describes the experience trap -- that one needs prior experience to be considered for jobs -- as "unfair." It's what pushes young people into unpaid work. However, Adecco's answer is not to challenge that norm, but to have students secure more work experience while in school. This ignores the potential for exploitation, as well as the possibility that such actions may further undermine the job markets young people seek to enter.

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NYT: Drawing Boundaries Around Internships

NYT: Drawing Boundaries Around Internships | Hope Labor | Scoop.it

Student internships have come in for criticism over the past year, drawing fire for putting pressure on students to work long hours for little or no pay.

TC Corrigan's insight:

A good point that these developments don't happen in a vacuum: “Employers are able to exploit youth because the situation is so dire that people are literally willing to work for free to get into the Canadian labor market,” said Ms. MacEwen. “It’s a symptom of broader problems.”

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Suey Park: HuffPost's Asian Voices section is "labor exploitation masked as inclusion"

Suey Park: HuffPost's Asian Voices section is "labor exploitation masked as inclusion" | Hope Labor | Scoop.it

Suey Park had long pressed HuffPost to create an Asian Voices section. When HuffPost finally did, it asked Park to contribute, but not for pay -- at least for now. An Asian-American woman working to launch the section explained to Park: “Perhaps monetary compensation is in the future, but I believe our voices need to be heard first in order for any possibility of that to occur ... Asians/AAPI issues have far too little representation within the publication and I and many others simply want to change that by taking small steps.”

 

Park's goes on to critique the "colonial logic" of this arrangement:

 

Much like the American Dream that is dangled before our noses, this offer is a trap. The trap being that labor exploitation, is masked as inclusion. We cannot broadcast progressive issues when the base of a project is already creating oppressive structures. The Huffington Post shows its not-so-progressive values when asking that we co-sign their exploitive practices. This project also echoes ideas of meritocracy, which is capitalism’s favorite way of brainwashing us into believing that American individualism works if we just try hard to overcome structural barriers such as discrimination.

TC Corrigan's insight:

Park's piece is a strong critique of hope labor that draws important attention to the way exploitative labor arrangements can cut inequitably across racial lines (and, presumably, other social structures). It also illustrates that hope labor manifests itself most clearly and pervasively in contexts where the work is meaningful, such as the media and cultural industries. This logic surely extends to activist work. It's meaningful, and who wouldn't love to get paid to do what we love? Such contexts make future work worth hoping for, and the present work is worth doing for free -- even for extended periods of time -- because that present work is so personally/socially rewarding.

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No Resume, No Cover Letter — Instagram Scored the Job

No Resume, No Cover Letter — Instagram Scored the Job | Hope Labor | Scoop.it
Clark Walker just landed his dream job as a barber in New York City. How? By commenting on an Instagram picture.
Kathleen Kuehn's insight:
Instagram as "the interview"
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The Telegraph's Ed Cumming to Interns: "Stop Complaining and Work for Free"

The Telegraph's Ed Cumming to Interns: "Stop Complaining and Work for Free" | Hope Labor | Scoop.it

"Students often ask me how to get into journalism ... I tell them how I did it ... Nobody would pay for me to do a masters, so I took the only open road open: I got an internship ... Once in the office, I hustled like mad. In hindsight I think the only thing that gave me an advantage was realising that I didn’t have many actual advantages. I stayed until 10 at night proofreading, I collected dry-cleaning, I fetched tea. Most of all I pitched, to everyone and anyone, in a manner that alienated me semi-permanently from a few people who would eventually become colleagues. Eventually I threw enough mud at enough editors that some of it stuck, and one thing led to another."

TC Corrigan's insight:

A classic example of the hope labor economy framed as a meritocracy. Trust me, says Cumming: the smartest and hardest working will rise to the top, just like I did. If you don't succeed, it can be explained away as a function of your lack of talent or hard work. (Just don't pay attention to the power asymmetries between employers and the hopeful or the increasingly precarious labor conditions have unfolded in recent decades).

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Why Smaller Artists Won't Be Joining Thom Yorke's Crusade Against Spotify | Led Zeppelin Site

Kathleen Kuehn's insight:

"Exposure, in other words, has turn even some-more viable banking in a Spotify epoch than it’s always been. The complement is such that bands work desperately for zero in hopes of bearing that will means them a payoff of operative desperately for tiny some-more than nothing."

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Forbes Reviews Neff's "Venture Labor"

Forbes Reviews Neff's "Venture Labor" | Hope Labor | Scoop.it

"Neff’s main point is that for that generation of workers – hired on promises of stock options, low pay, no healthcare, and few benefits (at least in the early days) – venture labor “stood in for venture capital.” The human capital of that era was just as important as the infusion of cash many companies received from angel investors and VC firms. It’s where the ideas came from, and where the energy to experiment existed."

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Eric Glatt, Intern in Black Swan Case, on Legal Challenges to the Unpaid Internships

"Most people do unpaid internships to improve their reputation. Interns' interest isn't in changing the status quo. Their interest is in succeeding within the status quo."

TC Corrigan's insight:

That's how hegemony works.

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Cruel Irony: Aussie Campaign for an Artists' Living Wage Asks Artist to Accept Credit (i.e., Exposure) for Use of Her "Will Paint For Food" Painting

Cruel Irony: Aussie Campaign for an Artists' Living Wage Asks Artist to Accept Credit (i.e., Exposure) for Use of Her "Will Paint For Food" Painting | Hope Labor | Scoop.it

On August the 13th I received an email from the Australian Greens Party, asking for permission to use one of my paintings for an election campaign ... My first reaction was one of excitement - of course I'm always delighted when somebody shows a keen interest in my work! I read the email out to Judd. His initial reaction was much the same, adding: 'That'll be pretty good exposure!' But then I started to chew it over... 

TC Corrigan's insight:

It's a cruel irony. Organizations fighting the hope labor logic will almost certainly feel compelled to rely on hope labor to both balance their books and compete for "hearts and minds." Indeed, the institutions that would likely have the greatest ability to turn back the hope labor's normalization are those most likely to rely on hope labor -- media and political organizations.

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Inc. Magazine's Jeff Haden: "Why You Should Always Do a Little Work for Free"

Inc. Magazine's Jeff Haden: "Why You Should Always Do a Little Work for Free" | Hope Labor | Scoop.it

Aside from simply doing something nice for the sake of doing something nice (which has a value all its own) here are other reasons why occasionally working for free—or for a significant discount—can still bring you tangible returns

TC Corrigan's insight:

Lately I've been reading Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha's book, The Start-Up of You <http://www.thestartupofyou.com/>. Haden's arguments here seem to line up with Hoffman and Casnocha's rationalization for working for free. Basically, Hoffman and Casnocha argue that working for free can make sense if it gives you an opportunity to build your "soft assets," including skills, knowledge, and other human capital. This is the "experience" that Hope Laborers and Hope Labor rationalizers so often tout as compensation for free or deeply discounted labor.

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Melanie Gillman: If Other Professions Were Paid Like Artists

Melanie Gillman: If Other Professions Were Paid Like Artists | Hope Labor | Scoop.it
TC Corrigan's insight:

Thanks sharing this, Brian Dolber.

 

Reminds me of the suggestion a women's sports advocate recommended for critiquing media coverage of female athletes: "Does it flip?" http://books.google.com/books?id=EUyPlufn9pAC&pg=PA53&lpg=PA53&dq=%22does+it+flip%22+feminist&source=bl&ots=z-TWT26TOE&sig=EgEEkNsV8Gjj9wpuyiXJ9e_v_lA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=5ucLUtKICeP0yQG03IDQAQ&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22does%20it%20flip%22%20feminist&f=false

 

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