Taylor describes the two realms as selling of goods and services and putting a figure on arts and culture. “Cost disease isn’t anyone’s fault….It’s just endemic to businesses that are labor-intensive” (Taylor, Loc 675). This new age values an engineer, contractor or baker over that of a teacher or an artist. This is because artists can now have seen people “paint an appealing(Taylor, Loc 697). Now it becomes more convenient and less expensive so new-media utopians feel as if it’s a favor rather than work. It is an assumed this are things artist should be doing and sharing with others considering “many of them enjoy fame, admiration, social status, and free beer in bars” (Taylor, Loc 732).
That is essentially where the problem lies. If you are doing or creating something which is a necessity for the growth of others or because some take other payments, not everyone is going to feel those people need to be paid. The bigger problem becomes if this people don’t get paid, being that they need it to survive, then more will venture outside of the field to support themselves diminishing that culture.
Taylor argues a valid point because the fate of creative people in this so-called new world order has been compromised by a Capitalist society. When it is all about “Buy and Sell”, a creative person, in a Marxist world, can’t be creative when limitations are placed on one’s ability to free their minds and bring productive innovative ideas to the forum of an environment that prevents an independent expression. Therefore, the fate of creative people, in the new economy, is to “exist in two incommensurable realms of value and be torn between them”, because they are torn between creative expression for the purpose of art and culture, and then are caught in a consumer based world where products are manufactured and sold. In a Capitalist society, products and services are considered more of an asset than that of the creative expression delivered as talent and freely expressed in an autonomous environment. As a result, the creative person is torn between the two worlds and is caught between the values of the talent vs. the value of the product.
In addition to the creative person such as artists; there are the teachers, activists and others who view their work as serving “the public good”. They too are caught in a similar catch 22. These groups of people are in positions to have strong voices in order to change a situation and circumstance, and teach those who are unaware. However, when there is no platform for creative expression and the learning forum is compromised because of bureaucratic commercialism, these groups are also torn between selling goods for labor, and are not able to be creative in expression for the purpose of being free to communicate without being compromised for capital gain.
After reading this chapter, I’ve taken a closer look at the purpose of it all, and I start to question, just how free am I in this capitalist society? When I think further, I realize that this is a kingdom of Capitalism perpetuated by Dictators who look at us as peasants who will use us to help them to gain more power.
“Amateurs,’ Shirky writes, ‘are sometimes separated from professionals by skill, but always by motivation… The essence of amateurism is intrinsic motivation: to be an amateur is to do something for the love of it.” (47)
“Artist’s often enjoy what they do, suggesting they might continue being creative even when the monetary incentives to do so become weaker. In addition, artists receive a significant portion of their remuneration not in monetary form… many of them enjoy fame, admiration, social status, and free beer in bars.” (48)
I loved this chapter, largely because it brought to mind my own experience as an underpaid and undervalued artist, and my familiarity with the commonness of this experience in the lives of many of my friends and loved ones, artists, teachers, and those who work in human services positions.
Personally speaking, I am often paid solely with free beer in bars when I DJ or am involved in live performance settings that utilize my aesthetic tastes, ability to manage crowds, personally curated collection, technical know how, and stunning personality (j/k). It’s generally fine and accepted (the free beer is definitely enjoyed) when I’m hanging out with friends, vibing, and collaborating with others to create a musical and visual space that feels life affirmative and like an offering of my creativity for a communal kinship (rather than an egoic endorsement of my personal “brand” – can’t brand other people’s music can only feature it, otherwise that’s appropriation). But to think that because I get joy from this experience, that this means it would be shallow and somehow lessen the quality of my offerings or services as a artist, creative, and working person for me to request some form of compensation that is not alcohol, is really frustrating. “We tend to believe that the labor of those who appear to love what they do does not by definition qualify as labor.” (Taylor, 51)
I get the basic principles involved with running a business (I’ve done that too, run other people’s businesses to support myself and my own after hours artistic practice) – if the bar doesn’t make money because only a handful of people show up to the event, then of course you are not getting cab fare home. I enjoy playing music for other people, especially when they enjoy it, but like any work, as Taylor suggests as much, there are plenty of moments or parts of doing that work that don’t feel enjoyable. I’m not going to stop doing this work because I don’t get paid with paper money (the self-actualization is pretty grand) but to suggest that the various struggles that accompany this endeavor do not affect my abilities or “productivity” because the value of this creative output or cultural product is simultaneously fetishized and disregarded is absurd.
Free beer doesn’t pay for my cab home with all my gear at 3 am. Free beer doesn’t acknowledge the years of digging and in-person conversations I gathered pre-spotify, shazam, and youtube to learn about the musical cultures and craft I curate from and it unfortunately doesn’t banish random straight yuppie dude bros that stumble into the scene (it’s not that type of party) and come up to the booth in an aggressive and drunken manner demanding I play some top 40 song off their i-phone. Free beer is not going to entice other potential collaborators to participate in your project if there is no means of other viable accomodation to offer (payment, stipend, or even a couch to crash on.) Admiration doesn’t mean anything if you have promoted a monthly residency across several social media platforms (where 90 – 100 people’s profiles click yes they will attend) and only 9 people come out that night. Social status does not fix the fact that the venue has double booked your space, again, so you have to aimlessly wait around for the last crowd to stagger off and start way later. It’s not like that every time we throw this event, but sometimes it is and then some – unforeseen complications that make you wonder if you should have some sort of additional emergency medical training under your belt.
Passion is nice but it’s not going to pay your bills. Passion is an overly demanded ideal that the public (consumer/shareholder) puts on the artist – I would almost suggest that it is an American invention like the pursuit of happiness as an end goal and only encouraged potential outcome/dividend. It’s like the only recognized authenticity afforded to your labors is your own participation in stepping into the box of the starving artist, you become a product that doesn’t sell but looks sexy. If I’m being lauded for being an artist, can I get some affirmation as a worker, or beyond that, as a human? Because staying up really late in a bar drinking and playing to an empty room is not exactly a life affirmative feeling – it’s not the reason I got into the craft I got into, I got into it for the “feeling-bonds” that Taylor speaks of on page 49. These feeling-bonds are the crucial piece that drives the passion behind culture and creativity. That I get to form these bonds with people who are open to being moved by music and story-telling is the greatest form of compensation I can imagine but it’s not enough to keep me pragmatically organized and motivated to consistently produce them. If we lived in a bartering society – maybe I could trade the beer for useful things like nourishing food and decent shelter and the various expensive materials I need to continue to be paid in beer – but so far despite how big beer is in America it’s not a valid form of currency for anybody else besides alcoholics and artists who love to perform invisible and unacknowledged labor for it. Where is this almost darwinian stockpile of intrinsic motivation I need in order to gain this idealized cognitive surplus that will unlock my ability to be a fully self-realized working poor artist creating feeling-bonds and getting free beer in bars? Do I need a unique QR code and compatible app to unlock this motivation, because as far as I can tell, all this beer is doing is creating a haze around the larger realities of what it means to be a disregarded worker within a society and world experiencing hyper technological development in an insane market economy.
Technological and media development has provided humanity with a kind of directionality. Mankind and technology has evolved from the essence that separates humans from the ability to use mind for reason. Reason is the ability to analyze, create, deduce, and formulate. It is reason that enables human beings to strive to invent. As an example “ the arts do not benefit from technological advancement in the way other industries do: a half century ago it took pretty much the same amount of time and labor to compose a novel, produce a play, or conduct an orchestra as it takes today” (Taylor, Loc660) meaning, that reasoning plays an important role when it comes to developing and not even with the most advanced technology human reasoning could be replaced.We could say that technology is the sum total of instrumentally useful culturally transmittable information. However, the issue resides whether all of this innovations is going to be a source to replace humankind.
Astra Taylor, discusses in the chapter of “For Love or Money” how creativity has been an important cultural value throughout the course of technological innovations. Sometimes, we assume that everyone who is out in the labor force do what they do for the love of money, but this is human nature being judgmental, there are plenty of “amateurs” that they rather have a intellectual gratification rather a monetary reward or both.Taylor states that there are two types of people, and those who produces for the love of money and those who produces for love of what their passion is. In addition, sometimes people are forced to do what they don’t want to pursue as oppose of what their real passion is. Culture plays a big role in this sense, as they are brainwashed just because is their passion it seems as an imposible to have both.
When I read Taylor’s argument about creative people being torn between staying in their chosen profession and being able to express their creativity and their love for what they do or choosing other profession or jobs for economic reasons (e.g. better pay), I thought of myself in that situation. I would like to be an early childhood educator because I love working with children, and I enjoy being creative in designing and planning curriculum and lesson plans, and even setting-up the classroom environment, activity centers, and materials that would foster young children’s curiosity and learning experiences. I understand that teachers are not paid as much as other profession. Even though I would really love to be an early childhood educator, there are also times when I get concerned whether or not this profession will be able to support me and my family financially. However, loving and enjoying what I do and being able to express my creativity in my work is more important to me because I believe I will be more successful if I love what I am doing. Whenever I have doubts (specifically about the economic part of it), I just think that I can find other ways to supplement my income like working extra for after school programs and in summer programs.
I also think about the other teachers who choose to stay in this profession for the same reasons that I have. However, this also brings up another issue about the limitations some teachers are experiencing in regards to being creative in their curriculum and lesson plans due to the shifting focus on academics and standardized testing for funding for schools. Because of the pressure to achieve high scores on these standardized tests, some teachers had no choice but to follow and just rely on textbooks, rote learning, and practicing the questions on the tests, rather than being creative in their teaching. Still, it’s the question between creativity in jobs vs. economics.
Artists and musicians are also caught in the same situation. They express their creativity through their work of art such as paintings and drawings and through their songs or instruments. But, they do not get paid enough. If we watch Youtube videos, we will find a lot of talented singers and musicians who share their songs and music in these channels. But how much are they getting paid? How many of them have to work additional jobs in order to do what they love and still survive financially? How many of them have to give up the profession they enjoy and love and work somewhere they can receive better pay?
The economic activity associated with straightforward selling of goods or labor implies that, and supported by NYU professor Clay Shirky, that to be paid you should be engaging work that you do not enjoy. Thought she is opposed to it, Rebecca Solnit has made a similar observation in that the “conventionalized notion of work as the forty hours of submission to another’s purpose snipped out of your life (and leaving a hole in your heart and mind).” Why do feel that to make money, our efforts should not be toward something fulfilling, or is it that we make excuses for our own choices? Those who enjoy their work, bakers, firemen, and others who create but not categorized as “Artists” seem to be exempt from criticism as those who write, create, play, implying that their crafts are not “work.”
The elevated forms of value we associate with art and culture, we need to promote that our culture needs support through the arts and tear down the misconceptions that artists do not work hard and that their efforts are important and worthwhile. By setting the economic bar lower and lower for artists, it is creating a new expectation on the part of the artist and, particularly those who titter between amateurism and professionalism, as there is no clear divider other than the continuation of not being paid. This pattern leaves the artist to feel that their work should only be beheld as amateur, or that the industry has changed so that they should just be happy with what they can get. And this new expectation does not only sit on the heads of the artists, but on the viewer/reader/listeners as well. The more that media users feel they are entitled to the free reproductions of art that the internet makes so easy, the more they distance themselves from understanding that making the art costs a great deal.
Though the argument for “the little person” to have the support over the “professional” is valid at a glance, when it comes to the people who do their work to help other people and contribute to our culture, I believe their work, their art, their teaching, their helping, should be supported. If the economy isn’t sustaining their practices, we need to have another look at the distribution of wealth and to our government and start to make change that makes a difference.
In Taylor’s chapter “Love or Money” she talks about creativity. It says that in our economy time we are losing our creativity, I completely agree with her. I grow up in a different country, in Russia and when I was a teenager the artists was singing an amazing songs. All songs had a deep meaning that time. When you would hear it you would have a goose bumps. Now our days in my country or even here in America the songs lost their meaning. I was in the club not long time ago and I spent there only 20 minutes, I don’t know may be I am getting old but I was not able to dance. No offends but songs and artist not creative our time. I think everything has standards, so everyone worries about money and not creativity. Artists don’t show creativity any more; they just do what they have been told to do. May be creativity don’t get pay as long as you are already famous. We have lots of talented and creative people, but no one needs it, first what you have to have to be an artist is a look.
What about teachers, they not all super creative also. But I met and saw teachers whose classes were lots of fun and they were doing theirs classes in a creative and unusual way. There are not a lot of them, but they exist. Otherwise the rest of the teachers also do everything by the standards as well. I think people who are teachers must love their jobs. Otherwise why would you work as a teacher and make low money if you can do some finance and work in a big company on a Wall Street.
“The nation that a passionate amateur artist can succeed on the Internet is a myth that stifles real artists and enriches corporations”. So at the end of the day you pick for yourself, do you want to work for money or love?
If I wasn’t as passionate as I am as an early childhood educator, I would have probably chose a different path as my career due to the challenges Taylor speaks about in the chapter “For Love or Money”. Not so much because teachers are losing their “creativity” but because I’m beginning to wonder if what I make as a teacher will potentially lead to making a “good living” and paying off my bills. It’s a constant struggle for me because I truly love what I do but it’s been difficult to be financially stable. When I mean struggle, I do not struggle in trying to figure out a different career path. I have no doubt in my mind that I am in the right field because every day that I walk in to my classroom I am happy and I am also fascinated by the intelligent minds of young children. However, to be able to support myself, and potentially to create my own family, I might need more financial support, which I consider my struggles and an early childhood educator.
On the other hand, I do not think that teachers are losing their creativity. I am currently working as a preschool teacher at the CUNY Graduate Center, Child Development and Learning center. At our center we as educators are committed to providing a play-based, developmentally appropriate early childhood education for the children of Graduate Center students. Art is an important and integral part of our daily curriculum. It is a fun way for children to create and represent their ideas. We believe that through art children express what they know and how they feel. In our center, art is never demonstrated by a teacher. It is open-ended and entirely the result of the child’s endeavor. The children show their creativity while we provide a variety of materials for children to experiment with. Choosing the materials is where we get to be creative, and creating the art is the children’s creativity. Some may think that providing the appropriate materials is not enough to show the teacher’s creativity however, this is an important role to increase children’s natural curiosity while helping them gain knowledge.
Taylor’s argument states that the fate of creative people in the new economy exists in two incommensurable realms of value; the purely economic activity and the elevated forms of value we associate with art and culture. The first realm deals with the idea that work is done for money, and she refers to this group as the “professionals”. Benkler and Shirky argue that only those who despise their work deserve to be paid for their efforts. The second group deals with those who work for the love of it, or the “amateurs”. Professionals and amateurs are sometimes separated by skill, but always separated by motivation, because the essence of amateurism is intrinsic motivation. As a result, amateurs are willing to work and produce content simply for the love of it, and may even lose money in order to feed their desire to create, while professionals are motivated by the economic gain that comes from working.
Taylor highlights something that affects our society currently; the idea that work must be enjoyable and that you must love what you do for a living. The problem however, is that we tend to believe that the labor of those who appear to love what they do does not by definition qualify as labor. Taylor states “what sounds like idealism reveals itself to be the opposite because it is deeply cynical to deny professionals any emotional investment in their work.”
The challenge faced by teachers, activists and artists is that there is a commonly held belief that we should work for love and not money, and this helps justify corporations’ unwillingness to compensate in jobs that are believed to serve the public. The idea of the “starving artist” is sensationalized by new media thinkers, almost as though they believe this is a rite of passage for those in the arts and culture. Taylor states that for these new media thinkers, “the ideal worker is an individual who is versatile and rootless, inventive and adaptable; who self-motivates and works long hours, one who loves work so much, he or she would do it no matter what and so expects little compensation or commitment in return.” As a result of this thinking, people in these jobs settle for little compensation because they believe it is better to love what they do, and they disregard the fact that you can love what you do and be compensated handsomely for it as well.
Taylor (2014:50) argues that the fate of creative people, in the new economy, is to “exist in two incommensurable realms of value and be torn between them–on the one side, the purely economic activity associated with straightforward selling of goods or labor; on the other the fundamentally different, elevated forms of value we associate with art and culture.” Your hybrid writing assignment this week is to describe these two realms and the challenges they pose for artists, teachers, activists and others who view their work as serving “the public good.”
In the latter portion of the second chapter of The People’s Platform, Taylor elaborates on a concept raised perhaps most enthusiastically by Richard Florida in his descriptions of the “Creative Class.” In Florida’s vision, a natural consequence of the digitally networked economy and increasing automation is a reorientation of the bourgeoisie as a class of creatives who traffic in ideas, creativity and information rather than material goods or everyday services. There is a deterministic rationale behind Florida’s writing as he uses data to parse a descriptive rather than normative claim about the changes in society, but by discounting the near term pain of technological displacement and offering no solutions outside the framework of market capitalism, Florida’s writing does indeed take on a normative tone. The message seems to be “leave your hotel front desk job and take up a graphic design course or face obsolescence.”
Missing also from Florida’s analysis is how precisely creatives, notoriously inept at salesmanship, will collaborate and compete in the supposedly freer market. Taylor addresses this head on in the above quote where she is describing the transitional pains being experienced by creatives at present. In our economy that has been diluted of middlemen, artists nakedly face a public ill suited to parse through massive swaths of content. The effect on art has been commercial success for those who know how to navigate the byways of social media and marketing or ascend into the mass market from popular content sharing platforms (as in the case of EL James). Those who lack such skills, knowledge or time are marginalized from an artistic community that once held a strict firewall between sales and creation. This has the effect of turning artists into salespersons first and creators second, in effect culturally sanitizing the work as appeal and the bottom line have to be considered alongside artistic vision.
This tension, however, is not new and is the byproduct of living in a commercial society that attempts to extract value at the lowest possible margins. In my view, Taylor laments an era that was already cemented in privileges of cultural curation. The privilege now has shifted to those with a particular set of skills; namely creativity alongside marketability whereas previously it was networking and culturally insular notions of taste that led to artistic success. It is difficult to say if the “wisdom of crowds” that Lanier and others lament is worse than the prior system, but it is certainly different and the change comes at a cost. Taylor describes the bias against the longer produced more content rich forms of art as a consequence of the efficiency culture the new media milieu begets. Efficiency is touted as something to aspire towards, which discounts that some taste may not be divined algorithmically and that some excellent work may be woefully inefficient. The market, as ever, is reductive to culture as it is principally concerned with utilizing culture to enlarge the wealth of individuals rather than preserving it for its own sake.
Beyond art, other public good professionals (which Florida would also lump into his creative class) such as educators, activists, and scientists must also survive in our present system. As growing amateurization and automation dilute the value of labor across the board, professions such as these find themselves increasingly vulnerable to attack. It is not difficult to imagine funding in the sciences shifting to companies who own proprietary algorithms set to work in server farms to calculate complex proofs or genetic datasets. Likewise, it isn’t difficult to imagine virtual reality classrooms and wiki-homeschooling displacing public education while philanthropy and activism is reduced to crowdfunding campaigns. As long as the market economy continues to dominate, we will see either a brain drain in these sectors, should these scenarios come to pass, or we will see them become less accessible and thus contributory to inequality. The notion that art, activism, or education are or will be done “for the love” is missing the basic ingredients of quality control and a need to place a higher valuation on those who grant our society these critical services.