Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Core Response 2: Cultural Capital for Free

Fan Fiction operates as a highly active site for negotiated and oppositional readings, in which continuations of negotiated and oppositional readings are further applied interminably to foregoing readings. It functions as a site of ideological struggle, or as Seiter writes “the struggle involved in gaining people’s agreement with ideology” (465). Engaging with a complex story-delivering medium (in this case television), viewers’ readings will unavoidably be determined by “what kind of jobs they have, where they live, their educational backgrounds, memberships in unions or political parties, as well as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and class” (465). More often though these fictions depict forms of negotiation rather than opposition, a “strange mixture of fascination and frustration” (Jenkins 486).  Although it may venture into an oppositional imagination (one of fan against producer),  Henry Jenkins writes, “their desire to revise the program materials is often counterbalanced by their desire to remain faithful to those aspects of the show that first captured their interests” (486). The efforts of the prominent population of female writers in Star Trek fan fiction frequently act as endeavors of rescue or repair to the fictional zeitgeist and rarely as radical struggles to provoke destabilization, despite being displeased with the shows unrealized evocations of non-traditional feminine pleasures.

What strikes me as most interesting though around fan fiction or more largely ideas of interactive consumerism and viewership, is the intensity of capital surrounding it, and by capital I am referring to some of the forms identified by Pierre Bourdieu: cultural and symbolic. I see fan fiction, its forums and modes of dissemination and consumption, permeated by exchanges of cultural capital. However, fan fiction and feedback forums like the now defunct TWoP, when they begin to become more involved with actual production, or at least think they do, a devaluation of their cultural capital occurs prohibiting any kind of exchange into symbolic capital. Marc Andrejevic writes, “the notion of the social factory coincides with the creation of an interactive consumer–viewer, one prepared to devote time and energy to developing the skills necessary to participate in an increasingly interactive media economy” (30), where in this increasingly interactive media economy free labor becomes a defining characteristic of it. In addition, Seiter quotes Beverly Skeggs “If one’s cultural capital is delegitimated then it cannot be traded as an asset” (472). This deligitimization is not entirely an outward structural attainment brought on by forms of representation, but rather an internalized logic on part of the consumer-viewer and now free labor producer. Andrejevic writes later “the advent of advanced neoliberalism is associated with the constellation of practices that promote the “responsibilization” of the citizen, a similar logic emerges in the realm of consumption, wherein viewers are invited to take on some of the “duties” associated with their media consumption” (34).

Far from denouncing the empowering pleasure derived from these kinds of workplaces, and the activity and creativity they encourage, I am only interested in focusing on these communities openness to the market of economic exploitation. There exists a generated binary of pleasure within these sites: on one end the pleasure derived from the the creative act, and the other, the more intriguing to me, the pleasure derived from an affectation of influence. More specifically, it is the pleasure derived from after providing one’s free labor as a duty, the recompense for that labor being a perceived influence over the innovation or development of the product.

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