The labor of online product promotion: Barriers to collective action
Keywords:labor, precarity, social media marketing
Theorists have suggested that precarity — an experience of risk and uncertainty — increasingly describes the work experiences of many different kinds of contractual workers: from highly paid freelancers to those who pick up odd jobs. Theorists have further suggested that this common experience of precarity might serve as the basis for collective action. I contribute to this discussion by attempting to understand how individuals who work online promoting products experience precarity in different ways. Based on interviews with professional bloggers and members of a group that I refer to as the flexibly unemployed, I describe the characteristics and work practices of these groups, as well as their interactions. I argue that bloggers’ exploitation of the flexibly unemployed, together with their ideologies toward labor, act as barriers to collective action. I conclude by suggesting that, rather than imagining that workers from different classes will find common ground, communication systems should be developed that allow workers to network and share information in ways that are isolated from members of other classes and outside of online work platforms that commoditize social relationships and interactions.
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