"Liquid Life" - Mark Deuze

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Liquid Life, Convergence Culture, and Media Work

Mark Deuze Bloomington Indiana – USA (Ph) 1-812-3231699 Email: mdeuze@indiana.edu URL: http://deuze.blogspot.com

Dated: March 19, 2006 Working Paper Word count (excluding references): 7.917 Author: Mark Deuze (Indiana University) Keywords: Social Theory, Liquid Modernity, Media Work

Biographical information: Mark Deuze (1969) is associate professor at Indiana University’s Department of Telecommunications in Bloomington, the United States, and Professor of Journalism and New Media at Leiden University, The Netherlands. He received his PhD in the social sciences from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Publications of his work include five books, as well as articles in peer-reviewed journals such as New Media & Society, The Information Society, and First Monday, and he publishes an irregular weblog on new media and society at http://deuze.blogspot.com.

Liquid Life, Convergence Culture, and Media Work

Abstract Life today has become analogous with work – and it increasingly displays all the contemporary characteristics of work in what has been described as the ‘new capitalism’: permanent flux, constant change, and structural indeterminacy. Zygmunt Bauman thus argues how we are all living a ‘liquid’ life, which is “a precarious life, lived under conditions of constant uncertainty.” In liquid life, the modern categories of production (work) and consumption (life) have converged, which trend is particularly visible in our almost constant and concurrent immersion in media. According to Henry Jenkins, these are the conditions of an emerging convergence culture. In this paper these trends will be explored in detail, coupling insights from contemporary social theory, new media studies and popular culture to show how our modern conceptions of media, culture and society have modernized, and how the emerging media ecosystem can be illuminated by setting it against the ways in which those at the forefront of these cultural and technological changes negotiate their professional identity: the mediaworkers.

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Liquid Life, Convergence Culture, and Media Work In today’s society, argues Zygmunt Bauman, “work is the normal state of all humans; not working is abnormal” (2005a: 5). Life has become analogous to work. Instead of developing a lifestyle, our everyday efforts and energy go into choosing a work-style: ‘a way of working and a way of being at work’, as one British professional coaching agency describes it. As work becomes a way of life, life increasingly displays all the characteristics of contemporary work, where we have to come to terms with the challenges and opportunities of contingent employment, precarious labour, and a structural sense of real or perceived job insecurity. Ulrich Beck (2000) points at the fundamentally ambivalent prospects of contemporary ‘work-styles’ at all levels of society as marked by uncertainty, paradox and risk. The conditions of work at the beginning of the 21st century are in a constant state of flux, brought about by all kinds of job destruction practices in the context of what Richard Sennett (1998) calls ‘workforce flexibility’. This culture of contemporary capitalism manifests itself most directly in the notable change of one’s career from a series of more or less predictable achievements within the context of a lifelong contract to a constant reshuffling of career bits and pieces in the ‘portfolio worklife’, as heralded by Charles Hand as early as 1989 (pp.183ff). In the portfolio lifestyle, careers are a sequence of stepping stones through life, where workers as individuals and organizations as collectives do not commit to each other for much more than the short-term goal, the project at hand, the talent needed now. The modern categories of life and work at the beginning of ther 21st century are thus spilling over, into each other, making each of these key aspects of our human condition contingent on the characteristics...
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