Talking About Business: Occupational communities and flexible labor in Vancouver’s creative industry

Ec2696b240887e40b010e6423d742248?s=47 Alberto Lusoli
May 22, 2019

Talking About Business: Occupational communities and flexible labor in Vancouver’s creative industry

Simon Fraser University, School of Communication.
Graduate Students Conference


Alberto Lusoli

May 22, 2019


  1. Occupational communities and flexible labor in Vancouver’s creative industry TALKING

    ABOUT BUSINESS Alberto Lusoli - SFU CMNS Grad Conference Photo: Co-working space, Vancouver
  2. The flexible organization of labour in the network economy

  3. Cycle of recuperation Photo: WeWork motto. May 2019 (Boltanski and

    Chiapello, 2007)
  4. START UP EPISTÉMÉ A regime of capital accumulation and a

    rhetorical regime capable of formulating new meanings for existing economic institutions and processes.
  5. None

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    Hackathon, Vancouver, 2014
  12. WHY VANCOUVER? Vancouver is often identified as one of the

    emerging ecosystems for digital, software and media ventures (Startup Genome, 2019). The Vancouver tech industry employs 106,430 (~5.0% of British Columbia’s workforce). More than the mining, oil and gas, and forestry sectors combined (Schrier, 2017). Photo: Hootsuite HQ. Vancouver
  13. THE INVISIBLE WORKFORCE 18% of British Columbia’s workforce is self-employed,

    well above the 15% national average (Statistics Canada, 2019). To some, working as an independent worker is a deliberate decision. It’s the case of experienced and senior employees, who decide to market their skills outside of corporate environments. For others, it’s the only choice. For instance, mid-career managers laid-off from work, immigrants, non-qualified workers and minorities.
  14. PLATFORM ETHNOGRAPHY mapping the community

  15. NO ROLES, NO PROCEDURES “I got into an amazing coworking

    space, I have done projects that are more visually interesting, I have been happier on a day to day basis. I have been able to develop my own idea. It took a lot if time. I am working less, doing similar money, maybe a little less. And it's less structured, but I was able to find my structure.” Interviewee #2 Photo: Coding bootcamp. Toronto, July 2018
  16. Photo: Startup entrance hall, Vancouver. November 2018 CORPORATE PRISONS “I

    walked away from something that was pretty stable and financially rewarding but it just felt I was willingly going to jail everyday, if that makes any sense. Everyday I would commute to my corporate prison. And I felt like: "Here, put handcuffs on me". And I almost felt like I couldn't walk away because it was so good. They were paying me that much, I had all the benefits in the world, I had stock options...why would I say no to all that?” Interviewee #29
  17. BYOB BE YOUR OWN BUSINESS Photo: Coworking space, Vancouver, October

    2018 “In the 90s when we used to consider ourselves as brands. Now we conceive ourselves as LLC. Beyond the brand, embracing the notion of individuals as a lean individual start ups.” Interviewee #3 “There used to be a time when employer used to educate you and help you with your skills. We are seeing this hollowing out [...] and I have great concerns that we are allowing this to happen.” Interviewee #2 “You lose health benefits. I tried to use as much benefit as I could before I left [my corporate job].” Interviewee #3
  18. MEETUPS Informal grassroots organizations connecting workers with similar competences and

    professional interests. Blending elements of leisure and work, Meetups provide people the opportunity to connect, learn new skills and start new collaborations.
  19. MEETUPS AS OCCUPATIONAL COMMUNITIES In his ethnography of Xerox’ technicians,

    Julian Orr described occupational communities as “bounded work cultures populated by people who share similar identities and values that transcend specific organizational settings”. The unanswered question is: can Meetup become the modern counterpart of occupational communities? Can these informal organizations work at a systemic level and develop into safety net for flexible and gig workers?
  20. Expand their networks. Hunt for new jobs. Almost all Meetups

    have planned networking sessions. Some are just for networking. CONNECTIONS In many cases, people attend meetups as a way to start projects (AKA side hustles). EXPERIENCE Some meetup groups provide education, through peer to peer lectures and seminars. EDUCATION
  21. In the majority of the cases, the discourses circulating through

    meetups reinforce an individualistic approach to systemic problems of flexibility. Systemic problems related to market overexposure are addressed through individual solutions. E.g. mastermind groups and mentoring. INDIVIDUALIZATION Most meetups involve some forms of immaterial labour. This is labour that meetup organizers and participants perform in the hope that part of it will be actualized into production and turned into (social) capital. IMMATERIAL LABOUR Photo: Coworking space, Vancouver, October 2018
  22. FAIL? Source: Meetup Archiver

  23. research blog: HTTPS://LABORA.CO Alberto Lusoli THANK YOU Thanks to

    all photographers who released their work in the public domain using Creative Common: Photo credits: Coworking Vancouver, Hootsuite HQ, Coffice All other photos used in this presentation were taken by Alberto Lusoli and distributed under Creative Common license.