The Metropolitan Factory

Worker’s Inquiry & Creative Labor Today

Dr. Stevphen Shukaitis (Essex Business School, University of Essex, UK)

SAC Room (Room 110), JE Cairnes School of Business and Economics (Ground Floor, St. Anthony's), NUI Galway 11:00 :: 27th July 2012

How do creative workers survive in the city today? How do they manage the tensions between their practice and the demands of operating as a business? From July 25 to August 1, Stevphen Shukaitis, from the University of Essex, will run an iteration of The Metropolitan Factory, an ongoing project investigating these questions, which will be hosted by the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Rather than taking the form of either a traditional research project or seminar, The Metropolitan Factory will occur as a nomadic combination of the two, taking place all through out the city. Stevphen will spend the week wandering through the metropolis, drifting in and out of the Galway Arts Festival and the Fringe Festival, investigating the changing conditions of creative labor and interviewing workers.

For more information on the project & seminar:

Bio: Stevphen Shukaitis is Lecturer in Work & Organization at the University of Essex and a member of the Autonomedia editorial collective. He is the author of Imaginal Machines: Autonomy & Self-Organization in the Revolutions of Everyday Day (2009) and co-editor of Constituent Imagination: Militant Investigations // Collective Theorization (2007). Previously he has worked for as producer for Ever Reviled Records and WBAI (both in the New York City metropolitan region), and is all too familiar with the contradictions of trying to survive as a creative worker today.

The Metropolitan Factory: making a living as a creative worker

Surviving as a cultural or artistic worker in the city has never been easy. Creative workers find themselves celebrated as engines of economic growth, economic recovery and urban revitalization even as the conditions for our continued survival becomes more precarious. How can you make a living today in such a situation? That is, how to hold together the demands of paying the rent and bills while managing all the tasks necessary to support one’s practice? How to manage the tensions between creating spaces for creativity and imagination while working through the constraints posed by economic conditions?

In a more traditional workplace it is generally easy to distinguish between those who planned and managed the labor process and those who were involved in its executions: between the managers and the managed. For creative workers these distinctions become increasingly hard to make. Today the passionate and self-motivated labor of the artisan increasingly becomes the model for a self-disciplining, self-managed labor force that works harder, longer, and often for less pay precisely because of its attachment to some degree of personal fulfillment in forms of engaging work. And that ain’t no way to make a living, having to struggle three times as hard for just to have a sense of engagement in meaningful work.

This project sets out to investigate how cultural workers in the metropolis manage these competing tensions and demands. The goal is to bring together the dispersed knowledges and experiences of creative workers finding ways to make a living in the modern metropolis. And by doing that to create a space to learn from this common experiences that often are not experienced as such while we work away in different parts of the city.

ISSP Sponsors: