This research project seeks to analyze the current conditions of creative labour through the concept of cultural infrastructure. Focusing on ritual and space, the shifting character of creative labour and its integration with the knowledge based economy is evident in displays of art, making, and technology in international events—i.e. the Bay Area Maker Faire in San Mateo and the Burning Man Festival. We ask how practices and values expressed in these events—such as project-based artistic work and the fusion of social and professional interaction—help to shape the collaborative manufacturing processes driving the growth of technology firms. Together with Dorothy Howard, Verónica Uribe Del Águila, and Davide Carpano, we received the UCSD Chancellor Interdisciplinary Collaboratories Grant Award for this research project. Through it we had the opportunity to work with Dr. Lilly Irani, Dr. Matilde Cordoba Azcarate, Dr. Charles Thorpe and Ricardo Dominguez in researching the role of ritual and protocol in organization of creative labour.
“You know if you ride it you’ll go faster” said a guy sitting on a crappy sofa on the other side of the street. I was attempting to carry my bike back to my camp. It was missing a wheel nut and - after the first day at Burning Man, was close to broken and covered in dust. Although at first jest in, this kind stranger turned out to have a spare set of wheel nuts which they gladly gifted me, and after the sudden exchange I was, soon enough and surprisingly, back on the road - "the Playa provides".
How do ritual events such as Burning Man and Maker Faires transform collective experiences of creative workers, negative and positive, into experiences and cultural products that fuel digital economies? We intend to explore this question by focusing on the cultural infrastructures of creative labour—a productive force outputting social, symbolic and informational capital. Understood as immaterial and affective, labour in the digital economy complicates the separation between work and leisure. This transformation is observable in physical and virtual space. It marks a codependence between the shifts in the nature and organization of paid and unpaid labour, and redesigns economies from mechanical repetitive production to knowledge and information-based. Creative labour assumes dynamics of play, as users latch onto idealized spaces of fruition and consensuality that instead create new enclosures and avenues for productivity.
This project converges on the social and political consequences of creative labor in the case of Maker Faires and Burning Man—infrastructures that create opportunities for enterprise and entrepreneurs. Situating these phenomena within history, this project contributes to the intellectual trajectories of graduate students and faculty across disciplinary and methodological areas of expertise.