As I continue to write these blog posts I have come to understand their value as a way of processing my own thoughts and opinions. As such, I am using this post to compile my initial impressions from research for my Work in the Media Industries report. It should be made clear now that this post does not represent a full and knowledgeable understanding of its subject matter, but rather the first impressions of an initiate media producer which will develop as I delve deeper into the topic.
I recently started listening to Cal Newport’s ‘Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World’ on audiobook and, although it doesn’t focus specifically on media workers, it does offer some insight as to why so many are drawn to the unpredictable industry. Newport talks about an American blacksmith who forges medieval swords using techniques of their era. He describes how the smith, using an ingot no larger than 4 or 5 iPhones stacked on top of one another, slowly hammers out the steel into a thin blade, reheating the metal after each deft blow in a painstaking process which takes several hours.
The anecdote illustrates an increasingly widespread problem that faces knowledge workers across the globe – where is their sword? Many struggle to see the physical impact their work has on the world; lost in a network of emails and meetings, their ‘sword’ is far less tangible than the gleaming length of steel produced by the blacksmith. Without this palpable definition to their work, it can be harder to find real job satisfaction.
This is one of the reasons I believe people are drawn to the creative industry. In his book ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times’ Andrew Ross outlines what he calls the “heavy sacrificial cost” of job gratification for creatives. Among this sobering list of traits is “self-exploitation in response to the gift of autonomy, and dispensability in exchange for flexibility”. Progressively sophisticated workflows have allowed corporations to chop projects into small chunks and outsource them, creating a temporary employment culture which the creative industry is infamous for. Yet these are the conditions which throngs of people are drawn to.
In a world where your profession has become an increasingly integral part of what defines you, the social prestige associated with working in the creative industry has outweighed the very real insecurities which face media workers today. The concept of high-risk/high-reward employment has become exciting rather than foolhardy, as people struggle to find their sword.