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Geographies of free labor: Mobilizing consumers across immersive transmediascapes
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Geography, Media and Communication (from 2013).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6309-2315
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Geography, Media and Communication (from 2013).
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Geography, Media and Communication (from 2013). (NODE)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0501-2217
2017 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

When Swedish artist Tove Styrke released her album Kiddo on Spotify in 2015, she simultaneously released an 8-bit game for her fans to play on kiddogame.com. By sharing high scores, users could win merchandise especially put together by the artist. The game was also promoted by one of the most well-known Swedish gaming streamers, posting his own Kiddo Game competition to his followers. A week after the release, Tove performed at Dreamhack, which also shared the game on their website and on Twitter. Later that summer, a live version of the game was staged at a major Swedish music festival, where Tove also performed. The game was easily shared via Facebook and twitter, and while playing the game the album played via Spotify.Worldwide, the music industry struggles to come to terms with how to make profit in times of illegal downloading, streaming, and Spotifyication. One apparent strategy is to rely on consumer engagement. The Tove Styrke campaign could be read as a contemporary example of so called transmedia marketing; that is, as a “holistic content creation approach” (Zeiser, 2015: xv) that simultaneously involves multiple content platforms. The attraction of transmedia marketing lies in its potential to foster engaged consumers who are ready to “haunt” a brand experience across several content platforms. In this paper, we join with the burgeoning critical scholarship that interprets consumer “engagement” as a form of labor. Since much of this labor gets paid in affect rather than money, such labor has rightfully been recognized as a form of free labor.While both transmedia marketing and free labor has been subjected to many studies over the last decade, there is a lack of research initiatives that explicitly address the spatiality of both of these phenomena (though see e.g. Stork’s [2014] engagement with the “transmedia geography” of the Glee franchise). What is more; if it is rare to talk about the geographies of transmediality in the first place, it is equally rare to talk about transmediality, at all, in relation to music. Perhaps not so surprisingly but all the more inaccurately, there seems to be a prevailing perception that transmedia productions are exclusive to, at least traditionally, more narrative-bound franchises such as television, film, game, or comic books. However, storytelling is becoming all the more important also to music brands. Consequently, we identify a need for studies that acknowledge that 1) the notion of transmediality is applicable also to music, and 2) that the spatiality of transmedia endeavors is worthy scholarly review. Our conviction is that just as work-places constitute obvious research objects in relation to other kinds of labor, so do the transmedia “social factories” warrant scholarly attention.As to compensate for the identified research lack then, this paper investigates several actual cases of transmedia marketing in the music industry – and the free labor that such marketing potentially engenders – by way of qualitative content analyses that employ a cross-disciplinary conceptual framework. The framework combines theoretical perspectives from the ‘spatial turn’ and the ‘labor turn’ in media studies and allows us to approach, and visually present, transmedia marketing as a landscape – what we call a transmediascape. Such transmediascapes, our results indicate, can be read as the perfect soil for free labor since they mobilize consumers in more than one respect: they assemble consumer affect and, at the same time, encourage physical as well as virtual fan movement. Thus, due to its multifaceted connotation, pointing towards both affectivity and mobility, we find that the term ‘mobilization’ serves as a fruitful link between spatial theory and labor theory and a key concept for analyzing the geographies of free labor.

The era of transmediatization is marked by increased reliance, in all the more societal spheres, on content that transcend singular media platforms and, accordingly, by new modes of media consumption. Much research has recognized, confirmed, and explored this transformation, and ‘transmediality’ has hitherto been subjected to relatively extensive theorization. Nonetheless, the spatiality of transmediality remains largely undertheorized. As to correct for this shortage, this paper proposes transmediascape as an analytical tool for discerning the complex topographies of media ownership, technologies, texts, meanings, and practices that constitute today’s transmediatized culture. With inspiration from work in both the ‘spatial turn’ and ‘labor turn’ in media studies, we recognize the transmediascape as an arena of labour, where both paid and unpaid forms of work are carried out. Ultimately, we argue, the concept of transmediascape works as a tool for mapping geographies of free labour across institutional, technological, and textual levels. The present study illuminates current modes of ‘transmediascaping’ – or the practice of cultivating good “soil” for profitable consumer engagement – by focusing the transmedia marketing campaign that launched British/Irish boyband One Direction’s album ‘Made in the A.M’, in 2015.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
National Category
Media and Communications Communication Studies Cultural Studies
Research subject
Media and Communication Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-67219OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-67219DiVA, id: diva2:1202594
Conference
NordMedia: Mediated Realities – Global Challenges, the 23rd Nordic Conference on Media and Communication Research, Tampere, Finland, Aug 17-19, 2017
Available from: 2018-04-27 Created: 2018-04-27 Last updated: 2018-07-09Bibliographically approved

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Fast, KarinRyan Bengtsson, LindaFerrer Conill, Raul

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