In 2019, nearly twenty years into the modern gig economy, constructing our identities primarily in terms of how we relate to the paycheck folkway is no longer good enough. After all, there is a good chance the gig economy will outgrow the paycheck economy, relegating the latter to a minority sector of the economy overall. Imagining our future in relation to the future of paycheck work would be like early industrial age workers imagining their future in terms of the future of farming. Much of the supposed “future of work” thinking I see around the gig economy strikes me as the equivalent of early factory workers worrying about where to park their cows.
So the gig economy needs to outgrow its origin story in the paycheck world. For the gig economy to grow from limited sideshow to full-blown folkway, we need to talk about a lot more, and develop much deeper internal realities and subjectivities.
source: Towards Gigwork as a Folkway
I think the question of whether or not to outsource curatorial practice is a good opening to discuss the broader practice of outsourcing in general in the cultural heritage sector. It certainly easier for more people to relate to than the question of whether or not we should outsource digital and technology roles. This is a larger debate that we, as a community of practice, should have because I think that one risk of relentless outsourcing is that museums (and friends) will become nothing more than centers of production rather than scholarship.
If we say that our only purpose is to facilitate the assembly of content in the service of culture then it’s no longer clear to me what distinguishes the cultural heritage sector from any other for-profit entertainment company. If we are unable to articulate, even to ourselves, what distinguishes our work from that produced by the private sector then maybe it really is time to admit there’s nothing special about what we do. And importantly there are other people who do it — where it is pure and selfish entertainment — better than we do.