Audience Labor

I have added Audience Labor: The Asymmetric Production of Culture to the research area of the site. I argue that much of the value in cultural works is produced by the audience, who both promote and construct new meanings from works. This is a challenge to strong copyright, which by inhibiting audience activity may actually limit the value of works (both the cultural value to the audience and the monetary value realized by culture industries).

Research into music listening preferences confirms that popularity compounds: our preference for music is strongly influenced by the preferences of others. The article points to the same two causal factors: promotion – in this case helping other people filter the good from the bad when there are too many choices, and meaning-making:

. . . a desire for compatibility with others could drive the choice, since much of the pleasure from listening to music and reading books stems from discussing them with friends.

Chris Anderson also wrote recently about the declining profitability of music and cinema blockbusters. I wonder if it relates to a pattern suggested by Sinha & Raghavendra. They suggest that adults are more influenced by advertising, while in the case of children it is the opinions of friends that matter more. Hopefully the power of advertising is weakening as people find more ways to communicate and share with each other (see Doc Searls’ post on the topic).