This passage from Shadow Work, by Craig Lambert, conveys what I’ve written about in two recent papers as the challenge of cultural abundance. From loc 1395:
To be sure, posting creations does not guarantee them an audience. Far from it. Take the songs that anyone can now publish online and sell as downloads. In 2011, eight million different songs sold at least one copy. “But people don’t realize that about one-third of these songs sold exactly one copy,” says Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse, author of the 2013 book Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment. “There is an enormous amount of content that gets no demand at all.” With some noteworthy exceptions, the global audience is just not queuing up for homemade movies, self-published e-books, and garage recordings.
Nonetheless, the fading power of professional gatekeepers leaves Internet users unprotected by their screening. If you read The New Yorker or watch CBS, you have their editors and producers working as your filtering agents, separating wheat from chaff. But on Google outlets like YouTube or Blogger.com, you’re on your own. Sifting through the haystacks of web material for silver needles worthy of attention creates more shadow work in the barn lofts of the Internet.
I’m interested in the cognitive and temporal costs of the labour this entails, described provocatively by Lamert as a form of ‘shadow work’. But I’m also interest in the second-order consequences as people develop and habitualise strategies for dealing with it: this in turn shapes how they orientate themselves towards abundance and contribute to its growth or diminuation.