Jameel Arts Centre

Who Gets Paid for Digital Labor?

Who Gets Paid for Digital Labor?

Internet memes are often positioned as “democratic” and “egalitarian”—that is, a way for everyone to have a voice—but left out of this conversation is: who does the work and who gets paid for it?

In the lifecycle of a viral meme, content becomes commodity, so a random phrase on a viral YouTube video can end up as a screenprint on a t-shirt or even a Billboard Top 100 hit. But if memes are FREE and mostly un-copyrightable, who gets paid when digital content becomes physical dollars?


Focusing on black viral stars like Sweet Brown, Antoine Dodson and lesser-known figures like Peaches Monroe and Brionna London—it’s worth remembering that as usually the case, the most innovative cultural producers are often also the most powerless. 

Images Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre

 © 2020 by Christopher Benton

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