The Politics of Expertise in Cultural Labour

Patel, Karen (2018) The Politics of Expertise in Cultural Labour. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

PhD Thesis.pdf

Download (7MB)


What is expertise? In cultural work, the idea of expertise is commonly associated with a specialised knowledge of cultural forms and products, often possessed by art critics, dealers and cultural intermediaries. In the majority of literature on cultural work, the status of these ‘experts’ is mostly treated as normative and accepted as legitimate, with little attention paid to the expertise of the primary producers of the cultural forms which are judged. This thesis argues that expertise as a concept is taken for granted in cultural work scholarship, and thus requires further interrogation. The particular focus here is on the social media use of cultural workers to promote themselves, their aesthetic output and availability for work. As argued here, the status of their expertise is problematised in an ostensibly accessible and democratised space where ‘anyone’ can engage in cultural production. In this context, how do cultural workers signal their aesthetic expertise online? Signalling involves conveying information about one’s credentials. This concept is utilised in a framework to analyse the social media output of a group of UK cultural workers, who were also interviewed, in order to gain insight into their aesthetic expertise and how they manage signalling expertise online as part of cultural labour. The research reveals the expertise of cultural producers to be of a dynamic and fluid quality, worked on over the course of a cultural work career, where opportunities to build expertise can be constrained or enabled depending on access to resources. As these cases suggest, aesthetic expertise can be staged on social media by revealing creative skills and methods - the ‘back stage’ of production, then potentially enhanced through audience interaction, which can also put expertise signals at risk. The analysis also reveals gendered strategies for signalling expertise undertaken by the women cultural workers, to facilitate a potential collective raising of visibility online, but also raising questions about the exclusivity of such collective activity. The research concludes by suggesting ways in which cultural policy could widen access to creative skills and training, so that anyone who wishes to develop their own aesthetic expertise can do so.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: First I would like to thank my participants for agreeing to be a part of this project and for taking the time to talk to me about their work. Without them I would not have a thesis. This thesis would also not be possible without the unwavering support and guidance of my supervisory team, in particular Professor Paul Long. Paul has been very influential not only during the process of this thesis, but previously during my time studying a BA and MA at Birmingham City University’s School of Media. I cannot thank him enough for his help as my academic career has progressed. Thanks also to my joint supervisor Professor Mark Banks for the invaluable feedback and guidance throughout the research and writing up stages of the thesis. Thanks to Dr Annette Naudin for her helpful input during supervision and for the experience of co-writing a journal article. I feel very lucky to have had such a great team to guide me through the completion of this thesis. A special thanks to Professor Keith Osman, Director of Research at Birmingham City University and my line manager for most of my part-time role as Web and Social Media Officer at the University. Keith has been extremely sympathetic and supportive throughout the PhD process and for that I am grateful. Many of the opportunities undertaken during this PhD would not be possible without the support of the AHRC and the Midlands 3 Cities Doctoral Training Partnership. The past three years have undoubtedly been the most rewarding, challenging, fulfilling, stimulating and enjoyable of my life, and that is due not only to the tremendous supervision I have had, but also the opportunities afforded to me through Midlands 3 Cities support. I would particularly like to thank Sharon Montieth, Susanna Ison and Claire Thompson from Midlands 3 Cities, and the BCU-based team of John Mercer, Rajinder Dudrah, Yvette Burn and Shelley Fray for helping me to access these opportunities. I would also like to thank the many colleagues and peers who have taken the time to talk to me about my work, influenced my thinking and provided valuable advice. Particular thanks must go to Dan Ashton, Bridget Conor, Brooke Erin Duffy, Kirsten Forkert, Alessandro Gandini, Anne Graefer, Dave Harte, Jilly Boyce Kay and Helen Wood for helpful advice and guidance at various points during the PhD process. Finally, thanks to my family for supporting me every step of the way, and thanks to Nicola, for being so encouraging, patient and understanding.
5 March 2018Completed
Uncontrolled Keywords: Expertise, Cultural Labour, Gender, Social Media, Creative Industries
Subjects: CAH15 - social sciences > CAH15-01 - sociology, social policy and anthropology > CAH15-01-02 - sociology
CAH24 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01-05 - media studies
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Kip Darling
Date Deposited: 14 Mar 2019 14:45
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 16:17

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


In this section...