The Velvet Light Trap, Issue 94 - Creative Labor and Precarity

deadline for submissions: 
October 1, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Velvet Light Trap


The Velvet Light Trap, Issue 94 (to be published Fall 2024)


Creative Labor and Precarity


Special Issue Theme

Work in the media industries has always been characterized by precarity and instability. Scholars have long noted the impact of advanced capitalism, emerging information and communication technologies, globalization, and constantly changing modes of political and economic governance on the increasingly unstable conditions of the labor market, leading to an intensification of insecure, temporary, and casualized forms of work across all sectors. Despite a long history of labor activism and representation in legacy media, particularly in the United States, creative workers in media industries have encountered additional uncertainty with the emergence of streaming platforms, growing interest in generative AI, platformized practices of content production that have challenged traditional forms of legacy media production and distribution, and runaway production that favors less regulation and lower labor costs both within and beyond the United States. Furthermore, the Writers Guild of America strike (ongoing at the time of writing), the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the (sometimes deadly) risks faced by media workers in recent years have only underscored the increasing precarity that characterizes labor in media industries. Amid these challenges, changes, and continuities, media scholars have continued to theorize the roles that labor and precarity play in shaping the content on our screens, the industries that produce it, and the broader implications of these forces beyond media and entertainment industries.

For this issue, we welcome submissions that span industries (film, television, music, video games, social media entertainment, etc.) and geographic contexts to examine the ways in which labor and precarity shape media in the contemporary and historical landscape. Topic areas can include, but are not limited to, shifts in creative labor across media industries in response to social, cultural, economic, and political factors, labor activism and organizing in and across media industries, and the impact of emerging technologies on these forms of work. How does precarity shape labor practices, communities, and cultural understandings of media industries? What impact does precarity have on the content that is ultimately produced? How are labor and precarity made visible in industrial contexts? Who ultimately benefits from labor shifts in the media industrial landscape? How do creative workers navigate the increasingly complex convergence of communication and information technologies with media industries? What can we learn from creative workers about the broader context of labor and precarity in the 21st century?


Potential Topics for Themed Submissions:

• Labor organizing in and across media industries and its impact on media production

• Identity and representation in relation to creative labor • Labor and precarity in transnational cultural production and contexts

• The increasing relevance of AI and its perceived impact on creative labor in media industries

• Continuity and change across labor practices in media industries

• Methods for studying creative labor (negotiating access, ethical considerations, archival methods, applied scholarship, etc.)

• The convergence of platformized labor practices and the gig economy with legacy media • Conglomeration and consolidation in media industries and their impact on creative labor • The emergence and impact of streaming platforms on labor in media industries

• Popular representations of labor and precarity in media industries • Organizational hierarchies and distinctions in media labor

• Aspirational, independent, and freelance work in media industries

Open Call

The Velvet Light Trap is pleased to announce that, in addition to accepting submissions that relate to the above theme, it has begun accepting general submissions broadly related to the journal’s focus on critical, theoretical, and historical approaches to film and media studies. We aim to create a new space for scholarship that enhances the journal’s overall mission and work that continues the research conversations to which our themed issues have contributed. We hope that scholars inspired by the work published in our themed issues, past and present, will especially consider submitting their work. Even as our themes will continue to change each issue, we want to sustain ongoing investment in and investigation of the questions each issue of The Velvet Light Trap poses.

Submission Guidelines

Submissions should be between 6,000 and 7,500 words, formatted in Chicago Style. Please submit an electronic copy of the paper, along with a separate one-page abstract, both saved as Microsoft Word files. While images are not required for submissions, if your submission includes images, please ensure that they are high resolution and included as an image file separate from your Word files. Remove any identifying information so that the submission is suitable for anonymous review. Quotations not in English should be accompanied by translations.

Send electronic manuscripts and/or any questions to by October 1st, 2023