Back when I was in high school, I read a book called “Jennifer Government” by Max Barry. Its a cyberpunk novel about a dystopian future where everyone not only works for mega-corporations, which more or less rule the world, but employees are forced to take on their names as well. Hence why the novel is called “Jennifer Government,” because the main protagonist, Jennifer, works for the Government. There’s also a character named Billy NRA, because he works for the NRA, as well as other characters with the last names of McDonalds, Nike, etc. You didn’t just work for these companies, you gave your entire identity to them.
All and all, from what I remember, it was an enjoyable read for the most part although I do recall the ending being a little weak and confusing. Honestly, the thing I associate with the book the most was an online companion game called “NationStates.” Created by Max Barry himself as a way to market the novel, “NationStates” was a text-based game that you played in your browser where you assumed the role of a decision maker for a fictional nation. Basically, you were presented with an issue, you made a decision, and depending on what you choose it’d change something about the nation. It was a simple yet fun little distraction.
Anyway, I got to thinking about all this recently as I began to look around and realize the “brand-ification” which has slowly engulfed society over the years due in part to the “gig-ification” of employment. Quite the couple of buzzwords, but there’s a point here… somewhere. I mean, I don’t know how much I really need to explain the “gig economy,” where you’re not so much “employed” by a company but rather you’re “contracted” without any sort of additional benefits that one would get if you were a “real” employee, such as health insurance, paid vacations, etc. I think the best and often used example of this is with Uber and AirBnB, but it can also be applied to things such as YouTube and Twitch.
This is where the “brand” comes into the equation. After all, what is going to make you stand out among all others? Oftentimes, especially in regards to YouTube and Twitch, it comes down to having a catchy name, a recognizable logo, and some sort of gimmick; it’s less about the “content,” at times, with more emphasis put on the presentation; more sizzle, less steak. Same with Uber or Lyft. Driving a person from point A to point B is one thing, but having a clean car with amenities like a charging station, snacks, etc. makes you stand out. Going the “extra mile” is what gets you those five star feedback ratings, which makes you more susceptible to further business, etc. Don’t you want to be the very best of the best?
Ultimately, it’s really all about that “game of numbers” in terms of subscribers, views, ratings, reviews, etc. The more you show the company that you’re worth something to them the more they’ll favor you in turn. I mean, that’s just common sense, right? After all, if it weren’t for them you wouldn’t even have a platform to showcase your work. What are you going to do, start your own taxi service or start up your own video website? With blackjack and hookers? Ha, good luck! Which, in the end, is the real problem: these companies have more or less put a stranglehold on creativity and helped to foster a sense of competition and jealousy in turn. Which is, of course, the *real* point of creating *any* art… right?
Now, I’m not saying that people out there aren’t doing great work, and/or don’t deserve their success, because they most certainly do. What I’m saying is that I lament the fact that it’s getting harder and harder to be DIY (Do It Yourself), as creative types are becoming more and more reliant on such platforms who are consistently moving the goalposts on what is deemed “successful” and “appropriate,” or not, through changes to their Terms of Service.
We might not have names like “Brandon Twitch” or “Brandi YouTube,” but we might as well. More and more we’re living in a world where every aspect of our lives is being monetized and, if it’s not, companies are either trying to find a way to do so or you’re being shamed and tricked into doing so yourself in turn. It’s like they say, “If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” Are you really the one “creating content”?
I personally despise the term “content creator,” because it’s such an insulting umbrella term that rips out any originality of what you actually do, but that’s what these companies want us all to be for them; nothing more than creators of content for their platforms as they reap the majority of the rewards and we get the leftover crumbs. Platforms which, in many ways, we are fighting each other to stand on and be accounted for when we should really be standing together to create our own platforms without reliance on such corporations.
Easier said than done. I mean, I get it, we live in a society. This blog is on WordPress. I use Twitter. I host videos on YouTube. I stream on Twitch. What have the Romans done for us?
In the end, I think it’s just important to know where you stand and to embrace who you really are. You’re not just a “content creator;” you’re an artist, you’re a writer, you’re an editor, you’re a videographer, you’re a podcaster, you’re a musician, etc. To that last point, I see a lot of musicians referring to themselves as “producers” and that just conjures up the same imagery I get whenever I hear “content creator.” You’re not just some robot who “produces” and/or “creates” some “content.” You make music, you craft it like any other kind of art, by molding it with an equal mix of emotion and a personal touch. You are you.
So, who am I? As I said before, I’m not a “content creator.” I’m a writer. I write short-stories, and I’m currently trying to write a novel. I’m also a blogger. This is my website, where I will blog, post my thoughts and ideas, as well as any short-stories that I feel like sharing. Hopefully, someday, sooner than later, I’ll even announce that novel is finally finished.
But, for now, all I ask of you dear reader is this: who are you, really, and are you content?