Social Media Design Economy: The Curatorial, Inspirational, and Entrepreneurial Labor of Design Professionals

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The rise of digital platforms and connective technologies is reconfiguring the tools, processes, and practices of design in profound and complex ways. This dissertation empirically examines how design professionals adopt communication technologies and the emergent social and cultural creative design practices that are developed around these technologies. This project analyzes the ways in which designers’ activities on social media platforms constitute new forms of design labor. This dissertation conceptualizes a social media design economy composed of various modes of digital labor that design professionals engage in as they use digitally networked platforms to promote their creative work, cultivate their personal brands, and publicly evaluate the creative design products of their peers. As a part of this social media design economy, I identify three forms of digital design labor: curatorial labor, inspirational labor, and entrepreneurial labor. As existing creative practices such as curation, inspiration, and portfolio-creation become digitally networked, they follow social media logics, resulting in new forms of labor and amplifying existing forms of design work. All three forms of labor represent ongoing, self-promotional enactments of design production, process, and performance. Thus, the findings of this study contribute to a broader understanding about the future of design work and creative processes amidst an increasingly independent and entrepreneurial employment market. As such, this dissertation suggests implications for advancing theories of creativity online, the role of visuals as part of digital platform ecologies, and the emergent area of socially mediated design practice.
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Digital Labor; Portfolio; Self-branding; Social Media Design Economy; Design; Communication; Design Professionals
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Humphreys, Lee
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Gillespie, Tarleton L.
Gay, Geraldine K.
Lasansky, Diana Medina
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Ph. D., Communication
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Doctor of Philosophy
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dissertation or thesis
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