The concept of the liminal experience is not solely housed in one discipline or field. The
original focus was brought to life in the field of anthropology and has since flowed to
psychology to urban studies and then migrated into a more interdisciplinary realm.
Psychologists call liminal space, a place where boundaries dissolve a little and we
stand there, on the threshold, getting ourselves ready to move across the limits of
what we were into what we are to be. Victor Turner introduced the concept: a
space of transformation between phases of separation and reincorporation. The
sociologist Sharon Zukin transferred the term in urban studies, saying that liminal
space is a growing character of contemporary city: she argues that the localism, or
neighborhood urbanism, of the modern has been transformed into a postmodern
transitional space. Liminal spaces are ambiguous and ambivalent, they slip between
global market and local space, between public use and private value, between
work and home, between commerce and culture. (accessed May, 2011
Liminal, a lyrical word, belies the paradoxical life that media workers inhabit. A place that
straddles work and home, connecting with clients both globally and locally; ironically
working in an environment that brands lifestyle but doesn’t always want to pay a livable
wage, and freelancers are busy creating the culture that they consume.
You rarely hear self-employed workers describing themselves as laid-back. There is an
inherent vigilance of always being watchful and hopeful as they surf for their next gig while
being acutely aware that the undercurrent of uncertainty can pull them under. The actual
surfing, the task of working on a creative project, is a short-lived experience. The metaphor
of surfing can romanticize the free agent experience but it presents a visceral spin on the
danger and excitement of working in a sea of change. This requires emotional balance and
the long-term perspective of remembering that work is cyclical and comes in waves. Marc
Jaffe, a comedy writer and entrepreneur, captures the temporality of freelance:
Because of the nature of the business, you’re a freelancer always even when you
have a job it’s a temporary job. Even if you get a job on a TV show, a Seinfeld is
rare that it lasts for so many years. So many shows last a year or a couple of
episodes and then they’re yanked. It’s not even whether it’s a good show or not.
It’s rare for people to even stay on a show for two or three years. A producer can
change. Everything is a part-time job it’s your focus for a while. Standup you’re
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