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The Research Process
Initially, I had conversations with eleven freelancers, all over the age of 35, many I have
worked with or knew personally and was familiar with their work across many multimedia
domains cultural critic and journalist; videographer; audio recording engineer; network
executive producer; experimental media artist; screenwriter; comedy writer, entrepreneur,
and philanthropist; filmmaker; writer, radio host, and blogger; designer, creative director,
and entrepreneur; and copywriter. They are all individually highlighted in the Appreciative
Reflections.
During the summer of 2010, I met with the participants and we discussed freelance work,
challenges, rewards, adaptations, and visions for the future regarding their projects and
sustainability (see Introduction and Methodology).
I designed an analytical lens Appreciative Reflections, adapted from appreciative inquiry, to
construct the freelance journey of the eleven participants. Through the Appreciative
Reflections, I chronicled critical life lessons in their individual life narratives that were
approved by the participants.
The central question explores, “What is the lived experience of a media freelancer at the
border of a changing work culture? In the four chapters that comprise the macro
narratives, I collectively examined freelance issues facing the participants: “The Liminal
Freelance Landscape: Geography, Proximity and Community”; “This is a Real Job”; “A
Conversation About Negotiation, Reputation, and Sustainability”; and “The Generative
Years: Living What’s Next.” These multi-voiced reflections and chapters shaped,
challenged, and even changed my idea regarding freelance and the new work world
emerging in the beginning of the
21st
century.
A Surprising Shift in my Thinking
Initially, I viewed the freelance experience through a somewhat skewed lens because I went
through the dot.com bubble burst and then decided to enter the tamer world of academia
even before the recession. When I initially used the expression “migrant creative,” I used it
cynically, half-jokingly to describe the precarity of the freelance experience and raising a
child as a single mom. This expression conjured images of itinerate media workers toiling
long hours, picking up gigs, and scavenging for creative piecework in the field.
Remarkably, I changed in the process and saw something vital and generative in the
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