The Semiotics of Compromise

ClearingUp

The message is clear. We all need to learn how to communicate better. Miscommunication and fear defines negative interactions. Experience and education define the ways that we interpret and understand one another. It’s a basic idea of semiotics: the tree that I imagine when I say the word ‘tree’ isn’t the same one that you imagine. If you and I are tasked with drawing a tree, but have two drastically differing ideas of what it should look like, what are we to do?!

Low stakes, but I think the point is about the same: somewhere along the line, one of our trees is going to have to change a little bit. Maybe more than a little bit, but at the end of the day it’s still going to be a tree.

This is one of the big things that I started thinking about when reading Cynthia Littleton’s, TV on Strike: Why Hollywood Went To War Over the Internet, which works on delineating and accounting the social and economic mechanics and interactions that defined and influenced the outcomes of the Hollywood Writers Strike. imgresThroughout her book, miscommunication and fear seemed to me to be the true culprits that impeded quick and effective negotiations, beyond the greed or ignorance of corporation leaders to the needs of middle class writers or the pride and posturing of the union leaders (although there is much to be said about both).

 

Collaborative approaches are vital to the changing modalities of the new world workplace, but they aren’t created in a vacuum. They are enabled through the existence of mutual respect and are rendered impossible by lack of the same. This, I believe, defines the nature of good and bad experiences for laborers in the creative industry and, I think, any collaborative process in general. That, I think, is why the creative industries are such an interesting landmark of a new economic cycle: because the very nature of creative labor necessitates an ability to interact with other individuals collaboratively but is housed within an economic system that is defined by competitive exclusion. images

 

“Nick Counter and studio labor executives were preconditioned to say no in guild contract talks. Their job performance was evaluated on how effectively they were able to hold the line on union demands.” (217)

 

Listening to someone you fundamentally disagree with can be hard. The nature of competition doesn’t teach openness to others ideas. In the land of the alpha-capital, only the strongest margins matter. Yet, that is also the irony of the internet.  Anyone with enough time and dedication can find a show on BitTorrent, the weak ties have found ways to circumvent traditional strong-tie systems of distribution altogether. Access to entertainment content is no longer defined by who owns the rights to syndication, but that doesn’t mean that the structures need to be torn down to the ground in order to effect change.

WGA’s attempt at firebombing the mainframe and send everything back to “0” is a move in the right direction, but ultimately, as Littleton reminds us, it was the middle-class writers who were hit the hardest and I am reminded yet again of the precarious nature of the expanding wealth gap: it exists everywhere in our current system and to breath continued life to such aristocratic precedents undermines the egalitarian desires that first ignited the fires for Hollywood writers.

This is *probably* not the right idea.

This is *probably* not the right idea.

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