Listing Labor

By: Michael Palm   Tamara Kneese  

In this paper, we analyze the buying and selling of vinyl records and vintage collectibles via online storefronts. While the digital vintage economy is framed by nostalgia for older modes of production and consumption, it is intrinsically connected to broader processes of platformization. On Etsy, stores and individual sellers can display and sell their one-of-a-kind threads alongside handcrafted items. Meanwhile, on Discogs, record stores and individual merchants list and sell new as well as collectible vinyl. Discogs and Etsy are often omitted from conversations about the platform economy, but the labor practices that sustain these platforms resemble the warehouse labor observed at Amazon, where low-wage workers quickly locate, pack, and ship items ordered by consumers. Much like larger-scale and more infamous companies like Airbnb and Uber, the niche markets comprising the digital vintage economy thrive on a gendered artisanal and entrepreneurial imaginary that underpins what is in fact very mundane labor. We draw on interviews with individual sellers as well as record and vintage store owners and employees in the Bay Area, Portland, and Brooklyn to describe how merchants use Discogs, Etsy, eBay, and Instagram as digital storefronts to augment their brick-and-mortar sales. We situate the online traffic in collectibles within broader platform economies, and by comparing records and vintage clothes as sectors of the digital vintage economy, dominated by men and women respectively, we are able to critique digital divisions of labor, which continue to be organized by race, age, and class as well as gender and geography.

Media Identities
Media Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Michael Palm

-, -, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, United States
North Carolina, United States

Tamara Kneese

-, -, University of San Francisco