Volunteering as Media Work: The Case of the Eurovision Song Contest
Keywords:Media work, volunteering, free labour, Eurovision Song Contest
This article explores volunteering in relation to the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC), which took place in Stockholm in 2016 and in Kyiv in 2017, with the aim of shedding light on volunteering as a form of “media work”. Following from this, the article aims to problematize the theoretical concept of free labour and analyse the symbolic exchanges and currencies involved in employing a “free” labour force. Through interviews with volunteers, this article explores what volunteers at huge media events do, how their work is organized, and what motivates them. The empirical basis for this article is an interview study with volunteers and volunteer organizers of the ESC in Stockholm (May 2016) and in Kyiv (May 2017), complemented with a document analysis of volunteer guidebooks and organizational reports. The article shows that eventfulness is an essential part of what volunteer labour brings to an event such as the ESC. It is also a key element in the production of economic value: eventfulness is a currency that expresses the value of the event itself and is a key feature of place branding. Furthermore, eventfulness – along with the feeling of being a part of an event, of something bigger, as it unfolds in time – is a key feature of the motivation for the volunteers who contribute with unpaid labour. As such, eventfulness can also be understood as a form of currency or symbolic capital that forms the main remuneration or “wage” earned by volunteers at an event such as the ESC.
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