Against Amateur Economies: Spec Work Competitions and the Anti-spec Movement

Helen Kennedy


Abstract

The rise and rise of the amateur cultural producer has been greeted with a spectacular amount of celebratory rhetoric, in both popular and academic writing . It has also been criticised, often for the inferior quality of amateur productions compared to the fruits of professional labour. But apart from that by a small number of journalism scholars, little empirical research has been carried out with professional creative labourers about the impact of amateur economies on their work, and their responses to amateur production practices. This article addresses that gap, and also counterbalances the dominant celebratory discourse by focusing on an initiative that is critical of amateur economies and that emerges from creative workers themselves: the anti-spec movement within design industries. Anti-spec activists campaign against speculative (or spec) work, which is seen as one problematic materialisation of crowdsourced, amateur economies. Here, it is argued that responses to spec work can be understood in relation to designers’ ethics and values and the extent to which they feel that these are thrown into question by amateur activity.

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