Accepted Paper:

The Ghost in the Tweet  

Author:

Deborah Jones (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

What does it mean to migrate linguistically? This paper considers how and why "ghostwriters," experts in virtual and verbal assimilation, adopt the personae of students, doctors, product reviewers, and political activists -- for pay. It engages work on outsourcing, ethics, and digital cultures.

Paper long abstract:

In a neoliberal economy in which "life-hacking" often means "outsourcing" that which does not immediately advance one's goals, ghostwriters are finding a growing niche. This paper offers preliminary findings from my research with people who perform what I am thinking of as textual piecework: writing projects, often remunerated by the word, page, or task, that will be credited to paying client. Ghostwriting is hardly a new profession, and in some respects, its 21st century manifestations, while often transacted across borders and via online platforms, seem not that different from ones prior: ghosts write for students who require a term paper, for public figures hawking memoirs, and for patrons who desire the prestige of a publication, but lack the skillset to bring it to completion. However, I propose that contemporary ghostwriting practices are transforming, and are shaped not only by the speed, competitive pricing, and relative anonymity of internet-based commerce, but also by contemporary discourses of productivity and self-branding. Thus, while composing academic essays may remain many a ghostwriter's bread-and-butter, my preliminary research suggests that ghostwriters are increasingly involved in the maintenance of social media accounts and the scripting of "how-to" content devised to bolster a client's reputation as an expert or influencer. Considering these different types of ghostwriting in tandem allows for a fuller account of how language, competence, and discretion may be bought and sold in the 21st century marketplace.

Panel P057
Digitisation, and the future of labour and migration