Knitting Ourselves Into Being: the Case of Labour and Hip Domesticity on the Social Network Ravelry.com
Thinking of social media participation in terms of doing work may seem a strange proposition. Yet, social network and handicrafts website Ravelry.com requires a great deal of labour from its members. From painstakingly hand-knitting fuzzy objects to photographing, recording and sharing these objects online, Ravelers must supply evidence of their hard work in order to fully participate in this online community. On Ravelry, “writing oneself into being” (Sundén 2002), or performing one’s self through a textual medium, encompasses much more than simply writing. One must knit oneself into being too. Social capital is then accumulated through extensive cataloguing of handmade items. These ‘finished objects’ of knitting and crochet are imbued with affective meaning as tokens of nurturing and gift-giving, consistent with a historicity in which handicrafts like knitting have been associated with gendered care-work. Yet, much of Ravelry’s activity centres on commodity exchange. Displaying commodity ownership is as important as displaying evidence of labour for the accrual of social capital. Recording and displaying domesticity as both acts of labour and acts of consumption fit within a wider trend of hip domesticity, where demonstrating one’s domesticity has become a facet of popular culture. This project examines Ravelry.com’s emphasis on the placement of a physical object between the self and the social network. The thesis argues that this incorporation of material objects into the structure of a social network challenges notions of disembodiment and immateriality. Ravelry.com demonstrates the need for a discussion of social media participant labour which goes beyond the immaterial and affective.