How cultural workers address racism and work in the digital age

22 November 2023



How do cultural and creative workers respond to racism and the politics of representation and respectability in the digital age? In what ways do they engage in forms of community-building and solidarity-making, while managing pressures to build digital presence and personal brands?

This session seeks to address these questions via 30 in-depth interviews with Black, Brown and Asian (BBA) workers in the UK cultural and creative industries (CCIs). Focusing on the ambivalence of digital self-branding practices, our work builds on scholarship on inequalities in the CCIs, and on platformization and race. We organize our reflections regarding the experiences and values of these workers into three main themes: the positive potential these workers find in the capacity of digital media technologies for forging community and solidarity; the benefits and limitations of using digital media technologies to communicate counternarratives, including exposure of discrimination in CCIs, and adapting and ‘gaming’ features such as recommendation algorithms; and how they experience and navigate felt pressures to self-brand in contemporary digital contexts. We find a marked ambivalence in the reported experiences of these workers, which generatively complicates existing accounts of digital technology, algorithmic struggles and the UK’s CCIs.

Art created by Chris Manson
















Artwork by Chris Manson


Francesca Sobande is a Senior Lecturer in digital media studies (Cardiff University).

She is author of The Digital Lives of Black Women in Britain (2020), Consuming Crisis: Commodifying Care and COVID-19 (2022), and Big Brands Are Watching You: Marketing Social Justice and Digital Culture (2024). Francesca is also co-author of Black Oot Here: Black Lives in Scotland (2022) and Black Oot Here: Dreams O Us (2023).


Sobande, F., Hesmondhalgh, D., & Saha, A. (2023). Black, Brown and Asian cultural workers, creativity and activism: The ambivalence of digital self-branding practices. The Sociological Review, 0(0).