exposure

Exposure is now regularly inserted into the workplace as a means to an end; the type and amount of exposure one has lends significance to the experience or qualification of an individual. As Pierre Bourdieu aligns in the first chapter of “The Forms of Capital,” capital is defined as “accumulated labor.” In conversation with exposure, and how it is measured in the modern notion of work, Bourdieu explains capital through materialized or ‘embodied’ form. This embodied form takes time to grow, build, and acquire value.Though each individual had the capacity to accumulate capital, the opportunity to do so are not equal; this is where cultural and social capital come into play. Like Bourdieu gestures to, the game is not necessarily fair nor balanced, and when it comes to the “game” of gaining capital, some people seem to have had a head start.
In using exposure as an object, I connect it to capital by thinking of it through terms of accumulation as well as an objectified force. Capital and exposure both take time for their accumulated value to take shape. If the game was clean and fair, over time, one’s capital would rise, as would the chances of opportunities based on a simultaneous increase in exposure. But, because of the consequences of social and cultural capital, the exchange rate does not translate into reality.

Cultural and social capital, as explained by Bourdieu, values exchange can be converted through immaterial forms. They do not function strictly as money or objects, but rather ensure transubstantiation. Social and cultural capital are able to accumulate their value through “connections” or “educational qualification”, as Bourdieu states on page 16. These connections and qualifications can also be defined as exposure. What seems to be ignored throughout the “game” of capital would be the inevitable family tree that becomes the inextricable background to any person’s life, job, and well-being. Social and cultural capital refers to the acquisition of work based on “self improvement” and institutionalized state not as an individual, but as apart of a network; what, who, when, and why these networks become exposed all add to one’s social and cultural capital. What type of exposure, along with how much, adds or takes from the value and opportunity to the individual, in the modern workplace.

When looking at the origin of exposure, its history proves significant in the way it has developed in light of the 21st century. Exposure derives from the 13th century Latin word, exponere, meaning “To set forth in words, declare.” Like cultural and social capital serve strong implication to their hereditary ties, exponere as a root to exposure shares the same influence as it has not changed much from its original understanding. “Ponere”, meaning “to put, place” Its definition as a “proper place occupied by a person or thing” is from the 1540s. This word was considered as a “manner in which some physical thing is arranged or posed” first recorded 1703; specifically in reference to dance steps. I found this interesting and viable to exposure because of the way in which exposure through cultural and social capital can be determined as necessary, if not “proper.” To be proper is to be right, and to have the correct, accepted, and the right amount of exposure to connections or educational qualifications presupposes one’s opportunities and value in societal standing.

From its Latin origin, the Old French word espondre developed as: “expound (on), set forth, explain,”  The literal breakdown and meaning of this word serves useful when dividing the prefix from the rooted word. “Ex” is a word-forming element, in English meaning usually “out of, from,” but also “upwards, completely, deprive of, without,” and “former;” from Latin ex “out of, from within; from which time, since; according to; in regard to”. When using exposure as a verb rather than a noun, to expose descends from the 14the century French word exposer. To expose means “To lay open (to danger, ridicule, censure, etc.); to place in the way of something that would be better avoided; to render accessible or liable.” Shakespeare adopts this word in the 17th century in both “King Lear” as well as “All’s Well That Ends Well”. Act 3, scene 4 of “King Lear”, he states: “Expose thy selfe to feele what wretches feele.”  

In its most contemporary and English translation, exposure as a noun echoes Bourdieu in the way “self interest” proves necessary for social and cultural capital. To be self interested is to be invested and willing to devote time and money from yourself, to add to your individual capital.  The definition of exposure lies in: “The action of uncovering or leaving without shelter or defence; unsheltered or undefended condition. Also, the action of subjecting, the state or fact of being subjected, to any external influence.” The way in which external or outside influence acts as an essential feature to exposure creates a dependency on lending or giving oneself up, in order to gain.
With its etymological history taken into consideration, in the contemporary working sphere, exposure and inexposure have become inextricably linked. Being an artist, or “creative” in the modern working era positions the individual in between the boundaries of a job and a career. In order to make a career as a creative more often than not prompts an individually contemporary payment– getting paid by exposure has become a coined and difficult term. The creative individual working to create their career is forced into free exposure, networking, or other intangible benefits and opportunities. This is called “payment in exposure” or PIE and this runs rampant in the creative realm. Artists are constantly asked to work for free in order to start their business or career. Revealing, publishing, laying open, and exhibiting one’s work more often than not, reaps menial reward and payment, yet networking– now the modern meaning of exposure, acts as the first and foremost step for the creative.

  1. “Definitions of Exposure in English:. “Ether, N. : Oxford English Dictionary. Accessed February 2019. http://www.oed.com/.
  2. Bourdieu, Pierre. “The Forms of Capital.” 1986.(Chapter 1).

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