Generally speaking, media fandom operates on a labor theory of value—not necessarily in the Marxist sense of the phrase, but in the sense that value derives from work. Fandom’s gift economy assigns special worth to “gifts of time and skill” (Hellekson 2009, 115), gifts made by fans for fans. The worth of these gifts lies not simply in the content of the gift, nor in the social gesture of giving, but in the labor that went into their creation. Commercially purchased gifts, such as the virtual cupcakes and balloons that can be purchased in the LiveJournal shop, may be given and appreciated, but will generally be worth less, in the context of fandom, than gifts made by the giver (note 2). This labor theory of value is often invisible or unarticulated until something goes wrong: a site skin doesn’t work as anticipated, a vid is plagiarized, a story in progress—or an entire archive—is abandoned. These events remind us that our experience of fandom depends on the labor of others: “A gift is a thing we do not get by our own efforts. We cannot buy it; we cannot acquire it through an act of will. It is bestowed upon us” (Hyde 1979, xi).
Tisha Turk, Fan work: Labor, worth, and participation in fandom’s gift economy ift.tt/1g9d3Vi