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<nettime> Re Reframing the Creative Question- The Fusion Hypothesis
d.garcia on Sat, 21 Mar 2015 00:17:22 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Re Reframing the Creative Question- The Fusion Hypothesis

A Wrinkle in the Fusion Hypothesis - Or Why Does Fusion Need Firms 

alternative text at:

In the earlier Reframing... post I mentioned the fact that University of Brighton, 
University of Sussex, NESTA and Wired Brighton have recently 
completed a two year research project on the local digital creative industries funded 
by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Its called Brighton Fuse. 

Actually it took more than three years.
Although originally scheduled as a two year project but it has only just been completed 
as the first report omitted anything on the vital free-lance economy. With the publication 
of the second report this omission has been remedied and we now have a detailed, 
conscientious and very useful portrait of an media arts ecology outside of London with a 
sample broad enough to provide a new basis for argument that is less speculative than 

Alongside the facts and figures Brighton Fuse (as the name suggests) utilised a useful 
conceptual tool the 'fusion hypothesis'.

Fused & Superfused 

At its simplest Brighton Fuse research demonstrated with facts and figures on the ground
that the claims and hype around the digital creative industries is real. That creative, 
digital and IT companies are factually the fastest growing sector in the local economy and is 
driving the wider economy.

But more interestingly the report identified the fact that growth was not evenly 
distributed even in the sector under consideration and that that within the cdit cluster 
there are three distinct sub-groups that when combined constituted what this sector as a 

To begin with there are the specialists, who are classified in this model as 'unfused', 
followed by the 'fused' companies that combine technology with creative design 
and finally there are the 'superfused' companies who are self-identified so strongly with 
this constellation that the principle of ?fusion? was not simply present but lies at the 
very heart of their offer. 

For the sake of clarity "the notion of fusion is more specific than mere 
interdisciplinarity. It is a very specific form of collaboration that combines art, 
technology and communications/marketing with particular emphasis on social media and 
developing simultaneous real-time relationships 
between these platforms?. A further finding indicated that although the technological 
component was central, a significant percentage (more than a third) of these superfused 
companies are led by former arts and humanities graduates.

According to the researchers the superfused companies found additional time to spend on 
a range of diverse activities, such as coding, design and management in addition to 
engaging in creative and digital communities more than the fused and unfused. 
Importantly there was a very high correlation between growth with superfused growing 
at three times the rate as the unfused.

This model raises some interesting questions when it came to the second and more 
surprising report focusing on free-lancers and contrasting the way the fusion worked for 

The Wrinkle

In fact there was an interesting anomaly that illuminates some obstacles to 
collaboration and what has been called the 'sharing economy' in the creative 
industries and beyond. 

This anomaly arrises when it came to comparing the growth ratios claimed for 
individual superfused free-lancers with the performance of equivalent companies. 

Would freelancers making the journey from unfused to superfused exhibit a comparable 
degree of growth as that exhibited by the companies?  The answer was surprising. Although 
there was some correlation there were also important divergences. The first step mirrors 
the growth rates of the company. The fused freelancer enjoys much higher levels of growth 
than the unfused (10.5% higher) but there is a sudden trailing off when the individual 
takes the next step. The superfused free-lancers exhibit only modest uptick in growth 
(4.8%). But in contrast the superfused company continues their exponential rise. It 
seems that there is a barrier to growth when individual free-lancers reach advanced 
levels of interdisciplinary combinations and skills. 

This conclusion leads to an interesting question and its precisely the opposite of the 
more obvious question of ?why do firms need fusion??. Instead we have the more surprising 
and generative inversion in which we ask ?why does fusion need firms?? 

The researchers observed that away from the coordination of projects in firms (and other 
collectives) practitioners would retreat into distinctive communities and in the bars and 
other hang outs in which these communities gather and feel at home, it?s a kind of 
unconscious cultural sundown segregation. "Given the tendency to socialize with ones own 
community it seemed that fusion did not happen automatically and that people needed some 
management or coordination to facilitate it"

For those interested my analysis of the 2013 report is here:


d a v i d  g a r c i a

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