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[Nettime-nl] MyCreativity -- eerste aankondiging
Institute of Network Cultures on Thu, 2 Mar 2006 22:34:01 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-nl] MyCreativity -- eerste aankondiging

Convention of International Creative Industries Researchers
First Announcement

Date: 17-18 November, 2006
Venue: Club 11, Post CS Building, Amsterdam
Organisation: Institute of Network Cultures, HvA and Centre for Media Research, University of Ulster
Concept: Geert Lovink & Ned Rossiter
More information: info {AT} networkcultures.org, Sabine Niederer.

Emerging out of Blair's Britain in the late 90s as an antidote to post-industrial unemployment, early creative industries discourse was notable for a promotional hype characteristic of the dot.com era in the US. Over the past 3-5 years creative industries has undergone a process of internationalisation and become a permanent fixture in the short-term interests that define government policy packages across the world. At the policy level, creative industries have managed to transcend the North-South divide that preoccupied research on the information economies and communication technologies for two decades.

Today, one finds countries as diverse as Austria, Brazil, Singapore and New Zealand eagerly promoting the promise of exceptional economic growth rates of "culture" in its "immaterial" form. Governments in Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, and the Netherlands have initiated creative industries policy platforms with remarkably similar assumptions and expectations given their very different cultural and political environments.

Despite the proliferation of the creative industries model, it remains hard to point to stories of actual "creative innovation", or to be even sure what this might mean. What is clear – if largely unacknowledged – is that investment in "creative clusters" effectively functions to encourage a corresponding boom in adjacent real estate markets. Here lies perhaps the core truth of the creative industries: the creative industries are a service industry, one in which state investment in "high culture" shifts to a form of welfarism for property developers. This smoke and mirrors trick is cleverly performed through a language of populist democracy that appeals to a range of political and business agents. What is more surprising is the extent to which this hype is seemingly embraced by those most vulnerable: namely, the content producers (designers, software inventors, artists, filmmakers, etc.) of creative information (brands, patents, copyrights).

Much research in the creative industries is highly speculative, interpretive and economistic, concerned with large-scale industry data rather than the network of formal and informal relations that make possible creative production. It is also usually produced quickly, with little detailed qualitative analysis of the structure of economic relationships creative industries firms operate in. In many cases, the policy discourses travel and are taken up without critical appraisal of distinctly local conditions.

In contrast to the homogeneity of creative industries at the policy level, there is much localised variation to be found in terms of the material factors that shape the development of creative industries projects. For example, a recent UNCTAD (2004) policy report on creative industries and development makes note of the “‘precarious”’ nature of employment for many within the creative industries. Such attention to the uneven and variable empirics of creative industries marks a departure from much of the hype that characterised earlier creative industries discourse, and also reflects the spread of this discourse out of highly developed market economies to ones where the private sector has a very different role.

This conference wishes to bring these trends and tendencies into critical question. It seeks to address the local, intra-regional and trans-national variations that constitute international creative industries as an uneven field of actors, interests and conditions. The conference explores a range of key topics that, in the majority of cases, remain invisible to both academic research and policy-making in the creative industries.

Overall, the conference adopts a comparative focus in order to illuminate the variability of international creative industries. Such an approach enables new questions to be asked about the mutually constitutive tensions between the forces, practices, histories and policies that define creative production, distribution and organisation within an era of information economies and network cultures.

Themes and Sessions
=Critique of Creative Industries=
There is little empirical correspondence between the topography of "mapping documents" and "value-chains" and the actual social networks and cultural flows that comprise the business activities and movement of finance capital, information and labour-power within creative economies. Such attempts to register the mutual production of economic and creative value are inherently reductive systems. Much creative industries discourse in recent years places an emphasis on the potential for creative clusters, hubs and precincts to develop cultural economies. The limits and political problematic of existing methodologies such as these are considerable.

Complexity is not something that is easily accommodated in the genre of policy and the activities of what remain vertically integrated institutional settings. In undertaking a critique of the simplicity characteristic of much creative industries policy, this session explores the ways in which the experiences of workers, businesses and government and the structural formations of the creative industries can be better understood in terms of the complexity of information economies and network societies.

=Creative Labour and Precarity=
Since the initial policy reports by the Blair government’s Department of Communications, Media, and Sport (1998/2001), governments around the world have reproduced the key definition of creative industries as consisting of ‘the generation and exploitation of intellectual property’ (DCMS, 1998/2001). Key to this definition is the invisible subject of exploitation: namely, those engaged in the production of creative commodities and services. Such work is largely undertaken by young people, who have no experience or identification with traditional labour organisations, such as the trade union. The reasons for this are historical, generational and structural: young people do not have formal or cultural associations with vertically organised institutional settings in the way that workers did during the modern era of industrial capitalism. This session investigates the precarious conditions of labour and life within the creative industries.

=Creative Industries--Made in Europe=
Europe has long prided itself as the origin of (state funded and guided) creativity, but the romanticism that underpins this arrogance and institutional power is no longer viable in the context of economic globalisation. With its system of protectionist policies and welfare states still relatively intact, albeit considerably battered, countries across Europe have been comparatively slow to incorporate the UK-model of creative industries in their policy agendas. This is gradually changing and will no doubt continue to do so as the EU forces resistant states to conform to international policy trends and trade agreements. On the one hand, this session is interested in the distinctive cultural variations that define creative work across European countries. And then, on the other hand, the session is interested in the kinds of connections being made at social and economic levels between European countries. Is it still possible, beyond tourism, to speak of "Europe" in a global economy of trade and services?

=Creative Industries and the Arts=
It is not difficult to understand why the hype around creative industries has been perceived as a threat in traditional visual arts circles. Are “contemporary arts” and “creative industries” ordinary competitors that compete over scarce resources, or is there more to this tension? The creative industries discourse can easily be read as a declaration of war against closed and elitist art systems, and much of that critique might be justified. But there are also millions of good reasons to defend the “senseless acts of beauty” against cold and instrumentalised market thinking. The autonomy of the arts may as well be read as a right, built up through struggles against the grip of the church and the aristocratic class on the arts. But what remains in the ruins of the Arts as a source of renewal and mobilisation within a paradigm of info-economies?

=Creative Industries in China and the Asia-Pacific=
One is hard pressed to find comparative research that examines the inter-relations between geo-politics (regional trade agreements, national and multi-lateral policies on labour mobility, security and migration, etc.) and the peculiarities of intra-regional, trans-local and global cultural flows. For many, the creative industries are an exclusively Anglo-American and now European phenomenon. This session is interested in the Asia-Pacific experiences of creative industries.

Of particular interest is the case of China, which is rapidly emerging as the dominant player in the global economy. How is “culture” being understood as an economic resource in China? Who are the key players and what sort of cross-sectoral relations are emerging? How are artists positioning themselves in political and economic senses? To what extent are external influences and architectures (e.g. WTO and IPRs) shaping the creative industries formation in China and the Asia-Pacific region?

=Complementary and Alternative Business Models=
For all the talk about culture as a generator of economic capital, the relation between the two continues to be neglected in much research and is difficult for many to understand. The economic models applied to cultural production in an era of broadcast media have proven to be inadequate to this period of networked media. And the follies of the dot.com boom were all too clear – though this is still ignored by many creative industries policy-makers and advocates. The search for alternative business models for the creative industries is currently at a fairly experimental stage, and there’s little scope for transferability due to national and cultural contingencies (though this too is often ignored). How can creative work become sustainable, beyond state subsidies and hyped markets? Do we necessarily have to buy into intellectual property regimes? What is the economic reality of Creative Commons?

=Conclusion: Subterranean Creativity=
There is without doubt a discord between the “mapping documents” produced by government departments and academics across the world and the on-the-ground experiences of creative workers. These empirical exercises function as an abstract expression to be circulated amongst like-minded institutions seeking self-produced validation. But how are young creative producers making sense – if at all – of the policy directives being set out for them by government departments? What sort of languages, expressions, connections are made and circulated here? And what, if any, mobilising capacity do such relations enable with regard to a different form of organisational power?

This event will be run in collaboration with All Media Foundation and The Sandberg Institute, who will present the latest installment that engages the topic of "organised creativity". The opening evening will present a show in Paradiso (16 November, 2006), titled Paradise by the Laptop Light, a concept of Mieke Gerritzen and Koert van Mensvoort. Leading up this event, post-graduate design students from the Sandberg Institute will be undertaking a study of creative industries topographies and typologies in the Netherlands. These activities include a free newspaper and will feature in the conference session on Subterrainean Creativity.

This international conference will be used as a preliminary meeting of an emerging network of researchers that critically engage with the creative industries field. The event also introduces the novel format of the conference "package tour", with a follow-up conference – A Network of Networks – held in Belfast, 19-21 November. This event will be also be organised by the Institute of Network Cultures and the Centre for Media Research, along with other partners.

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