Philip Schlesinger, Professor in Cultural Policy at the University of Glasgow, and Deputy Director of CREATe, reflects on a recent workshop held at the University of Glasgow.
I convened The Lateral Seminar, a one-day workshop, which took place on 16 March 2015, to push forward new thinking on CREATe’s socio-cultural research and to look for potential points of integration of research conducted to date.
CREATe understands law, and in particular copyright law, to be a key condition for cultural production. Current far-reaching change in the digital environment requires us to develop a new framework that permits a more integrated approach to CREATe’s diverse portfolio of work. That’s why we engaged in some lateral thinking.
Contributors on the day were Raymond Boyle (Glasgow), Martin Kretschmer (Glasgow), Angela McRobbie (Goldsmiths), Keith Negus (Goldsmiths), Burkhard Schafer (Edinburgh), John Street (UEA) and Robin Williams (Edinburgh).
Stimulated by short talks given by each of the participants, several emergent themes were discussed. In essence, the workshop’s red thread of argument went like this: it is now essential to regroup work deriving from CREATe’s first two years, irrespective of where it has been situated in the original thematic set-up; it is, furthermore, important to inform continuing work as far as possible with a new framework that effects more integration and therefore adds value to what has been done; and finally, there are topics that we can identify now that might inform the next phase of CREATe’s work.
Critique of the creative economy and policy
The ‘creative economy’ is a contested idea that holds considerable sway. It was widely agreed that the worlds with which CREATe interacts were segmented and sectoral, that they had their own players, logics and policy communities. CREATe intersects with a range of policy communities and in some respects – at least, where its work is taken seriously and may have a formative impact – is also a policy actor of a modest kind. This recognition has implications for (a) the read-across and comparison between sectors and (b) the way in which CREATe seeks to make an impact on diverse policy debates.
How might we productively rethink the idea of the creative economy and the policy process?
This idea is also a central plank of CREATe’s official designation. What is its role in analysis? A first step, currently under way, is to apply an analysis to CREATe case studies already undertaken, in light of Charles Baden-Fuller et al’s model. A new direction could be to consider how conceptions of business models are applied in use: in short, to treat the constitutive role of business models in creative work and enterprises as an object of study.
Taking business models as a problematic idea, how should we move ahead in studying how these are operationalised in different ways, at different levels within diverse creative sectors?
New analyses of creative labour
Creative labour has been a major plank of the more sociological work in CREATe but really has not enjoyed sufficient visibility. Since ‘creatives’ and their place in the market, as well as their relations to the state, are of central and undiminishing interest, this body of work will need more foregrounding. In the first instance, there is a need to secure a better take on what has been achieved and to showcase it. Second, it would be useful to develop a new programmatic approach to this topic, not least in relation to current creative economy policies. One emergent topic is that of creativity without creatives, which would link this work with recent developments in artificial intelligence.
How should we rethink the question of creative labour, both as a social process and as a category of productive activity, not least as it is facing new challenges from computer-based systems?
Intermediaries: virtual and real
To date, CREATe has been strongly focused on digital intermediaries, and there has also been research on real intermediaries such as collecting societies, for instance. In current practice, the boundaries between the real and the digital are shifting, but with what consequences? Do people still matter? And if so, why? This is a line of inquiry that is likely to be productive and could build on the small, somewhat scattered, but growing body of work on various kinds of intermediary. This brings together questions regarding the operations of expert systems and the work of various, culturally legitimated, experts in given fields of activity.
Who are the new intermediaries? What are their conditions of existence?
This topic lies behind the gamut of CREATe’s present activity, notably the tensions between ‘cultural’ (aesthetic) and ‘economic’ (monetary) value. It would make sense to trace how conceptions of value are used across the range of projects presently undertaken and to think about how this issue might be foregrounded in future. Of particular interest are: processes of valuation (the rules of the game, their application, and uses of expert knowledge); and financialisation (a form of struggle against cultural value). This has acquired more urgency given new iterations of concepts of cultural value, which have questionable analytical and policy consequences. The issue runs across production, distribution and consumption and intersects with questions of expertise.
How can we enter the value debate both theoretically and in terms of telling empirical research? How for instance, does this debate relate to new modes of consumption and new intermediaries?
It was agreed that it would be an advantage in future to think more explicitly about how CREATe’s work fits together across its various constitutive fields. It was also agreed that more explicit attention needed to be paid to how constraints as well as opportunities were operating in our field. Further, there is a wish to retain the richness of empirical findings within this approach but still to situate them more firmly within an overarching framework that begins to connect the diverse projects and allows us to tell more of a coherent story, in particular how the copyright law and socio-cultural research might be more effectively integrated.
The Lateral Seminar was organised by the Centre for Cultural Policy Research (CCPR) at the University of Glasgow, a close research partner of CREATe. It was coordinated by Ealasaid Munro and administered by Samantha Emanuel.