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The Creative Economy – a Concept and Strategy for the Future. Justin O’Connor Monash University. Creative industries. 1998: New Labour – Department of Culture, Media and Sport Two Strands Come Together. C ultural I ndustries .

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the creative economy a concept and strategy for the future

The Creative Economy – a Concept and Strategy for the Future

Justin O’Connor

Monash University

creative industries
Creative industries

1998: New Labour – Department of Culture, Media and Sport

Two Strands Come Together

c ultural i ndustries
Cultural Industries

Majority of cultural goods produced and consumed outside publicly funded culture

How does is a democratic cultural policy deal with this?

cultural industries
Cultural Industries
  • Background: rise in wealth, education and leisure time – new aspirations.
  • Demanded new tools, including economic
  • Also deliver economic benefits.

Growing policy lobby (often cities): art and culture no longer ‘poor relation’ and should be brought centre stage.

cultural industries1
Cultural Industries
  • A number of different cultural and economic values at play
  • Also interdependencies (economic value depended on cultural value);
  • Not susceptible to standard economic analysis.
  • For some this meant a new kind of cultural economy.
1 evolutionary series
1) Evolutionary Series
  • Linear progression – agriculture – manufacture – services – information.
  • ‘Post-industrial’ theorists and the new managerial class in the 1970s.
  • De-industrialisation– (re-location of manufacture elsewhere): western economies sought high-value added services.
2 cultural capacity
2) Cultural Capacity

Wider claims about knowledge workers:

Manuel Castells: educated population able to to ‘process knowledge and manipulate symbols’;

‘Cultural capacity’ of workforces

3 creative destruction
3) Creative Destruction
  • 1980s: Not incremental advances of an educated managerial class: ‘disruptive innovation’
  • Schumpeter: “creative destruction”.
  • Political transformations of the 1980s;
  • Computing and converged telecommunications revolutions;
  • Innovation from ‘left of field’ or ‘outside the box’.
  • Entrepreneur: marginally respectable middleman to a maverick, rebel, iconoclast.
  • Californian Ideology (AynRand);
  • Fusion of the entrepreneur and the artist,
  • Key word is ‘creativity’.
  • Endless discussions of what creativity is;
  • Clearly a modernist, even Avant-guard idea of artistic creativity;
  • Dynamic, restless, rule-breaking process which brings ‘the shock of the new’.
creative capacity
Creative Capacity

The wider cultural capacity of advanced producer services is opened out to a wider ‘creativity’ of populations, drawing in much wider currents of popular culture and practices, and beyond formal educational capacity to emotions, empathy, energy, senses etc.

creative industries1
Creative Industries

New Labour brought these strands together in complex ways.

Some specifically UK centric, but with clear resonances elsewhere (its success surprised the DCMS).


‘those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property’ (Department of Culture, Media and Sports, 1998)

creative industries2
Creative Industries
  • Definition: wealth creation through talent and IP.
  • Talent the input, IP the output.
  • Creativity the capacity to be developed.

Standard list of the arts and cultural industries.

Stand-out: software - launched an endless debate as to the boundaries of this sector.

1 definitions and boundaries
1) Definitions and Boundaries

Some of this is academic and technical

In essence the argument is that ‘creativity’ is far too broad a term to specify a sector, or an input, or a capacity, at least not for the purposes of practical policy.

2 reducing culture to commerce
2) Reducing Culture to Commerce?
  • Many saw the creative industries as reducing culture to economic impact.
  • Many reasons to support this.
  • The recent UNDP/UNESCO Creative Economy Report made this point clearly.
2 new perspectives and voices
2) New Perspectives and Voices?

Creative industries opened up new perspectives, brought in new voices, highlighted wide-spread economic, technological AND cultural changes

new perspectives and voices
New Perspectives and Voices
  • the internet,
  • Globalization,
  • proliferation of new starts,
  • democratic claim for contemporary cultures against the older art elites,
  • a hybridization of economic and cultural motives.
new perspectives and voices1
New Perspectives and Voices

That is: many of the currents that had gone into cultural industries, now in a new global landscape.

3 simplification
3) Simplification

Under-estimated the complexity of the sector and simplified the policy tools required to deal with it.

complex mix of skills and practices
Complex mix of skills and practices

Can not be described as talented start-ups looking for IP.

Whole range of activities – creative skills, administrative/ managerial/ legal; material supplies and logistical support.


These kind of skills & know-how exist in complex ecosystems in which commercial and not-for-profit, very large and micro, state-funded and self-employed, the institutional and the ‘pop-up’ co-exist.


Complexity of actors and their remunerations:

  • Not all seeking IP, some are waged, some self-employed, some grant funded, some free labour;
  • Motivation – they are not all doing it for ‘economic’ reasons (i.e. rational maximization of profit).
simplistic fast policy
Simplistic (fast) Policy

This has direct implications for policy tools, which have been so often reduced to simplistic interventions – ‘creative class’, for example.

simplistic fast policy1
Simplistic (fast) Policy

Despite the rhetoric governments have been reluctant to put in the resources to develop the sector

Seen as a quick and cheap option – IP protection, a creative cluster…

Vague statements about creativity and culture.

creative economy and development
Creative Economy and Development

New element: impact on the developmental agenda of the creative industries.

culture and development
Culture and Development
  • Post-1945 development paradigm: singular path in which developing countries move from traditional to modern societies.
  • Challenged by the anti-colonial movement: global game was rigged in favour of developed countries.
  • Anthropological argument for the equal validity and continued relevance of ‘traditional’ cultures.
culture and development1
Culture and Development
  • Both challenged the implicit hierarchy whereby the art and civilisation of the West represented a higher form of spiritual achievement.
  • An anthropological focus on everyday, embedded culture – ‘culture as a way of life’ – began to actively inform the challenge to the ‘development as modernization’ thesis.
culture and development2
Culture and Development

Traditional culture was no longer the obstacle to be overcome on the way to modernization,

It was a source of rootedness and connection, meanings and values, inspiration and energy that could be a resource for development.

culture and development3
Culture and Development

World Commission on Culture and Development, (UN and UNESCO in 1993). 1995 report Our Creative Diversity: “Development divorced from its human or cultural context is growth without a soul’.

culture and development4
Culture and Development

Culture can be ‘harnessed for positive social and economic transformation through [its] influence on aspirations, the co-ordination of collective action, and the ways in which power and agency work within a society’.

culture and development5
Culture and Development
  • But culture is an end as well as a means.
  • AmartyaSen: Development is an entitlement to a dignified way of life, and culture is absolutely central to this.
  • 1998 World Culture Report : ‘Culture is not embedded in development but development embedded in culture’.
creative industries3
Creative Industries
  • New dynamic into the cultural political scene.
  • Culture (and creativity) promoted not as a supplement to, or modification of, GDP-led economic growth but as a deepening of it.
creative industries4
Creative Industries

Culture, in the form of the creative industries, became available to local development strategies as a range of potentially profitable products and services, both ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’.

creative industries5
Creative Industries

Growing importance of IP rights within the large cultural corporations suggested a close affinity, of the creative industries with the wider mobilization of capacities required for a ‘knowledge economy’

impact of cis
Impact of CIs
  • Narrative of cultural and economic ‘win-win’.
  • Focus on contemporary and emergent kinds of cultural production, appealing to youth, new technologies and cultural practices outside the elitist hierarchies of ‘high art’ and heritage - democratization.
impact of cis1
Impact of CIs

‘Creativity’: an anthropological resource of culture in a new way; no longer locked up in the arts, an everyday creativity linked to the entrepreneurial energy of independent creative businesses would galvanize local economies.

but problems
But Problems
  • Defining the sector: many lumping high-tech or business consultancy into the creative industries.
  • Or separating the digital from the traditional,
  • Or the commercial from the cultural,
  • Or the high-growth from the ‘lifestyle’.
  • Search for quick win, fast growth

Understanding the complexity of the sector and the tools required.  

not an industry like any other
Not an Industry like any other
  • Not firms but projects;
  • Networks not chains;
  • Relational or tacit knowledge deeply embedded in place;
  • Complex scaling where very local and small can have global contacts.
not just an industry like any other
Not just an Industry like any other
  • Value and values.
  • Economic value derived from cultural value. Cannot just focus on the former without understanding the latter.
  • Understanding how the complex ecosystem produces the specific kind of value that gets to generate income.
uneven playing field
Uneven Playing Field
  • Echo more general complaints about global trade.
  •  Ecosystems cannot be generated overnight –include huge amounts of sunk capital – in cultural infrastructure and institutions, in knowledge and relations that cannot be built over night (cf. China).
  • Global nodes are “sticky”. London, New York etc.
uneven playing field1
Uneven Playing Field

Built-in inequalities between North and South – we all know this in the world of IP and it is getting worse. So too in creative industries.

exaggerated claims
Exaggerated Claims
  • UNCTAD report: developing countries accounted for 50% - but take China out and this is 20%. Taken BRICS out and it drops further.
  • Idea of a ubiquitous creativity available to all is incorrect.
  • The rolling out of models of a commercially driven start-up economy trading globally through the access to the internet, as if Lagos or KL were to become the next LA, London or Seoul are illusions.
but a real potential
But a Real Potential

This is not to say that the creative economy is an illusion. It will be essential to development….

We just have to think carefully about what we mean by development.

creative economy
Creative Economy
  • A creative economy policy is not, in the end, distinct from the older ‘culture and development’ agenda.
  • Senand Nussbaum: capacity building. This includes education, commitment to freedom/ dignity and personal advancement
  • It includes measures of human well-being beyond GDP – hence the Human Development Index.
  • All essential to any creative economy – the broad capacity of the population.
creative economy1
Creative Economy

Needs to view the economic is a different light:

  • Not the ‘Washington consensus’ of export driven growth
  • Nor under-development as a lackof resources to be found elsewhere.
creative economy2
Creative Economy

Any creative economy strategy has to build on local resources and be about livelihoods in the local economy.

This demands a recognition of the diversity of economic activity outside what textbooks say is ‘real’ activity –anything not done for wages or as part of a formal economic transaction.

creative economy3
Creative Economy

Development theorists highlight unwaged, domestic, communal, gift, voluntary, self-employed activities as a way of showing the vast amounts of activity taking place in areas which economists write off as ‘poor’.

This is exactly the kind of economy which has always marked out the cultural or creative sector.

creative economy4
Creative Economy
  • Creative economy should not be approached as the first wave of the new post-industrial order, the high-value sector which will allow countries to catch-up (yet again) with the developed west.
  • Should be seen as part of a different capacity building agenda, one that can connect with new approaches to development and ways of valuing traditional, domestic, agricultural, subsistence, voluntary and cultural economies alongside that which is formally recognized.
creative economy5
Creative Economy

One this huge mid-shift has taken place then we can begin to specific what a creative economy policy looks like.

Those challenges around networks, projects, multiple-values, tacit skills – are these not similar to other ways in which dominant development narratives have been challenged?