All entries for February 2015

February 19, 2015

Spillover Effects in Europe

Tuesday I was at the British Council, where we used their Board Room (with a great view of Whitehall !) for the second meeting of the European spillover research group. The first meeting was at the Forum D’Avignon Ruhr last year, where I chaired an exploratory meeting on putting together a large research project. My paper was published from that, see here: [It has become the first of a series of papers called ‘To be Debated’, hence the slightly cryptic cover].

This Tuesday’s meeting – called ‘Preliminary Evidence of Spillover Effects in Europe – Interim meeting – was organized by the group’s current funders, the European centre for creative economy Dortmund, with Arts Council England; other partners include the Irish Arts Council, Creative England, and the European Creative Business Network (based at Brussels). At the meeting were representatives from the British Council, Nesta, the Norwegian Arts Council and the European Cultural Foundation.


‘Spillover’ (a bad name in my opinion, but unfortunately established now it’s in the sights of EU policy makers) doesn’t involve spilling your coffee over the person you’re sitting next to. Oh No. It’s serious business – well, we hope it will be. In involves the development, dynamics and outcomes that have been previously referred to as ‘externalities’, ‘crossovers’ or that awful term ‘knowledge transfer’. To my mind, it should involve the most compelling dimensions of the creative and cultural industries – their ability to shape places, spaces, subjectivities and our social horizon of imagination. And that includes enterprise and industry as much as social groups or communities. The new EU ‘Creative Europe’ (2014-20) programme has unfortunately ditched the ‘citizenship’ aims of traditional European cultural policy, but also opened up a new front in enterprise, the creative industries and other SME activity (particularly in the context of EU urban policy). In that sense it is attempting to dovetail culture with with the Europe 2020 Strategy of ‘Innovation Union’, where ‘innovation’ is defined as any process or strategic use of cultural, social and urban resources (not just technological or manufacturing development). This policy thinking has a provenance of course: for example, ‘An integrated industrial policy for the globalisation era’ (COM(2010)614), cited cultural and creative industries as sources and providers of innovation (not just social benefits). Altogether, there is a push for new policy models of an expanded and engaged cultural sector, but where cultural policy is not so good at engagement beyond the older paradigms of ‘benefits’ or impacts.

Tom Fleming Associates have been appointed as research leaders, and are building an evidence library devised a preliminary methodology. For me, the preliminary task is twofold: first in differentiating the study of ‘spillover’ from the previous discourses of benefit, impact, transference and value (along with all their economic theory references points); and second, understanding how spillover is both intentional and unintentional (as well as both positive and negative), and not simply an ‘object’ of analysis, but a policy construct. As defined by Fleming, we will be concentrating on knowledge, production, and network spillovers – but raises a question. I don’t know about you, but when we get spills, they are not so easily categorized.. they are a bit of a mess. In the study of the creative industries, we have had complexity theory (e.g. Nesta’s ‘dynamic mapping’: (Bakhshi ‎2013)). When is someone going to come up with ‘mess theory’?

February 09, 2015

Global City — the Centre for Cultural Policy Studies in London

Warwick is increasingly teaching in London. And this term saw 23 of our students from the Centre follow the module The Global City -- along with several tourists who think I am an official tour guide!

We are undertaking half the module on location in central London. The rationale is that on many of the indices ranking the ‘global cities’ of the world, London comes top or near-top in all of them. And furthermore, London has a rich a complex culture, along with some suitably complex cultural policies. Our theoretical framework, however, is largely derived from the International Development discourse on creative economy – looking at questions of social justice, global urbanization, democracy and rights to the city, as well as the cultural policy interests in the creative industries and arts institutions.

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Our field trip itinerary is as follows:

Field Trip 1:Walking the City: the semiotics of the Global cityscape: from the BBC HQ, Langham Place, to Oxford St and then Regent’s Street (global brands; economic globalization) – Leicester Sq. – St Martins-in-the-Fields – Trafalgar Square – The Mall – Whitehall (Government) – Parliament Square and ending up outside the old County Hall at the London Eye.

Field Trip 2:
Memory City: the cultural politics of history & heritage: this started at the still amazing cultural centre of the Barbican – then onto the Museum of London (keepers of the city’s memory) –– then through the City of London (the Square Mile) seeing all the new post-postmodern architecture – Past Tower of London and ending up at Tower Bridge.

Field Trip 3:Cultural Capital: competitive urban cultural policy: we started at the National Gallery (and why a global city posseses a ‘national’ gallery full of art from other countries), and onto the South Bank Centre, which is an historically fascinating lesson in urban cultural regeneration – then walking down Bankside to Shakespeare’s Globe (replica heritage), spending most of our time at the postmodern cathedral of art, Tate Modern.

Field Trip 4: UrbanCreative Economy: the spaces and places of the creative industries: this seminar is a comparative assessment of the growth of London’s creative industries, looking at Camden Lock – Soho – Covent Garden – then Hoxton.

Field Trip 5: Mega-event City and the fate of ‘the local’: the London 2012 Olympics and the East End Stratford Town: no contemporary tour around the cultural development of the metropolis could by-pass the huge Olympic urban regeneration project and the now named Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

February 04, 2015

Beginning 'The Mediated Self Project'

Balloons and stones in The Mediated Self Project

Yesterday Jo Garde-Hansen and I made the first steps on our IATL funded development of a new MA option module, The Mediated Self Project. The module – initially to be piloted to CCPS students in 2015-16 with the option of a wider audience in subsequent years – aims to combine critical and theoretical perspectives on the forms of knowledge produced and required by the digital economy with some practical reflection on the skills needed to manage the various selves which can inhabit that economy successfully. The module also aims to develop ways of teaching and assessment which take better account of these digital forms of literacy.

We began this process by taking over a session of The Global Audience module. In a sense it was a perfect place to start. That module had contained a session on the ‘creative audience’ which focussed on the narratives emerging from what used to be called Web 2.0 – about the interactive audience, participatory culture and the pro-sumer - and the relations between these stories and older stories about the apparently mass and inert media audience of the past. Both these sets of stories have taken on legendary, mythical aspects but there are some interesting affinities between them and emerging stories about the ways in which we are assumed to live in the digital age. One of the things we talk a lot about in the Centre is the relationship between theory and practice. This module is going to push the boundaries of this distinction, recognising that there is a level at which the theoretical and the practical question is the same. It is ‘how do we live’? What kinds of skills do we need to make sense of the symbolic and technological world around us? And what does it mean to be able to navigate its complexities successfully? The Mediated Self Project aims to provide some space to answer these questions.

The centre piece of our discussion was a presentation from Amber Thomas from the Academic Technology team in ITS. Amber sketched out a frame through which we might situate ourselves in the digital world, drawing on the distinction identified by David White between digital visitors and digital residents. Understanding what is at stake in moving between these states in our personal and professional lives seems likely to be important in shaping the module’s content and mode of delivery. We’re hoping to call more on the expertise of colleagues like Amber, from Warwick and beyond, within the field of academic technology, where these debates are well established and on-going.

After outlining our plans relating to the module content (including issues relating to The Quantified Self, the Reputational Economy, the Campaigning Self and the distinctions between Print and Digital forms of Literacy) we asked students to reflect on what they might want to learn from such a module in this area and indeed what they consider to be the pitfalls of teaching and learning in this field. Amongst the topics that emerged as of interest included privacy (relating to a general anxiety about managing past versions of the self online as students move into professional life.) and, happily for me, taste and how it is produced and performed algorithmically. Pitfalls included concerns about the balance between theoretical abstraction and practical instruction and one – admittedly from me – about how new forms of literacy can be assessed. So many of the established forms of assessment (the exam and certainly the written assignment) are based on a vision of print literacy based around a single authorial voice in a formal static text. Digital literacy involves multiple voices, sharing and collaboration and even the creative manipulation of images and sound. How can these forms be assessed in ways which preserve the standards of critique, rigour, evidence and argument required for serious academic study?

Our next step is to recruit student participants to help us think all these things through, and to invite experts from within and beyond the University to get together in the Spring and Summer to contribute to our discussions. We’ll keep the blog updated with our progress.

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