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My creative reader by Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter

My Creativity Reader: A Critique of Creative Industries - Review

by Ila Maltese

The MyCreativity Reader is a collection of critical research into the creative industries. The material develops out of the MyCreativity Convention on International Creative Industries Research held in Amsterdam, November 2006. This two-day conference was aimed at “bringing the trends and tendencies around the creative industries into critical question”, by collecting analysis carried out by many authors, according to their different approaches, expertise and experiences: academicians and activists, artists and politicians, consultants and theorists. “The “creative industries” concept was initiated by the UK Blair government in 1997 to revitalise de-industrialised urban zones. Gathering momentum after being celebrated in Richard Florida’s best-sellers (1) about the creative class, the concept mobilised around the world as the zeitgeist of creative entrepreneurs and policy-makers. Despite the euphoria surrounding the creative industries, there has been very little critical research that pays attention to local and national and variations, working conditions, the impact of restrictive intellectual property regimes and questions of economic sustainability. The Reader presents academic research alongside activist reports that aim to dismantle the buzz-machine.
After a brief introduction by the two editors, the work is organized in a set of papers mainly separated in two parts. The first one presents some reflections about the general concept of creative industry, while the second one collects contributions developed out from specifical local and national experiences in Europe and China. Two interviews are provided at the end of each part, both focused on creative work and labour.

In the introduction, the two editors provide some proposals for creative research. Since creativity is not crashing on creative class, as the Floridian literature seems to suggest, and creative industry do not only consist of ‘the generation and exploitation of intellectual property’, there needs to be a balance between economics and sociological issues. Given that macro dimensions have to be taken into account, many developments in the creative sector, such as the acknowledgment of conditions of creative work and the will to collaborate, should be supported by policy measures. Furthermore, creative industries produce economic value at the urban level, conditioning employment conditions, flows of economic investment, border movements, and so on, thus becoming a real problem of governance.
They recommend policy to go beyond the harmonization of interests among ‘stakeholders’ and the “monopoly of sign” of the knowledge or information economy, often celebrated as the solution to the crisis of the industrial age: what is required are distributive and flexible systems of funding for creative practitioners, in order to find and exploit synergies between the digital technologies of communication and the technics of cultural production.

Andrew Ross tries to find a clear definition of “creative industries” through the investigation of three different countries (UK, USA and China): even if the conditions for the emergence of creative industries policy differ from state to state (its core relationship with the exploitation of intellectual property, with property revaluation, with the quality of work life) the economic model had been adopted as a viable development strategy by governments at the urban, regional and national level.
The next contribution, from the artistic point of view of Marion von Osten, focuses on a new conception of the figure of the artist outside the mainstream labour force. Given that ‘creativity’ occupies a central role in contemporary capitalist society, what is at stake is whether or not creative industries discourse must be subdued to the rules of the marketplace: the tension between the two constituent realities, culture and economy, needs to be further investigated.
David Hesmondhalgh suggests a synthesis of theoretical sophistication and historical analysis with empirical sociological surveys in order to strengthen some arguments for the expansion of creative industries: making profit from the production and dissemination of primarily symbolic goods is a good motivation for this issue, but a more precise definition of creativity is needed. Otherwise critiques about the relations between culture, society and economy would suffer from vagueness and from the ideological claims about the conditions of creative labour, made with very little supporting evidence indeed.
The paper of Matteo Pasquinelli aims at showing the need of a better awareness of the concept of creativity among creative labour and the politic discourse. Through an in depth literature review (from the cognitive capitalism of Enzo Rullani, through the connection Maurizio Lazzarato - Gabriel Tarde about economic psychology and economic policy, up to thecontradictions between collective symbolic capital and capitalism by David Harvey) the author focuses on the collective production of value and the strong competition cognitive producers face in the ‘immaterial’ domain.
Michael Keane underlines the strong association between creativity, primarily as innovation, and development in China, where the enthusiasm about creative clusters deals with the need of restructuring of the Chinese economy and many interventions have been recently adopted.
Other contributions present an in-depth survey of the situation and problems in some countries all over the world: the Chinese enthusiasm about creative clusters, the “Research Triangle”  in the USA, the special role of the creative industries in Ireland, the conservative State of Denmark, tensions and contradictions in the Austrian policy for creative industries, the application of the Florida thesis on British cities, some experiences in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

What does the project sets out to do?
The work is very often policy - oriented, aiming at shaping critical trajectories in the field of creative practice and research about creative industries, as well as offering starting points to discuss new and crucial topics on the present and on the future of the creative industries.

Do you think it is a useful project?
We are currently witnessing a growing importance of cultural and creative industries as a key driver to urban competitiveness and economy, which makes this topic very useful to be investigated.

Does it achieve the aims?
Given that creativity itself is a very difficult concept to be precisely defined, the discussion appears not clearly focused on specific problems and there are no clear conclusions.

Is the methodology appropriate?
Many of the contributions are strictly linked to concerning and well-presented literature; others, on the contrary, are developed out from the direct experiences of the author. The work offers deep and critical kinds of analysis carried out by different background authors; in fact “MyCreativity is first of all a call for the exchange of ideas, methodologies and collaborative constitution where efforts at transdisciplinary research are crucial”.

What revisions, if any, do you recommend?
In my opinion a much clearer definition of “creative industry” is needed, according to literature or political language, in order to restrict the field of the investigation (2). Otherwise the disomogeneity of the contributions suffers too much from vagueness and once more the economic perspective seems to over-shadow the sociological dimension and the political one. In this sense the critique to Florida’s thesis could be enriched by the discourse on the intellectual property and, what’s more, on the urban development strategies based on creative labour and industry.

Any further suggestions on the theme?
- Florida Richard, The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure,Community and Everyday Life, New York: Basic Books, 2002.
- Florida Richard, The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent, New York: HarperCollins, 2005.
- Hartley John (ed.), Creative Industries, Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.
- Hesmondhalgh David, The Cultural Industries, London: Sage, 2002.
- Landry Charles, The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators, London: Earthscan, 2006.
- Malanga Steven, ‘The Curse of the Creative Class’, City Journal 14.1 (2004), pp.36-45
- Marcuse Peter, ‘Review of The Rise of the Creative Class’, Urban Land 62 (2003), pp.40-1.
Peck Jamie, ‘Struggling with the Creative Class’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 29.4 (2005), 740-770.
- Nabeshima Kaoru and Yusuf Shahid, ‘Urban Development Needs Creativity: How Creative Industries Can Affect Urban Areas’, Development Outreach - Unknown Cities, World Bank, 2003,
- Nathan Max, The Wrong Stuff: Creative Class Theory, Diversity and City Performance, Centre for Cities, Institute for Public Policy Research Discussion Paper 1, September, 2005
- Rullani Enzo, Economia della conoscenza. Creatività e valore nel capitalismo delle reti, Rome: Carocci Editore, 2004.
- Scott Allen J., “Cultural-products industries and urban economic development”, Urban Affairs Review, Vol. 39, No. 4, (2004), pp.461 - 490
- Tinagli Irene and Florida Richard, L’Italia nell’era creativa, CreativityGroupEurope, 2005
Wallinger Mark and Warnock Mary (eds), Art for All?: Their Policies and Our Culture, London, Peer, 2000.

Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, New York: Basic Books, 2002 and RICHARD FLORIDA, The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent, New York: HarperCollins, 2005.
(2) See, for example ALLEN J. SCOTT, “Cultural-products industries and urban economic development”, Urban Affairs Review, 39/4 (2004): 461 – 490, where cultural-products industries are represented by “sectors that produce goods and services whose subjective meaning, or, more narrowly, sign-value to the consumer, is high in comparison with their utilitarian purpose”, or PIERRE BOURDIEU, “Le marché des biens symboliques”, L’ Année Sociologique 22 (1971):49-126, quoted in SCOTT, ibidem, p.462, for whom the term “refers to the outputs of sectors like these as having socially symbolic connotations

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