13 12 06

MyCreativity: Convention on International Creative Industries Research

16-18 November, 2006, Amsterdam

Monika Mokre

The conference was mostly very interesting and, in any case, worth the while. However, two points of critique should be mentioned – first, the range of subject matters was too broad, and second, there was too little time for discussions. It would probably have been better to use the preparatory mailing list to find a narrower focus instead of broadening the range of themes during these debates. Especially, the question of the CI in China could not be dealt with in any conclusive way within the one session on this topic. Thus, either a whole conference on this subject matter would be necessary or it would, probably, have been better to skip it altogether. Another session that could easily have been skipped was the discussion between a representative of WIPO (The World Intellectual Property Organisation of the UN) and Joost Smiers. The WIPO representative invited herself (but this is no reason to accept such an invitation) and she did not have to say much with regard to the conference themes and no real exchange developed with the rather fundamentally critical position of Smiers.

In the following, a subjective summary of the main themes of the conference will be delivered.


Changing Modes of Production

Knowledge based industries such as the CI can be seen, on the one hand, as part of new developments of “the power structure of capitalism” (Holmes) and, on the other hand, as a result of social movements.

Contrary to the situationist idea (e.g. of Constant) that automatisation will liberate men from the necessity to work and transform homo faber to homo ludens,  de-industrialization has not led to the development of homo ludens but to real subsumption and the capitalisation of creativity (Oudenampsen). Cognitive capitalism transforms labour subjectivity by focussing on creativity and self-improvement. The assumption that everybody is creative has become a requirement: Everybody has to develop her creativity and is, in the words of Nicholas Rose, “obliged to be free”. (von Osten) Autonomous consumption plays an important role in the debates of the CI, while, at the same time, consumption can be seen as the primary place of seduction (Oudenampsen).

The current development of the CI is a form of cluster planning of knowledge informed capitalism characterised by corporatisation, flexibilisation, and militarization (Holmes). Productions are carried out in global networks and, while the Fordist mode of production sucked society into the factory, post-fordist production is outsourced to many small enterprises (Spehr). An emerging international industry replaces dying national industries and a New International Division of Cultural Labour takes place: Copyright laws are harmonized, productions are moved to cheaper sites and state policies in underdeveloped countries do not develop a national bourgeoisie but, rather, lead to the perpetuation of underdevelopment (Hesmondalgh).

Creativity is not possible without the creativity of others, creative labour is embedded in the general production of the “social factory” consisting of various experiences of many people (Spehr). Cognitive products are values produced by the accumulation of social desire. Cognitive capitalism is based on sharing/dissemination/distribution. The proprietary logic does, however, not disappear but is based on time and speed. Speed plays a role as the inventor understands the product better and faster than others do. Time is, furthermore, important as cognitive capitalism is based on an economy of attention. (Pasquinelli)

In different countries, the CI have been developed in quite different ways and consequences for national economies are often rather doubtful. Ireland, e.g, is the world wide largest exporter of software. However, 90% of software exports are made by the 16% of companies in foreign ownership. Many companies only survive for a short time or leave Ireland. In general, national development politics for the CI are difficult as virtual proximity is more important than geographical proximity. Thus, also the creation of clusters seems in many cases doubtful (Kerr).

The cultural economy of big European cities is rather based on a social economy of culture (social networks and social capital) than on the economics of copyright. These cities explore the political potential of social movements. “Radical chic” means the economic use of collective symbolic capital (Pasquinelli).


The Creative Entrepreneur


Mayerhofer and Mokre proposed an understanding of the CI according to three dimensions:

Dimension 1: Position within the arts world

-        autonomous art

-        applied art

-        creative work without any artistic claim

Dimension 2: Economic situation

-        commercially successful

-        commercially potentially successful

-        commercially not successful

Dimension 3: Common interests of the persons working in the CI

-        common socio-economic interests that can lead to solidarity and common forms of representation

-        more general political interests


While the first dimension is mostly of interest for theory and history of the arts, the second one calls for different forms of interventions of cultural politics, above all different forms of public financing. Finally, the third dimension brings the question for different forms of alliances (within or beyond the field of creative industries) to the fore.

Within the CI, the artist becomes a creative entrepreneur, the homo ludens is, at the same time, homo oeconomicus. Creative autonomy works as a progressive rationalisation from above, the subject is involved in her own exploitation (Hesmondalgh).CI politics are understood as progressive and liberating cultural politics that are part of third way politics. This politics uses the bohemian as a role model for society that encompasses a new understanding of life and work. Creativity on call is required from everybody (vonOsten), a general intensification of work requirements can be stated.

The creative field partly welcome these new approaches to creativity. According to an empirical study Gill and van Diemen on people working in new media, reasons for choosing new media as a working field include political activism, pleasure, the image of new media as cool and hip, entrepreneurship, interest in communication, innovation and creativity. Money does, apparently, not play an important role. With regard to work problems a high number of interviewees mentioned isolation, precariousness and insecurity. While informality is seen as an advantage by many it has also a broad range of negative consequences. In general, an informal atmosphere leads to the domination of the majority, i.e. men between 25 and 35.

The creative labour market shows the same characteristics as the traditional artists’ labour markets. Economic success of the CI as a whole does not improve the situation of the initial copyright holders. They find themselves on a “winner-takes-all”-market like the non for profit, “autonomous” artists. (Mayerhofer/Mokre)

Artists, artistic and academic institutions

Castelein/Gerritzen (proudly) presented a project that can be seen as paradigmatic for the consequences of CI discourses on arts institutions: The Sandberg Institute, an institute for fine and applied arts in Amsterdam, sold its façade of 16.000 glass tiles for sponsoring. The tiles were sold to enterprises as well as NGOs and private people whereas the big enterprises positioned their logos at the top of the building and smaller logos can be found nearer to the ground. According to the presenters, this distribution of space can be seen as a picture of the world: The small ones have the chance to get higher when they earn more money.

For the UK, Davies pointed out that directors of art institutions felt liberated from state influence by the possibility of partnerships with business. But the commercialisation of arts and academic institutions does not leave place for curiosity driven research, i.e. for knowledge production without immediate commercial orientation. Frequently, public/private partnerships do not work out with the private companies leaving the co-operations very soon. (Kerr)


 “The Others”

Oudenampsen stated for the Netherlands that in spite of the hype of knowledge driven economy 70% of young people have only the lowest school education. The CI are used for gentrification, ethnic minorities are driven out of the city centre of Amsterdam and streets are sanitarized. The creative city is, thus, a city of inclusion and exclusion. By taking out certain forms of labour from the city the social tissue of the cities is taken out. (Oudenampsen).

For Helsinki, Tarkka, described the exclusionary character of the CI hype by using the example of a former warehouse. This building was used for alternative culture as well as by the larger population. It was taken down early in 2006 to make place for a new music hall. The concept of creative cities makes “weak places” disappear that offer public space (and also space for creativity) for many people.


When it comes to proposing positive measures, the claim for a return to the social-democratic welfare state in its strong and paternalistic form seems doubtful. However, the system of social security has to be organized in a way warranting basic social security, i.e. as a general basic income. Apart from this general social responsibility one should rather think of forms of self-organisation than of top-down state institutions. (Mayerhofer/Mokre). Von Osten made interviews with cultural producers in Switzerland on techniques and strategies to resist mainstream discourse. Those people decided at one point not to work any more in the branding business. This led to reductions of their income that could be dealt with due to an existing networking culture. Thus, a kind of niche economy developed; however, the question of its sustainability is an open one.


Monika Mokre