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Research

For me it is tricky to select a primary interest in regards to the creative industries and culture; my key interests change as I gain more experience within the industry. I am quite interested in radio production – in terms of documentaries with an intended demographic that represents me. However I have recently developed an interested in social media: its usage and application to topical debates. This leads me to consider the extent in which social media is relative to creative and cultural debates. ‘Social media’ is a very broad interest – honing down this area to include other interests such as deciphering how social media is utilised by ‘creative businesses’ within Birmingham (or other locations) could provide an interesting point of study for me.

I’ve also very recently become interested in digital democracy and the use of online tools within politics – I’d like to find a way to relate this to research, I feel the most feasible way is to consider consumption. However, this is still a work in progress.

I am also interested in the ‘cultural turn’ – the shift from cultural to creative industries and how this is emulated within policymaking – something which has developed from previous personal research concerning the Creative Industries and Cultural Policy. I feel that a key focus for me currently is to examine participation within the cultural industries, whether this is through social network analysis or the study of cultural policy.

To summarise:

  • I am interested in the production of cultural policy and how this affects (in a measurable extent) the consumption/participation of creative and cultural activities. In a sense here the production is the policymaking process – which would be an interesting point of study.
  • I’m interested in creative and cultural participation within Birmingham (also how this compares to other cities.) I could observe social media usage – for example a creative business in Birmingham could use social media as a tool for increasing participation.

Related sources:

Bakhshi, H., and Throsby, D. (2010). Culture of Innovation: An Economic Analysis of Innovation in Arts and Cultural Organisations. Nesta.

Bilton, C. (2012). Manageable Creativity. International Journal of Cultural Policy: Creativity and Cultural Policy. Vol 16, No 3, pp. 25-39.

Boda, S. et al., (eds) (2006). When Culture Makes the Difference: Heritage, Arts and Media in Multicultural Society. Rome: Melter ni Editore.

Johanson, K., Glow, H., and Kershaw, A. (2014). New modes of arts participation and the limits of cultural indicators for local government. Poetics. Vol 43, pp. 43-59.

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Production Cultures

Key Reading:

Bilton, C. (2012) ‘Manageable Creativity’. International Journal of Cultural Policy – Special Issue on ‘Creativity and Cultural Policy’ ed. C. Bilton,Vol. 16, No 3, pp. 255 – 269.

Dealing with Creativity

I feel that the notion of ‘creativity’ is a very perplex term – it appears to be used in a manner of ways, which adds to the confusion. Though, Bilton addresses this: ‘paradox and contradiction are at the core of most theoretical definitions of creativity.’ (2012: 28) Bilton’s argues that within cultural policy there is an ‘assumption that original creative ideas and talented individuals will have a transforming effect on the wider creative economy.’ (2012: 30)

Bilton’s article argues that the idea of ‘manageable creativity’ can be traced back to a ‘heroic’ and a ‘structural’ model of creativity. He explores how these two models translate into management and policy. The key theorist Bilton utilises is Levitt, applying the notion of destructive creativity to these two models.

Heroic Model

This model highlights the transforming impact of a dynamic, visionary creative individual on a business. The heroic model is in favour of an individualistic, trait-based theory of creativity. Though, as Bilton highlights, the heroic model is based upon a perception of ‘creativity’ that originates from a business view – there is a lack of focus or analysis of creative processes and products. Bilton argues that this model has already been ‘widely discredited’ yet the assumptions behind this model continue to influence the attitudes in managing ‘creativity’.

Bilton’s Key arguments on heroic creativity:

  • Heroic creativity represents a one-sided definition of creative processes and people.
  • Heroic creativity locates creativity within a minority of exceptional individuals.
  • Heroic creativity is likely to be concentrated within certain organisations (Apple/Google), geographical territories or in specific communities and cultures, rather than as a distributed ‘normal’ human trait.
  • Heroic creativity is hierarchical – because it is innate to an individual or specific place.
  • Heroic creativity assumes that these individuals transform the world around them.

‘Today’s managers regard the effects of creative destruction and disruption as essentially benign, and the creative individual as contributing to the greater good, not driven by essentially selfish or self-actualising motives.’

(Bilton, 2012: 29)

One particular statement which stood out for me is the following:

‘Because creative individuals are both privileged and marginalised, they find themselves insulated from the realities of the business, much like a ‘gifted and talented’ child among their peers. Not surprisingly this isolation can lead to dysfunction and self-destruction.’

(2012: 30)

If managerial actions are still being influenced by heroic creativity then one questions what is being done – if anything – to counteract the previous statement. Does this tie in with the drive for economic growth as a key focus of creative work – or does the management of creativity demonstrate a ‘human’ notion, in the sense that managers consider wellbeing?

Interestingly Bilton suggests that within the heroic creativity ‘creative individuals remain for the most part outside the policy process.’ (2012: 32) Suggesting that the managerial approach to heroic creativity is a kind of non-management, laissez-faire attitude – then does heroic creativity complement the notion of art for art’s sake?

Structural Model

‘Theories of creativity have moved beyond individual, person-based approaches towards collective, process-based models.’ (Bilton 2007/2010) This is a significant shift as it paves the way for theoretical literature and a focus on an interest in ‘teams, networks and organisational environments as sources of innovation.’ (Bilton, 2012: 28)

My interpretation of the structural model is largely influenced by the notion that ‘creative processes rely upon our knowledge and experience within this field, and networks of like-minded others help us to access these resources.’ (2012: 33) Bilton refers to the structural model as a ‘sociocultural’ model of creativity, which – in my opinion – sums up the model perfectly when one considers the heroic model. Does the structural model accommodate to those whom the heroic model fails to serve? Or does it consider creativity as a larger, communitarian process?

‘The sociocultural model of creativity fits with a growing emphasis on organisational culture as the source of organisational mission and purpose, with a ‘transformational’ model of leadership.’

(2012: 33)

Bilton implies that a shift towards ‘collective creativity’ (structural creativity) is apparent in the creative industries, and that there is an emphasis in terms of management on creativity and systems which facilitate creative talent as opposed to the heroic model – the creative talent itself.

Key arguments concerning the structural model:

  • The structural model assumes a predictable relationship between inputs and outcomes.
  • The model locates individual creativity in a broader context of a creative economy based on knowledge, ideas and innovation – creativity is made manageable – but loses it’s critical, disruptive edge as highlighted by Levitt.
  • Creative systems and their outcomes are assumed benign.

I question whether structural, sociocultural creativity in relation to cultural policy fails to consider the purpose of the art (in a sense that it is for personal development, spiritual gain etc.) Or does the structural model consider the purpose of art solely as an output from a collective of creatives whom work toward a capitalist gain? Bilton discusses NESTA’s argument for ‘a connection between creativity and ‘innovation’, where artistic creativity is seen not as an end in itself but embedded within a process of innovation and entrepreneurship.’ (2012: 34) I feel here that the term creative is suitably positioned in the term ‘creative industries’ – art is for an industrial purpose, whether that’s through a heroic, individualistic model, or a collective-creativity, sociocultural focused model of managing creativity – does cultural policy cultivate this?

Identification of policy body and policymakers

Using Policy to Identify Policy Makers

This report portrays the complexities and processes involved in identifying specific policy-makers. Utilising cultural policy in Birmingham I explore the ‘Big City Culture’ strategy; discussing the difficulties involved in policy research when seeking information merely from the policy itself.

Birmingham City Council

Birmingham City Council is a local government body; one responsibility of the council is the creation and implementation of multiple policies concerning the city of Birmingham. The council takes a hierarchical approach to the formulation of policy making; with the Corporate Strategy Team working to develop a ‘council that works together for a fair, prosperous and democratic Birmingham, (Birmingham City Council [BCC]; 2014). The Corporate Strategy Team joins up:

‘[t]he leadership infrastructure, supporting senior officers and leading Members, making sure that decisions are implemented efficiently and effective. CST provides public and media relations services and central government relationship management.’

Birmingham City Council: 2014

The Corporate Strategy Team has vertical functions; the Strategy Policy Team, Strategic Research Team and Strategic Development constitute just three of the key aggregations within the hierarchy. In addition the council focuses on creating a vision for the cultural sector in Birmingham through the Birmingham City Council Cultural Services. The Cultural Services branch of the council prioritises work from the ‘Council Plan’ and the ‘Cultural Strategy.’ Birmingham’s Cultural Strategy is ‘Big City Culture,’ a strategy that ‘expresses the shared priorities of the partners within the Birmingham Cultural Partnership.’ (BCC, Cultural Services: 2014)

Locating Policy by Birmingham City Council

I located the ‘Big City Culture’ policy through the Birmingham City Council website; through research of the Birmingham City Council Cultural Services. Big City Culture is identified as the cultural strategy for Birmingham – as it is presented by the City Council in the form of a hyperlinked webpage one can only assume that the strategy is formulated and implemented through Birmingham City Council.

Interestingly I note that whilst searching for a copy of the policy I located a PDF file from the Birmingham City Council website and another – heavily illustrated – copy through the Birmingham Cultural Partnership. Both copies differed slightly – in terms of language used, in the copy provided by the BCP there is a denser content of text; this may be an edited – final – copy of the strategy, whereas the BCC version contains text, with a lack of images. Furthermore, the BCC edition includes contact details for Simon Bennett (Birmingham Cultural Partnership Manager) – the BCP copy simply includes the arts team Birmingham as a contact. These differences are interesting when trying to ascertain the policy-makers of Big City Culture; this demonstrates the value of research when studying policy.

Big City Culture 2010 – 2015

Our strategy ‘Big City Culture 2010-2015’ provides a clear focus and articulates shared priorities for the development of culture in Birmingham.

‘This will assist effective strategic planning at a city, local and sector level. It has been developed by the Birmingham Cultural Partnership (BCP) who are responsible for overseeing its delivery.’

Big City Culture is a strategy that has been developed alongside other strategies created for the Birmingham 2026, the Sustainable Community Strategy for the city of Birmingham. Big City Culture constitutes the cultural component of the Birmingham 2026 strategy.

Through anatomizing and studying the policy it is feasible to uncover aspects of the policy making process; details of how the policy shall be evaluated, and who has an input in the formulation of the strategy is evident within the policy itself.

Who are the Policymakers?

Coherently identifying the policymakers for this specific strategy is complex, despite recognition of the ‘Birmingham Cultural Partnership’ (BCP) within the introduction. My point here is that although the BCP has been identified further exploration into this partnership is rather complex. Through initial research into the BCP several other partnerships appear, complicating the matter of identifying, or understanding how the BCP functions. The language within the strategy does not provide much in terms of recognizing individual policymakers. ‘Big City Culture’ is our joint commitment to ensuring that culture continues to play a key role in the development of Birmingham.’ (BCP, 2010: Foreword)The lexis ‘our joint’ implies that the policy is a product of multiple agencies striving toward one goal – developing Birmingham.

The Big City Culture strategy provides four key strategic themes that shall be developed by members of BCP and other organisations in the city. These themes I have discussed in the subsequent text in order to uncover any information within the policy that demonstrates those involved in the formulation of the strategy.

Theme A: Culture on Your Doorstep

Culture on Your Doorstep is the first strategic theme of Big City Culture. Instead of outlining the key points of this theme I shall note the information that is presented within the text that offers an insight into the processes of policymaking. The text highlights the consultation and research that has been undertaken to provide a starting point for policy – in this case it is: The Birmingham City Centre Masterplan: The Visioning Study by the Institute for Urban Affairs, Liverpool John Moores University 2007. Reference to other strategies and initiatives existent within Birmingham are also highlighted:

  • Building Schools for the Future (BSF)
  • The Total Place Initiative
  • Be Active

The policy makers are evidently drawing upon extensive research into culture, again they identify – in the form of footnotes – research that has been drawn upon throughout the formulation of this policy. Such as: the Institute of Public Policy Research, Culture and Civic Renewal, 2006.

Theme B: Next Generation

The Next Generation strategic theme depicts the importance of cultural participation in young people. ‘Participation in culture is vital in ensuring the health and wellbeing of our young people.’ (2010: 9) The Next Generation strategic theme identifies ‘A Creative Future II’ as a key strategy for cultural entitlement within Birmingham. The Big City Culture strategy has mapped the key components of ‘A Creative Future II’ and identified any additional activities to be commissioned, such as promoting the Arts Award and Sports Leaders Award.

Reference to other strategies and initiatives existent within Birmingham in the Next Generation strategic theme:

  • A Creative Future II
  • Birmingham Sport & Physical Activity Strategy
  • Five Hour Sport Offer
  • Promotion of the Arts Award and Sports Leaders Awards

Indications of how the policy will be measured – evaluated – are present within the strategy. By 2015 the achievements of the Next Generation strategy will be measured through the ‘national indicator NI57.’

Theme C: Stronger Cultural and Creative Industries

This strategic theme explores the cultural and creative industries within Birmingham. It offers a brief insight into the ‘cultural quarters’ across the city – something which was recognized through mapping the creative industries in Birmingham. The question here though is who carried out this ‘mapping’ process? In the subsequent paragraph within this section of the strategy it states: ‘our primary strengths are in partnerships and organisational capacity.’ (2010: 12) As aforementioned earlier in this report the matter of determining who constitutes these partnerships is rather complex. The policy itself acknowledges these partnerships yet it does not directly state the members involved. Instead the Birmingham Cultural Partnership (BCP) is illustrated as ‘a cross-sectoral body comprising representatives from public, private and not-for-profit cultural organisations.’ (2010: 12) This statement provides a sense of those involved in formulating the strategy – potentially suggesting that a large team of agencies had an impact in the policymaking processes.

This sub-section of Big City Culture offers the most in terms of providing details of the policy-makers. Details of the BCP are outlined – albeit very narrowly – the partnership works alongside the Birmingham Economic Development Partnership (BEDP) to support Birmingham’s creative industries.

             ‘Partnership support goes beyond single-issue, single agency engagement to support individual and industry growth, infrastructure, audience and market development.’

                                                                                                                                            Big City Culture, 2010: 12

It is evident that the policy-makers for Big City Culture are those involved in the partnership, and that this partnership intends to develop and build new programmes that shall help shape and nurture the creative and cultural industries.

Theme D: A Great International City of the Future

An indication that the strategy has been implemented through an organisation that frequently produces policy is evident within this sub-section of Big City Culture. ‘We are, in the Big City Plan (City Centre Masterplan), creating a city centre which can better serve our cultural offer,’ the pronoun ‘we’ refers to the policy-makers, in this case – Birmingham City Council. (2010: 15) This then demonstrates that Birmingham City Council has implemented several policies, such as the Big City Plan and Big City Culture. Further research into the Big City Plan[1] shows that Birmingham City Council has also created partnerships, such as the Birmingham City Centre Partnership; these partnerships are imperative for Birmingham City Council’s policymaking process.

Within this Big City Culture strategic theme several references to research undertaken during the policy-making process are identified:

  • European Cities Monitor 2009
  • Regional perceptions indicator – West Midlands
  • The Birmingham City Centre Masterplan: The Visioning Study

This portrays the breadth and depth of research undertaken to support the strategy, and to ensure the validity of the strategy.


Further Research

Utilising additional platforms available through Birmingham City Council offers greater knowledge of the individuals involved in the creation of ‘Big City Culture.’ Although the policy itself presents Birmingham City Council (the Birmingham Cultural Partnership) as the key policy-makers specific names, or details, are missing. Though; one questions the need to include the names of policy-makers within the policy itself – is it relevant to the content included within the policy? Do those whom the policy serves need an awareness of those involved in the creation of the policy? – In fact, are those whom the policy serves aware of the policy itself?

Putting the latter two questions aside – they offer a separate potential piece of research – the need to determine policy-makers is of interest to me, certainly in terms of anatomizing a policy and understanding the origins of Big City Culture. Birmingham City Council has a useful archive available for research of democratic documents concerning the city. Through this archive I have sourced documents concerning Big City Culture from 2010.

A report – grey literature – from the Strategic Director of Environment & Culture on behalf of Birmingham City Council (Big City Culture UK City of Culture Public report) presented to Cabinet is available to the public. Its primary concern is the Big City Culture strategy with the intention of requesting Cabinet to: ‘endorse Big City Culture 2010-15, the refreshed cultural strategy developed by the Birmingham Cultural Partnership (BCP).’ The report supplies the policy-analyst with in-depth detail of the policy itself, and represents potential tasks a policy-maker must undertake during the policy-making process. The lead contact officer for the report is Val Birchall – Head of Arts at Birmingham City Council. This indicates a specific individual involved in formulation of the policy, as well as providing contact for further potential research.


Potential Further Academic Research

Though within this report I have analysed and touched upon aspects such as the language used, and the policy-making process there is certainly room for further – in depth – study. In fact, this report is merely a foundation for further research that I intend to carry out. Throughout the process of studying Big City Culture I have formulated several potential research questions – for further understanding of policymakers as well as targeting other areas of policy research.

 Potential Research Questions

– How many organisations, or ‘experts,’ are involved in the policy-making process?

– Governmental Policy Making – is it possible to identify the cultural intermediaries and specific policy makers?

– Policy Language: Making sense of the lexis used within Policy – what does it reveal of the policy-making process?

– Local Policy-making: Are the methods used for policy-making reflected from a national level to local, regional policy- making?

– Cultural Policy: Birmingham City Council – who are the cultural intermediaries, how do they impact the policy-making process?

Methods of Research

There are numerous angles for further research; I feel that ‘Big City Culture’ provides an interesting source for policy analysis. The key intentions of this report are to identify the policy-makers involved in Big City Culture, another method that will allow for identification of specific policy makers would be to contact Birmingham City Council and ask them directly. Interviews with those at Birmingham City Council would prove insightful for understanding the process of policymaking, and its implementation.


Bibliography

– Birmingham City Council Cultural Services. http://birmingham.gov.uk/arts

http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/cs/Satellite/cppt?packedargs=website%3D4&rendermode=live

– Birmingham’s Cultural Strategy. Birmingham Big City Culture. http://birminghamculture.org/birmingham-cultural-partnership/our-strategy

– Birmingham City Council. Democracy in Birmingham. http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/democracy

– Birmingham City Council / Democracy. Search Documents. http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/democracy/Pages/SearchDocuments.aspx?SearchText=big+city+culture&isFullTextSearch=False

– Birmingham City Council. (2010) Big City Culture UK City of Culture Public report. Birmingham.gov.uk/democracy, May 2010.

– Birmingham City Council, Information Briefing, Local Development Plan – Big City Plan PDF,  Birmingham.gov.uk/democracy, April 2010.

The expression ‘cultural intermediaries’ is one that is often utilised within academic studies. Through my research and observation of scholarly work concerning the creative industries and cultural policy it is evident that similar themes of dispute such as defining the ‘creative industries’ impact the discussion and work to determine and conceptualise cultural intermediaries. The importance of developing an understanding of what cultural intermediaries are and their practices is important as a scholar.

The term ‘intermediaries’ is utilised in studies such as Jakob and van Heur’s work in Intermediaries and Organisation of the Creative Economy; ‘the effectiveness and ethics of the creative economy will largely depend on the intermediaries that shape and regulate it.’ (Jakob and van Heur: 2014). The need for intermediaries seems to be of importance to the processes of production and consumption in creative and cultural spheres. As Jakob and van Heur suggest there are differing types of intermediaries ranging from:

‘arts and cultural councils, policy networks, economic development agencies, foundations and unions to artist collectives, cultural centres, creative industries incubators, festivals and tradeshows.’

2014: 1

This complicates my understanding of cultural intermediaries as I interpreted them to be individuals, not bodies or organisations. An example offered by Jakob and van Heur is crowd-sourcing websites; this type of intermediary mediates ‘between producers and consumers of creative products and connect them in unparalleled ways.’ (2014: 1) If cultural intermediaries – organisations and bodies – can mediate the creative and cultural industries then surely ethical issues are to be questioned? The matter of who controls decision-making, and how this is done within large organisations seems – to me – a complex issue in relation to cultural intermediaries. Is this type of mediation fair? For one to be an intermediary within an organisation – or to be an organisation representative of its employee’s attitudes and values is what concerns me as a researcher of policy.

Julian Matthews and Jennifer Smith Maguire in the introduction to their recent publication The Cultural Intermediaries Reader open with the following statement:

‘Cultural intermediaries are the taste makers defining what counts as good taste and cool culture in today’s marketplace. Working at the intersection of culture and economy, they perform critical operations in the production and promotion of consumption, constructing legitimacy and adding value through the qualification of goods.’

2014: 1

Drawing upon Matthews and Smith’s initial introduction to defining a cultural intermediary I identify these intermediaries – tastemakers – as individuals that benefit the cultural sector, yet I question how they are ‘critical’ and the testament of them adding ‘value’ certainly needs to be further explored. I feel a more distinct portrayal of these ‘critical operations’ that Matthews and Smith identify is needed. Yet, here I have naively raised questions from the opening statements of a book dedicated to conceptualise the term ‘cultural intermediary.’

Matthews and Smith delve further into the notion of a cultural intermediary, noting that discussion into the dialectical relationship between culture and economy has taken the focus from arguments concerning production and consumption. This, to me, indicates that a cultural intermediary may act as a connection between both the cultural sector and its profit – whether that is economically, or spiritually. These cultural intermediaries may shape peoples beliefs in terms of consumption, and possibly convincing bodies to invest in culture.

Bourdieusian Beliefs

Pierre Bourdieu is often cited when conceptualising ‘cultural intermediaries.’ Bourdieu, once again, leads the way in anatomizing the role of these intermediaries, and further introducing the ‘new cultural intermediaries.’

Discussing Bourdieu’s notion of ‘new cultural intermediaries,’ (Bourdieu, 1984: 365-371) Nixon and Du Gay (2002) generate a belief that:

‘these groups of workers are able to exert, from their positions within the cultural institutions, a certain amount of cultural authority as shapers of taste and the inculcators of new consumerist dispositions.’

Cultural intermediaries then – or ‘new’ cultural intermediaries – have an impact on how we, as consumers of cultural products act. Bourdieu offers examples of ‘new cultural intermediaries,’ implying that they are most typically ‘producers of cultural programmes on the TV and radio, or critics of ‘quality’ newspapers and magazines, and all the writer-journalist writers.’ (1984: 325) Bourdieu argues that these new intermediaries have created several series of genres ‘half-way between legitimate culture and mass-production.’ Bourdieu argues that cultural intermediaries are at a low-position in the hierarchies of intellectual production and they are ambivalent to intellectual or scientific authorities. The ‘genres’ or the ‘not-yet-legitimate arts’ combine with the effects of the allodoxia, which leads to a distance from the centre of cultural values – producing ‘objectified images of the petit-bourgeois culture.’ Bourdieu further argues that this juxtaposes ‘old-fashioned’ legitimate – devalued – products. (1984: 326) This perspective is built upon the concept of mass-production, as I noted earlier the discourses that are derivative of the cultural intermediary argument have shifted to the dialectical relationship of culture and economy, as opposed to production and consumption.

Leading Individuals: Experts of the Field?

Matthews and Smith imply that cultural economy is a major-influencer of scholarly work concerning cultural intermediaries. Empirical accounts of intermediaries and their role in the production of meaning may hint at any interaction of influence in policymaking. There is a range of cultural intermediary occupations, as suggested by Matthews and Smith, cultural intermediaries are ‘market actors who construct value by mediating how goods (or services, practices, people) are perceived and engaged with by others.’ The emphasis on value formation – Matthews and Smith argue that ‘value formation through mediation’ is necessary, however ‘cultural intermediaries must be defined by their expert orientation and market context.’ (2014: 2) My understanding then is that cultural intermediaries utilise their expertise in the cultural field to influence meaning-making – value – for consumers and audiences.

I am drawn to further exploration of the term ‘expertise,’ what is perceived to be ‘expertise,’ and how is this level of ‘expertise’ measured before one can be deemed a cultural intermediary? Furthermore, how is this relevant to cultural policy? ‘Experts’ have contributed to the prominence of the ‘Creative Industries’ notion within ‘national and international policy debates and academic and popular discourses,’ as argued by Prince. (2010: 876) Prince further argues that there is a ‘particular community of actors […] cast as creative industries experts.’ (2010: 876) Are these ‘experts’ cultural intermediaries? These experts portrayed by Prince were ‘a small group of cultural sector practitioners, council officers, researchers and entrepreneurs,’ all of which worked through the Forum on Creative Industries (FOCI.)

Define: Cultural Intermediary

Matthews and Smith (2014: 4) explore the multiple definitions of ‘cultural intermediaries,’ locating the intermediary ‘between the moments of consumption and production’ proves to be a common practice amidst this discussion. Production and consumption frequently appears throughout arguments concerning cultural intermediaries – identifying why this happens may provide a decisive definition of the term – and the role of these actors.

‘Economy’ is also often at the forefront of discussions presented by Matthews and Smith in the Cultural Intermediaries Reader, ‘considering the interdependence between the two spheres of production and consumption as conceptualized in the literatures on economization and the economy of qualities.’ (2014: 4) Matthews and Smith’s discussion of cultural intermediaries develops my understanding that an intermediary is offering ‘expertise’ in the production of cultural products, this mediation during the production stage affects the consumption, or perception of a product – though how this is measured is questionable. Bringing ‘economy’ into this, I perceive that these cultural intermediations are for both economic purpose, and value-formation. Though, the notion of ‘value’ is complex.

It seems that many arguments coexist in the definition of cultural intermediaries; though this may be due to the numbers of these actors – for me an understanding into exactly what the role of ‘cultural intermediary’ entails would further develop my awareness of the term. Matthews and Smith’s work is particularly useful as they consider theory concerning cultural intermediaries, the creative work of cultural intermediaries and the cultural production produced by these market actors.

The questions I am keen to research are of consumer capitalism. Are cultural intermediaries controversially manipulating ‘culture’ for the economization of the cultural sector, or for enhanced consumer experience? Could the role of a cultural intermediary provoke controversy, making consumer capitalism justifiable? Though Matthews and Smith suggest that the creative work of cultural intermediaries ‘can assist in a critical assessment of the claims made about creative works in contemporary economies.’ (2014: 4) This assessment may be ‘critical’ however, who – or what – is it benefitting?

Further Study

In regard to discussion concerning the interconnections between production and consumption Matthews and Smith extensively reference scholars ‘Featherstone, 1991; du Gay et al, 1997; Mora, 2000; and Soar, 2000.’ (2014, 1) Despite Matthews and Smith further denoting that this discussion has shifted to culture and economy I remain particularly interested in further exploration of the Bourdieusian approach to understanding the connections between both production and consumption.

I feel that further exploration into intermediaries – in the form of organisations – such as arts councils is imperative in understanding how intermediaries affect policymaking. Cultural intermediaries ‘actually implement abstract institutional policies and operationalize intangible cultural values.’ (Matthews and Smith, 2014: 7) Within this text I have explored my understandings and developments of interpreting what a cultural intermediary is. I intend to explore in greater detail how cultural intermediaries undertake, or impact, a decision-making process. Matthews and Smith identify the need to consider cultural intermediaries and ‘the everyday accomplishment of their work via particular material processes, generic devices and subjective dispositions.’ (2014: 9) It is suggestible that cultural intermediaries have an impact on cultural policy, and the consumption of culture – defining this ‘impact’ may entail the need for empirical research.

Bibliography

Bourdieu, P. (1984) [1979] Distinction, a Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge.

Du Gay, P. & Nixon, S. (2002) Who Needs Cultural Intermediaries? Cultural Studies. Vol 16, No 4, pp. 495-500.

Jakob, D., & van Heur, B. (2014). ‘Editorial: Taking matters into third hands: intermediaries and the organization of the creative economy’. Regional Studies. Vol 48, (ahead-of-print), 1-5.

Matthews, J. & Smith, J. (eds) (2014). The Cultural Intermediaries Reader. London: Sage.

Prince, R. (2010). Fleshing out Expertise: The making of creative industries experts in the United Kingdom. Geoforum Vol  41, No 6, pp. 875-884.

    Most, if not all, local, national and international decisions should be made by UK Citizens collectively through online voting.

My field is media and communication, social media as culture, and policymaking. There is vast evidence of political discussion existent on social media platforms, take for instance recent ‘Trending Topics’ on the platform Twitter. Controversial hashtags such as #WhyImNotVotingUKIP, I’m hesitant to use too much ‘digital-lingo,’ however it is undeniable that in today’s technology-based climate a digital approach needs to be catered for.

I think the issue is the constant notion that we are not yet ready for digital democracy, for change – but when have we ever been ready for change?

Digital technology is constantly changing, its power and effect are an ongoing development – leaving the implementation of digital democracy for three to five years into the future means that we’ll most likely be having the discussion as to why we didn’t embrace digital democracy sooner. The discussion of politics in an online climate isn’t going to stop just because digital voting is not executed. The interactions of voters will continue, and even rise – in 2009 political topics was only 7% of the activity and discussions on Twitter, now, in the last week alone 3 of the most popular topics discussed have been UK-based political discussions.

#WhyImNotVotingUKIP #WeBackEd and #CameronMustGo.

Bringing my argument back from social media to the question at hand – I am not condoning remote digital voting, I argue that offering the facilities for digital voting in places such as libraries, or universities, may appeal more to different social groups. Starting at a local level, introducing, engaging and facilitating to public expectations will undoubtedly influence voter interaction – utilising platforms that are already promoting collective political engagement such as social media to promote digital voting.

If the argument of engaging voters, or reengaging, voters is a prominent discussion then why is parliament hesitant to cater to the needs of those it is targeting? There is this stigma that a high number of citizens are not engaged with politics – I divert you back to Twitter.

Politics needs to co-operate, and represent its constituents, this means engaging with the tools we use. There appears to be an unanimous outrage that online voting will disrupt democracy, that it will lead to identity-chaos – to this I raise the issue of vote-selling something which happens in an offline world. As technology develops, existing arguments develop.

Democracy remains at the forefront of my debate – digital tools can enhance engagement for local; and even national decision-making. Online voting is just one, and the most current – dominant – ways this can be done.

There will always be controversy – that is politics. There will always be problems, and points to discuss – that is politics. But if we are to represent everyone then as a country, as a local MP, as a collective  we  need to stop ignoring the popular, commonplace, ways to communicate with those whom fall under our constituencies and cater to the changing environment.

My dominant response to Clay Shirky’s Sharing Anchors Community is to apply the notion of ‘sharing’ to the social media sites Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. I have drawn from the text several notable arguments that Shirky exhaustively presents. The concept of community is often theorised in regard to digital behaviours. The notion of ‘community’ online is something which has been discussed by several scholars, most notably Howard Rheingold. Community, in a virtual world can be defined as:

 ‘Social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on these public discussions [using the Internet] long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.’

Rheingold, 1994: 5

The example of a sharing service that Shirky utilises within this chapter was certainly a popular platform six years ago, however in the time since Here Comes Everybody I question whether the points raised are still relevant in 2014.

Complex Arguments

Shirky utilised the ‘Birthday Paradox’ to demonstrate complexities that may be present within groups. Interestingly my immediate reaction to this concept was to apply this notion to the complexity of Twitter. As a scholar I am interested in the use of Twitter for two particular trajectories: mental health discussions and political practices. Fuchs suggests that Twitter offers space for debate, facilitating traditional digital spatial norms while offering large-scale discussions. ‘Twitter revolution claims imply that Twitter constitutes a new public sphere of political communication that has emancipatory political potentials.’ (2014: 180). If I was to undertake research into Twitter usage within politics then it is plausible that this would be a highly complex avenue to explore. Politicians, political parties, and members of the public are all able to use Twitter as the public sphere that it is implied to be. These different types of contributor may argue different perspectives, heightening the chances of a highly-active, potentially oppositional debate. These logistical assumptions that I am making are to highlight how Twitter offers digital space to facilitate what Shirky entitles the ‘grim logic of group-complexity.’ (2008: 28)

Admittedly I found Shirky’s metaphorical explanation of group dynamics to be slightly extensive – yet Shirky states that ‘as a group grows to even modest size, getting universal agreement becomes first difficult, then impossible.’ (2008: 27) I feel that there is truth in this testament; though, it could be portrayed as an observation, without any clear evidence. To consider this statement in relation to social media I question whether online communities offer an example of the potential difficulties that Shirky implies to be present within groups.

Social Formations from Media Sharing

The photo-sharing service Flickr is an example of utilising social media sites as a tool for establishing connections. Shirky discusses the 2005 London Transport bombings, and how Flickr hosted images of the bombings before traditional media outlets. Users began sharing and commenting on the photos to contact others, express their concern and to show their messages of support. Flickr made these images of the tragic incident available for reuse, ‘creating a kind of symbiotic relationship among various social tools’ as suggested by Shirky. (2008: 35) The underlying theory behind Shirky’s discussion of Flickr places services such as Flickr in the role of sharing content for others to gain; whether this is gaining in the form of emotional response, or reuse of the content. Shirky depicts this as the group activity being transformed from ‘gather then share’ to ‘share then gather.’

The 2004 Indian Tsunami is another devastating event in which Flickr was used for dissemination of information. In this instance I find it interesting the use of the term ‘community’ interesting when Shirky is addressing one particular image of a missing child, when the child was found to be deceased Shirky states ‘the community that had formed around the photo posted expressions of grief and condolences for the family.’ (2008: 36) I question if the term ‘community’ denotes the activity that occurs online during disasters such as the examples presented in Shirky’s text; reflecting on Rheingold’s (1994: 5) depiction of online community as discussions with ‘sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships’ I feel that the sharing of content on Flickr does not create ‘community.’ I believe it may create feelings of belonging; or a means to express condolences. Individuals are able to express their feelings toward the disaster through commenting on Flickr photos; this, in my opinion, is similar to watching footage of a devastating event on the evening news which provokes an emotional response – simply commenting on an online post does not create community in this sense.

Though interpretation of the arguments and discussions raised within this text has allowed me to consider ways to apply these notions to further research I find it ironic that Shirky, discussing the complexity of groups, uses such complex metaphors to testify his theories.

How individuals interact online, or how they present themselves to others is a popular debate amongst new media scholars. Understanding user-behaviour, such as identity-making; identity is a highly contested topic alongside authenticity. Ellison et al (1997) noted that identity can be constructed in an online world; this construction can be comprised as well as constrained. User-identity may not be authentic; however user-behaviour can clearly be observed by virtual ethnography (Hine, 2000; Markham, 2005; Murthy, 2008) or other qualitative research methods.

Shirky draws upon the work of physicist Philip Anderson to explore the behaviours of individuals in groups, citing his statement that ‘more is different.’ Anderson, as discussed by Shirky, noted that complexities can be exhibited in anything from atoms to people. Shirky applies this notion to his own arguments; ‘this pattern of aggregates exhibiting novel properties is true of people as well,’ more distinctly, ‘individuals in group settings exhibit behaviours that no one could predict by studying single minds.’ (2008: 28) My perception of this is that individuals may behave differently when in groups, the characteristics of a group are of the group and not a singular person: ‘these characteristics exist because groups are not just simple aggregations of individuals.’ (Shirky, 2008: 28).

When considering if in fact sharing sites, such as Flickr, facilitate the anchoring of community different trajectories race to the forefront of my thinking. It is plausible to argue that sharing services such as Flickr, and more recently Instagram, offer transnational communicative space for consumers. Spatial awareness is often challenged in a digital environment, raising the complexities of participation, making Shirky’s arguments highly relevant. Yet, to consider the notion of community as perceived by theorists such as Rheingold, Baym, Jenkins and many other scholars, leads me to the direction of considering sharing sites as a mere inflection of a larger-scale network of interactions, that are far more complex, in the role of community-making behaviour.

Categorising Individuals within the Community

Considering whether simply ‘sharing’ content contributes to community making to me entails that the consumer, or internet-user, must be reviewed. Placing the consumer in the role of an ‘audience’ member allows me to view the audiences that interact with shared content as enigmatic. To clarify, a consumer merely ‘consumes’ the content, be it photos on Flickr, or Tweets on Twitter, yet an audience member may interact with the content in a less-consumption based way, they may recreate or react. They do not just consume, they may also produce.

The term ‘audience’ can be perceived differently, Marwick and Boyd offer the idea that audience has been viewed ‘as a stable entity that congregates around a media object.’ (2010: 16). However, they then argue that this notion has been displaced, which contradicts my beliefs. Yet they offer variations to determining audience engagement and consumption which I feel apply wholly to Shirky’s depiction of Flickr and content sharing to anchor community. Terminology such as ‘interpretive community’, ‘fandom’, and ‘participatory culture’, imply that audiences, or consumers, are engaged with content, they are active and participating with the content, and the culture it produces. (Baym, 1999; Jenkins, 2005; Marwick and Boyd, 2010).

To conclude, my interpretation and response to Shirky’s Sharing Anchors Community has been crafted through application of current social media sites such as Twitter. I note that I have needed to intensely apply other concepts and scholars to develop the arguments Shirky presents. This offers a clearer perspective into how Shirky’s discussions are relevant to current social media climates, yet these arguments are enhanced through further exploration of digital debates, and new media concepts.

Bibliography

Baym, N. (1999) Tune In, Log On: Soaps, Fandom, and Online Community. New York: Sage Publications Ltd.

Ellison, N.B. McLaughlin, M.L. and Osborne, K.K. (1997). Virtual Community in a Telepresence Environment. in: Jones, S.G. (ed.) Virtual Culture: Identity & Communication in Cybersociety. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Fernback, J. (1999). There Is a There There: Notes Toward a Definition of Cybercommunity. in: Jones, S. (ed.) Doing Internet Research: Critical Issues and Methods for Examining the Net. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Fuchs, C. (2014). Social Media: a Critical Introduction. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Hine, C. (2000). Virtual Ethnography. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Jenkins, H. (2005) Convergence Culture. New York: New York University Press.

Markham, A.N. (2005). The Methods, Politics, and Ethics of Representation in Online Ethnography. in: Denzin, N.K. and Lincoln, Y.S. (eds.) The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. 3rd Ed. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Marwick, A. & Boyd, D. (2010). I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse and the Imagined Audience. New Media & Society.  Vol 13, No 1, pp. 114-133.

Murthy, D. (2008). Digital Ethnography: An Examination of the Use of New Technologies for Social Research. Sociology. Vol 42, No 5, pp. 837-855.

Rheingold, H. (1994). The Virtual Community: Finding Connection in a Computerized World. London: Secker & Warburg.

Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations. United Kingdom: Penguin Books Ltd.

I’m one for using Twitter as the public sphere that it is, but it is now that I’m questioning it usage in politics.

I’ve been hesitant to discuss ‘trending topics’ and comments made via Twitter in the past, as I take a rather naive stance in believing that Twitter, for the most part, acts as a way to simply express our thoughts. Whether these thoughts are positive, negative or even insulting to others there is no denying that there is a large proportion of Twitter users that are simply expressing themselves – the same way they would in normal, offline, conversation. This is a broad perspective of Twitter users – I also back the notions of authenticity, ‘trolling’ and many of the other concepts that have been theorised to describe Twitter activity. 

Politics and Twitter

I’ve recently become involved in UK Youth’s #DigitalDebate:

‘Parliament 2.0: In a digital society, is politics for politicians or is everyone a decision maker?’

As a result of my engagement with this discussion I have began exploring and observing Twitter and other social networks, leading to a greater personal awareness of social media, and its impact within politics. Recent Twitter activity has included a variety of ‘hashtags’ concerning UK Politics, such as:

#WhyImNotVotingUKIP

#CameronMustGo

#WeBackEd

All notably highly personal, opinion-based hashtags. 

Other politically-themed hashtags include:

#VoterEngagement

#NVRD

Both hashtags relate to voting. 

The commons selector committee utilised Twitter in the discussion of the Voter Engagement inquiry, with the use of the simplistic, straightforward #VoterEngagement hashtag. But is the use of hashtags such as #NVRD marginalising those potential voters on Twitter – using the ‘lingo’ and abbreviations which appear, to the non-informed, as an exclusive hashtag that formulates a discussion only for the politically-aware.

It is clear, and undeniable that social media is having an impact, whether negative or positive, in influencing peoples decisions concerning voting. A key example of this is the #WhyImNotVotingUKIP hashtag, one of the most popular trending topics on Twitter November 21st. Hashtags, such as this, allow room for conversation amongst UK Citizens, yes not all UK Citizens, but there is high engagement with discussions on social media, the internet is breaking boundaries, and politics needs to engage with this.

Interestingly Fuchs (2014: 190) noted that ‘in 2009, only 7% of the top Twitter trend topics were political topics and 38% were entertainment-oriented topics.’ This statement wasn’t particularly shocking for me, Fuchs also provides statistics for 2010, 2011 and 2012, concluding that ‘Twitter topics are dominated by entertainment,’ also suggesting that:

‘politics is much less represented and mainly in the form of influential political actors, such as Barack Obama (…) that dominate the political fields in terms of influence, resources and reputation.’

It appears this is the case, however the lack of political representation on Twitter doesn’t prevent users from contributing to discussions, (such as the aforementioned hashtags.) Maybe if more political bodies were to engage, or acknowledge this online activity then there would be less to complain about? As a political party simply Tweeting about TV coverage, or upcoming events isn’t enough. If the Twitter discussions that circulate around hashtags were to be viewed the same as offline interpersonal debating, or public discussion; then the leading political parties wouldn’t simply ignore the questions.

It’s hard to deny the influence of social media in current political debates, so I think the value of these online discussions, and the usage of digital pathways by voters certainly needs to be reconsidered.

Fuchs, C. (2014) Social Media a critical introduction. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.