va va virtual

October 13th, 2014 | Posted by admin in creative industries | digital | Europe | news - (Comments Off on va va virtual)


The Juncker administration is making encouraging noises about our virtual world.  A recent interview with Robert Madelin, director general of the European Commission’s Communications Networks, Content and Technology (CNECT) department talked about high-speed connectivity, an associated 300 billion euro investment, and looking again at enshrining a ‘fair use’ approach to copyright.  The EU knows this is a priority, but will action be underpinned with a commitment to Yochai Benkler’s networked information economy?  Benkler’s ‘Wealth of Networks’ may be old, but his analysis of how the ‘institutional ecology of proprietary business models’ is running head on into emergent social practices is still powerful, as is his point that a core common infrastructure is part of the solution. The European Commission’s latest digital agenda scorecard shows only a tiny proportion of households have a subscription of over 100 Megabytes per second (MBPS).  Benkler again- countries “don’t lack creativity but the basic tools of innovation”, so an EU administration that is prepared to tackle both digital pipework and our access to what comes down it, would be very welcome.

http://www.benkler.org/Benkler_Wealth_Of_Networks.pdf                                                                                               http://ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda/sites/digital-agenda/files/digital_agenda_targets_overall_2014_final_may_2014_green_v2.jpg     http://www.euractiv.com/sections/innovation-enterprise/robert-madelin-eu-not-putting-its-money-where-its-mouth-broadband


& be damned

August 20th, 2014 | Posted by admin in creative industries | cultural policy | news - (Comments Off on & be damned)
IMG_1416A wide range of Scottish publishers assembled at Edinburgh International Book Festival to discuss ‘Publishing the Nation’. Scotland has 110 listed publishers, employing around 1,500 people and publishing about 3,000 titles a year. Each publisher talked of growth and their excitement about new digital platforms, albeit with a nod to the pressure on margins from the global player.  Clearly these businesses are doing something right, and, just like in classical music, an oversupply of talent and brilliant product leads to intense competition.   Just because a business sector sounds ‘learned’ or academic doesn’t mean it isn’t ambitious. Just because it wears comfortable looking cultural clothes  doesn’t mean it’s not competitive.  Just because it lacks the acquisitive  gaze of the speculator doesn’t mean it’s not looking for opportunities.  The cultural and creative industries success story didn’t happen by accident in the UK. Agencies need to find better ways to sustain and develop the confusing whirl of content creation and platforms, and politicians ways to protect cultural value in the marketplace.  Should a post referendum flowering of creative output occur in Scotland then we need a publishing sector that can bring it to the world’s attention. https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/publishing-the-nation

trickle up

August 7th, 2014 | Posted by admin in creative industries | news - (Comments Off on trickle up)

1916074_184294648883_5730827_nThree apparently unconnected recent ‘doings’ fused together when preparing a short provocation for a discussion on the ‘Our Borderlands – Our Future’ consultation (http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/scottish-affairs-committee/inquiries/parliament-2010/our-borderlands-our-future/).  First came a meeting of planners and architects bemoaning the intractable supremacy of spatial planning over people’s needs and aspirations.  Next came an overheard eulogy to ‘the dole’ as a kind of talent petrie dish for  the 1980’s music business. And finally a Swedish colleague’s comments on the effectiveness of Youth Guarantee initiatives in Scandinavia – person rather than agency focused.

Creative businesses know that giving people the space and resources to create often works.  Investing directly in people allows them to develop the practice and networks that produce critical mass and markets.  Many succeed, but failure can be part of the process.  Interventions and investment in economic development need to inspire as well as nurture and an enterprise culture that is risk averse at the outset is not going to achieve either.  Are we stuck in a self-cancelling loop where our managerialist addiction to measurable impacts kills our entrepreneurship narrative stone dead?

screen for attention

June 27th, 2014 | Posted by admin in creative industries | cultural policy | news - (Comments Off on screen for attention)
IMG_0668The recent Scottish Film Summit was attended by over 200 professionals from every part of the sector, from festivals and exhibition, to production, direction and distribution.  I chaired the Exhibition Panels and the overarching conclusion was simply that we need more of everything: better production needs more production  and large gaps in exhibition infrastructure exist across Scotland.  More filmmaking and more screens need new routes to investment (such as Sweden’s levy on cinema tickets) and new approaches like the French approach to screenwriting.  There was also an important sub-text around fragmentation.  An established producer reckoned that the panel was the first time that the exhibition side of the sector had explained what they do and how they do it to him.  Exhibitors felt that producers paid scant attention to them and their audiences.  Nobody seemed quite sure who was responsible for horizon scanning and strategising, particularly for digital developments, and there was a plea for co-ordination and even a clash diary.
The appetite for film is a distinctive element of Scottish culture and there are so many examples of great innovation, from Screen Machine to the International Festival that framed the summit.  But at times it felt like we had travelled back half a century with producers washing their hands of audience development, and exhibitors of product development. Yes, we need more to be better, but we also need holism to be effective.


enter stage right

June 17th, 2014 | Posted by admin in creative industries | cultural policy - (Comments Off on enter stage right)

IMG_0345The narrative of the day  is creative entrepreneurship.  At one level this is just a flag of convenience, renaming processes that have underpinned cultural production and distribution for centuries (Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, Hadyn’s favourite creative entrepreneur).  But in reality the practice is not so benign and reflects the current ecosystems debate.   If you place a monetary value on a coral reef do you help protect it, or make it expendable?  Has everything a price, including our cultural heritage.

Henry Ford famously said  “A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large”.  But the production led cultural sector can adopt a ‘build it and they will come’ approach and a more energised approach to connecting to the wider public in a time of shrinking public subsidies is clearly a good idea.  Similarly, if the current attention on entrepreneurship leads to wider understanding of the interdependencies of our mixed creative economy then that should loosen up routes to investment.

In some ways the entrepreneurship ‘meta narrative’ is pathological.  It foregrounds the one brand or person and hides everything else.  There is a process of social production going on all the time in arts and culture.  Nothing happens in a vacuum. Yet the Scottish social enterprise success story is underdeveloped in the culture and creative industries.  There are alternative enterprising narratives to underpin innovative approaches to connecting up culture and markets, and these may be more sustainable outside of the metropolitan hothouses, oversupplied as they are with skilled creative labour.   (Photo: author’s own – Hidden Door Festival)