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


shifty digits

April 16th, 2014 | Posted by admin in cultural diplomacy | digital | Europe - (Comments Off on shifty digits)

IMG_0770Last week’s Brussels Creative Europe briefing bravely attempted to encompass the ‘digital shift’.  No simple task given the variegated digital Euro-picture.  One person’s streaming, is another’s comms crash.  And we remain in thrall to even the most banal geek-speak.   How can we begin to configure our expectations of digital as European cultural instrument?

The framing is difficult.  The European digital ‘pipework’ means that options differ for cultural producers in, say, Belgium or the Netherlands, with almost 100% superfast broadband coverage, or Italy with less than 15% or Greece with less than 25%.  Sociologists observe that digital communities can be shallow or even counterfeit, not what cultural funding is about.  Our tendency to uncritical technophilia and to name check digital innovation can devalue project assessment.  Dealing with the tension between the creative entrepreneurs desire to monetise Intellectual Property and the public benefit of open innovation and data is also a challenge.  The scientific project may sign over access to digital material in the interests of knowledge exchange, but should we expect cultural producers to do the same?

Understanding of the merits of digital marketing tools is widespread, but experts may be less up to speed in developing areas like theatre in the cloud, or even webcasting as delivered by NT Live or La Monnaie.  After all the streaming of  Le Page’s Ring Cycle was one of the artistic events of recent years for one of our most conservative audiences.

Digitally decorating cultural projects for the delectation of the funder is a temptation, and unpicking the cultural value of the digital component is a new evaluation challenge.  We should interrogate the digital elements of proposals as thoroughly as the analog elements and need the tools to do it.

Ref: Digital Sociology, Critical Perspectives 2013;   Ofcom – The European Broadband Scorecard.   Photo: author’s own, Paolozzi at Edinburgh University Science Campus

Living with the commons

February 15th, 2014 | Posted by admin in creative industries | digital - (Comments Off on Living with the commons)


This map is over ten years old, but shows that the US receives over half of the value of all royalty and licence fees paid in one year, and that while the per capita value of these fees was $130 in the UK it was only around $9 in both Spain and Italy.  So let’s congratulate our knowledge and creativity based industries?  Or does this export / import market in intellectual property threaten cultural exchange and our freedom to be creative.

The enclosure of knowledge that copyright rations is also accompanied by a ‘scarcity of average attention’ (Philippe Aigrain) in the face of digitised abundance.   Our ideas of authorship and cultural authority support the trading of culture that may have once been considered indigenous or ‘common’ to all and most of us join a consumer pirate crew as a consequence.  So, hooray for  initiatives like the creative commons and Open Culture.  Promoting these types of opportunity is part of the cultural professional’s C21st responsibilities. 

Image: www.worldmapper.org

Buzziness as usual

February 6th, 2014 | Posted by admin in creative industries | digital - (Comments Off on Buzziness as usual)


The absolute intertwining of our digital and analogue worlds is not reflected in institutional responses.  Here the digital arena is distilled out in strategies that want to create universal digital participation or a ‘world-leading digital economy’.  Is this just another example of the geeks, or rather the geeks employers, looking to lead us by the nose?  Spectacular failures in contracts to digitise this or that bit of military, civic or commercial activity probably have some relation to our willingness to have our views shaped by suppliers.  It is not surprising that the conclusions of reports on digital issue so often sound like those of any other sector, emphasising skills development, education, strategic join up and the need for champions.  

The real challenge comes in considering what digital innovation is for.  Here we have a very real tussle between governments, business and the public with the cultural and creative industries at the sharp end.  Progressing universal physical access to the web is probably amenable to partnerships and agreements between the consumer, public £, and business.  The right of access to the information it holds is more intractable, under increasing threat from both political and business interests in various parts of the world, and creaking copyright or licensing regimes can’t cope.  Should cultural and creative organisations and businesses defend their intellectual property at all costs, or do new markets and better societies result from widening citizens rights to access digital material?     Image: Mauricio Estrella. Licenced under Creative Commons.



September 12th, 2012 | Posted by admin in creative industries | digital - (Comments Off on Nestastic)

MSP John Swinney’s contribution to Nesta’s Edinburgh innovation event was heartfelt: “innovation and creativity are relevant in all walks of life”. His examples were mostly in the public sector and mostly emphasised both the potential for innovative use of technology to be responsive to diverse user needs and how this saves significant amount of public money. The most surprising fact of the session was John Woodward’s graph showing that Scots watch ever more TV, over 4 hours a day at present. He argues that television remains at the forefront of communications developments.  John also provided the scariest slide, illustrating MirriAd’s digital post production product placement.   The most pleasing initiative was Leith’s ‘Local Edge’ project, which has developed a ‘disloyalty card’ to encourage local shopping as part of their hyper-local working. The most satisfying – central belt independent cinemas collaborating to launch an online slate of independent films and cross marketing with performing arts neighbours.  http://www.nesta.org.uk/assets/events/nesta_in_edinburgh