Dr Patrick Crogan surprised listeners at this Cultural Value seminar on Oct 1 at the PMStudio when he failed to cite Bernard Stiegler until the the q&a. He did however surface a number of issues regarding the politics of creative networks that derive from Stiegler’s notion of an ‘economy of contribution’. Patrick’s account of the Creative Territories project opened up interesting lines of practice for thinking critically about the cultural ecosystems we inhabit, develop, support and advocate.

In essence Crogan’s presentation offered a summary of the Good Hubbing Guide, one of the project’s major outputs. Everyone needs a hub nowadays, hubs for education, hubs for research, hubs for enterprise. But in reality ‘the Hub’ is a curiously 19th Century model for a 21st Century phenomenon – a way of giving the appearance of a centre, frequently as a building, for a co located network of research, enterprise or innovation. The Creative Territories research project worked closely with the indie games hubs in Utrecht, (Dutch Game Garden), Leamington Spa ( The Arches) and our own Studio spin out the Bristol Games Hub.

A core argument here was that creativity is always situated; always embodied and embedded in relationships with people and places. Creative territories are also creative terroirs, each with their own tastes and characteristics. ‘Creativity’ – despite its reification as abstract embodiment of competitive advantage – is socially produced between people in places. This led to some questions about the relationship between creative networks (in this case game hubs) and the places they are part of. The main impact of the digitally empowered creative class on the places where they work might actually be gentrification, a further stratification of resources and power that displaces original populations. The hipster backlash is produced through this abrasion between competing interests and perceived ‘outsiders’ pushing up prices. What would a ‘creative territory’ do to tackle this issue rather than valorise the ‘quality of life’ available to the creative class ? Maybe creative networks should actually be involved in property too, not as post industrial developers but working with, for instance, community land trusts to ensure that property is bought that has ring fenced pricing to ensure affordability. Crogan also argued that an inclusive Creative Territory would have a long term relationship with surrounding schools and colleges, ensuring that access to its cultural capital, training and placement opportunities are made available in their communities so that ‘creativity’ isn’t a process that lives in gated communities. Finally the research also looked head on at diversity. ‘Diversity makes better innovation’ is a key idea in innovation literature, but in that case diversity frequently means interdisciplinarity rather than social mix. The overwhelming lack of diversity in the global gaming community became clear during the research period through the explosion of misogynist vitriol that was the ‘Gamergate’ affair. Creative groups are frequently anything but diverse and changing that profile is a matter of political will rather than hopeful optimism.

These arguments all serve to highlight the limitations of understanding creativity as an endlessly abundant driver of the cultural ecology. The values in creative networks can be divisive, exclusive and exploitative as well as trusting, inspiring and profitable. An effort of political imagination is demanded to develop the practice of an economy of contribution.

Our next seminar in this series will be from our new colleague Dr Daniel Allington who has been active in the AHRC’s Cultural Value research strand and recently published ‘Networks of value in electronic music: SoundCloud, London, and the importance of place’ in Cultural Trends.
October 15th Pervasive Media Studio – all welcome.

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