Thursday, March 19, 2009

creative industries - debating the concept

‘Creative Industries’ as a concept was created some ten years ago in the UK – currently spreading throughout Europe. It is, furthermore, probably the most used concept in the field of cultural economy. Is it a good and feasible term – or do we use it in lack of something better?

Chrissie Tiller sheds light on its problematic nature by sharing a recent experience which made her create a new Facebook group: “I decided to establish this group after downloading a brochure for a conference, lead by Creative and Cultural skills entitled "Supporting the Creative Industries". You can download it yourself at (although be quick because once I pointed out their choice of a cover with pictures of 6 white male speakers (no women no ethnicity) and 3 white males named as additional speakers they have decided to rectify their "oversight"!!)”

“The group is set up to challenge the need for those working in the arts, culture and creativity to embrace the concept of their being an "industry" when all this seems to mean is replicating an outmoded, discredited, white male dominated model of working.” That was actually the best argument I ever heard against the concept, and I decided to join in the discussion. The Facebook group is called “Let's stop calling it the CREATIVE INDUSTRIES” and you can find it here:

This is my first contribution to the debate:

"Thanks Chrissie for initiating the discussion. New times and new ways of doing things, in general require new vocabulary. Maybe it is because the concept ‘creative industries’ per se puts cultural activities into old and overplayed frameworks that it doesn’t get the support in the rest of Europe, as it has gotten in the UK. This should at least be part of the reason.

The concept is still new and confusing in Sweden. An interesting development, however, is how we have moved from the direct translation ‘kreativa industrier’ to more often choose ‘kreativa näringar’. The word ‘näring’ has a direct reference to business, but its actual meaning is ‘nourishment’, i.e. ‘creative nourishment’. In a way beautiful, but not really sufficient, and most importantly; the word lacks an equivalent in English.

Despite the EU-report from 2006, it is still uncommon knowledge that the turnover of cultural activities within the EU is bigger than the turnover of the car manufacturing industry, as well as bigger than the IT-industry. That is argument enough to create a genuine interest in regional, national and European politics.

Policies, support systems and infrastructure will however not change without qualified knowledge about the form, content and offspring of cultural activities. In my current work to consider new research projects in the area, I’m being very surprised by the lack of European research in the field. Besides more qualified knowledge, we certainly need more collected and accumulated knowledge. A first important step would be to start recognizing these often young and small scale activities, their driving forces and how they actually operate.

Please note how I’ve used the term ‘cultural activities’ four times over – yet another expression for our need of new and suitable vocabulary."

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