Creative Economies

CreativeEconomies: Research Venture

An International Research and Development Project and an Entrepreneurial Story which took its beginning before the Venice Panel 2014.

Basic Idea

“Creative Economies: A Venture” is an internationally oriented research and development project. Initiated by Simon Grand (RISE Management Innovation Lab, University of St. Gallen HSG and ZHdK Research Fellow) and Christoph Weckerle (Member of the Executive Board, Zurich University of the Arts and Head of the ZHdK Department of Cultural Analysis), the project pursues three objectives. In association with various partners worldwide, it first aims to establish a more precise understanding of how creative and innovative processes are organised—both from a global perspective and in diverse cultural, social, economic, and scientific fields. Second, it provides an in-depth analysis of the emerging “creative economy” as a laboratory for understanding such self-organisation (for preliminary details, see Christoph Weckerle & Simon Grand, “Ein neuer Beitrag zur Kreativwirtschaft Schweiz: Ein Spannungsfeld zwischen Fortschreibung und neuen Tendenzen”). Third, the project seeks to contribute to developing new perspectives, possibilities, and strategies through its own experiments and initiatives.

Background: “Global Creative Systems to Innovate Desirable Futures”

“We need new approaches”: This rallying cry resounds through highly diverse contexts. For instance, the financial market crisis has called for new business models in the banking sector and for new rules of the game at the stock market. It is also argued that in many fields scientific research does not lead to the technological innovations and new solutions that are actually needed, such as in the struggle against cancer or in the field of renewable energies. In the arts and culture, an increasing economisation is lamented. Today, “good” art is defined at art fairs, by private collectors, or by rankings published in popular magazines, whereby models for substantiated critical debate are seemingly missing. Whereas political actors consider established political systems and processes too bureaucratic and autocratic, they struggle to develop robust alternatives characterised by greater participation and transparency.

Against this background, the demand for “more innovation” is quite understandable. Creating “novelty” is an important condition for shaping an attractive, desirable, equitable, efficient … future. Precisely this ambivalence must be taken seriously: What exactly do we mean by “desirable,” “equitable,” … ? Can these demands be realised simultaneously, or are there “trade-offs”? And who decides? We also need to consider our relationship to innovation and how far our attitude results in compulsive innovation, renewal, or change, which we do not actually want to expose ourselves to. And how far do innovations also question established orders and proven traditions without, however, closer attention being given to the values destroyed as a result (“creative destruction”)? How far is innovation in many areas of life linked to acceleration, complexity, and the dynamics of change that we experience as problematic and worth discussing? How can experts, with their specialised knowledge, and the wider public enter into dialogue given the increasing segmentation, specialisation, and inherent dynamics of individual fields of competence? Moreover, which new forms of communication, debate, and decision-making are needed from such a perspective? Finally, how far has all the talk about “innovation” grown into an empty, self-serving rhetoric, without any clarity about what is meant and required?

“CreativeEconomies: A Venture” focuses on these fundamental questions. The project also serves as a platform for exchange among a community interested in debating these issues. Beyond debate, specific opportunities, practices, and initiatives will be developed in laboratories and experiments to suggest how progress might be achieved.

The project aims both to debate “innovation” and to develop forms of debate. It focuses explicitly on debating various forms and concepts regarded as “modes of innovation” in culture, science, the economy, and society. The differences between these contexts are just as important as their manifold interrelations. Close cooperation between The ZHdK Department of Cultural Analysis, The RISE Management Innovation Lab (University of St. Gallen HSG), and The Collegium Helveticum (ETH Zürich) provides the project with the necessary institutional anchoring: “Creative Economies: A Venture” pools a global network of actors and institutions.

Focus: “Global Creative Systems: Curatorial Strategies”

The previous title of the project was: “Global Creative Systems: Curatorial Strategies”. This term reflects its four essential dimensions:

  1. “Global” as Context and Process: Our project assumes that advancing the debate on the questions outlined above rests on serious consideration being given to the following issues: Debating the future of “innovation” takes place in a global context and against the background of the most diverse globalisation processes. Hence “global” refers to different scales, from “local” to “global,” to “zooming in” and “zooming out” between specific and widespread, unique and general qualities, and to multiple contextualisations. “Global” as context and process thus also includes the analysis of local applications of decidedly global phenomena as much as entire system changes arising from a global perspective.
  2. “Creative Systems” as Networks and Platforms: Our project further assumes that “innovation” is inherently controversial. Accordingly, it is neither clear what “new” means nor what the term is supposed to mean. Hence, close analysis of the creative practices and processes, procedures and methods involved in the emergence of “novelty” is called for. Creative and innovative processes are just an inherently uncertain as “innovation” itself. Thus, “CreativeEconomies: A Venture” is about outlining the development and realisation of possible future worlds, which may well affect how we see the present and the past. Our project assumes that it is not individual actors who are crucially important in this regard, but their interrelations and forms of cooperation. Correspondingly, we focus in particular on how processes of creation, innovation, and renewal are organised and managed. Hence we speak of “creative systems.”
  3. “Curatorial” as Perspective and Practice: One question at the forefront of “CreativeEconomies: A Venture” is which kind of “innovation” is considered worth striving for. This question concerns selection, “screening,” “scanning,” “scouting,” appraisal and criticism, networking and translation, staging and visualising novelty in diverse media and forms, “storytelling” and communication. Equally crucial in this respect are so-called “judgment devices,” that is, evaluation frameworks and decision-making criteria. We call this perspective and practice “curatorial,” and thereby extend the term beyond art. On the one hand, this perspective corresponds to the current scientific debate on curatorial practice, which encompasses highly diverse qualities such as brokerage, translation, networking, staging, production, funding, management, … . On the other, this perspective takes seriously the observation that various cultural, social, economic, and scientific fields refer to such management practices as “curating.”
  4. “Strategies” as Initiatives, Dynamics, and Future Perspectives: Our project, to emphasise a crucial point, aims to further the critical, in-depth, and effective debate on the future of “Global Creative Systems.” This focus calls for close attention to how such “creative systems” can, should, and must be created, established, stabilised, criticised, and further developed. This question stands at the heart of “Strategic Management.” We understand strategies not only against the background of the most recent perspectives in strategy research, but also as referring to the strategic practices of organisations, above all in highly diverse cultural, social, economic, and scientific fields: “… how organizations, networks, collectives move forward ….” Strategies are observable, constantly changing decision-making, action, and development patterns of organisations, networks, and communities that are themselves forever evolving and underway in new and uncertain fields of action and spheres of possibility. We are interested in “strategies” in these various senses.

In sum, “CreativeEconomies: A Venture” comprises debate, development work, and community building. Our research takes the form of a “project.” By “project,” we literally mean projections, simulations, tests, designing future possibilities, critical reflection in new contexts, all organised as laboratories featuring various series of experiments.

Contexts: „Multiple action spaces for global creative systems“

Systems that can be summarised as “Global Creative Systems” can be found in diverse fields of action. These fields are currently emerging globally, either changing or transforming themselves, or indeed further developing themselves. “CreativeEconomies: A Venture“ formulates various claims about how the dynamics of change occurring in the fields of action of “Global Creative Systems” can be characterised.

Below, we use the example of the “Creative Economy” to illustrate our approach:

Claim 1: “Global Creative Systems” are situated in fields of action involving a “creative core” of original creation, an “extended sphere” of creative and innovative actors, and a multitude of “collocated organizations and industries.”

From a global perspective, various notions exist about what makes a creative system “creative.” Instead of propagating any particular notion, our project explores the fields of action debating this question.

At one end of the spectrum is a core of creative activities. These are considered to be “creative” in the most diverse contexts and are strongly associated with artistic creation. We call this the “creative core.” Examples include the visual and performing arts.

At the other end of the spectrum are organisations and industries that, although they are not directly involved, provide the necessary technological, infrastructure, institutional, financial, … conditions for creation. We refer to these agents as “collocated organizations and industries.” Examples include technology, financial services, and infrastructure providers.

“Between” these two relatively distinct poles stands a wide range of organisations, enterprises, and initiatives. These are not assigned to any definite category. Depending on context, debate, and perspective, they are associated with one or the other end of the spectrum. We refer to such agents as the “extended sphere.” Examples include science organisations, research and development, design, software development, consultancy.

Crucially, we need to understand the interactions between the dynamics of these three spheres and to observe the trade-offs, revaluation processes, reinterpretations, and controversies occurring between these spheres. The more unclear, complex, diverse, heterogeneous, and specialised these fields are, the more important are the organisations, actors, and communities debating these relationships and processes and shaping their dynamics.

Claim 2: The value creation of “Global Creative Systems” is characterised by the process constellations constantly interlinking creation, development, realisation, production, dissemination, staging, knowledge development, communication, and archiving in new ways.

The value creation of “Global Creative Systems” is distributed among, and interrelates, the value-creating capabilities and characteristics of highly diverse actors, organisations, and communities. The modes of information, communication, and cooperation enabled by today’s media, the worldwide interlinking of activities, and the great mobility of important actors allows value-creation processes to be structured differently, as well as focused, interrelated, or integrated. Currently, a growing number of narrowly positioned specialists, mastering individual media, topics, and tasks also from a global perspective, are establishing themselves. At the same time, however, hybrids and entirely new constellations are also emerging. The boundaries between activities and processes are constantly shifting, just as those between art and design, computer science and architecture, robotics and dance, film and theatre are blurring and opening up new fields of action and boundary-drawing dynamics.

Consequently, where exactly novelty emerges from value-creation processes and where the existing is reinterpreted, copied, or simply appropriated is becoming increasingly more open. Where is impact generated? Where are global trends and general tendencies being followed? Where is difference achieved, and where the mainstream served?

New disciplines and creative practices are emerging. Hence, established actors and institutions must re-think and re-position themselves. The more unclear, complex, diverse, heterogeneous, or specialised these possible constellations are, the more important are those organisations, actors, and communities that debate these possibilities, value-creation constellations, and processes and that understand, leverage, co-design, and think their dynamics further.

Claim 3: The fields of action and possible effects of “Global Creative Systems” can be characterised in terms of force fields. Within these fields, options for action and development perspectives can be identified, pursued, and realised.

“Global Creative Systems” are situated in force fields involving manifold challenges while also opening up possibilities and opportunities for unfolding their effects and development.

By force fields, we mean extreme poles. Whereas these poles are a priori mutually exclusive, they must also be understood as the starting point for projecting new settings in which “Global Creative Systems” can position themselves and advance from their new position.

Here are some examples of such force fields: “Global ß à local” is one of the most frequently mentioned force fields. It is about how a creative system can position itself globally while its concrete activities are still locally rooted. Closely related force fields include “East vs. West“ or “North vs. South.” “Hardware vs. software” is a force field much used in Asia. It describes the relationship between the framework conditions and infrastructures that can be devised for a specific situation and refers to the actors and contents effective in such situations. Also important is the force field “singular ß à mainstream”: Each “Global Creative System” is characterised by its unique positioning and singular value creation, which distinguish it from other systems while at the same time it strives to take effect, which it can achieve only by reaching the largest possible audience. The force field “cultural ß à commercial” refers to “Global Creative Systems” amidst the force field between value creation oriented toward different cultural, social, and scientific points of reference on the one hand, and value creation oriented toward current or potential economic and commercial relevance, and thus associated awith specific funding and resource- mobilisation models, on the other. “Informal ß à formal“ means “Global Creative Systems” differ as regards their degree of formalisation and institutionalisation, for instance, as recognisable, independent, and sustainably structured organisations. The resulting consequences can be found in a further force field: “temporal ß à permanent.”

Claim 4: Developing effective “Global Creative Systems” in the outlined global spheres of action (Claim 1), process constellations (Claim 2), and force fields (Claim 3) requires curatorial actors pursuing independent curatorial strategies.

Focus: “Importance of curationial strategies”

Based on our fourth claim (see above), “Global Creative Systems: Curatorial Strategies” refers to actors shaping diverse spheres of action, translation processes, possible interlinkage, and development potentials. This perspective extends the concept of the “curator” far beyond traditional notions. By “curators,” we do not mean exhibition makers in the field of art, nor somewhat more broadly the directors or producers of cultural worlds in the shape of various kinds of analog and digital installations. As explained below, our project deepens and extends the various dimensions of curatorial practice:

1. An Extended Notion of the Curator (“The Curator at Large”): Our project promotes an extended notion of the curator. From our perspective, curators are active in the most diverse cultural, social, scientific, or economic fields. Such actors appear either explicitly as curators or otherwise as producers and artistic directors, brokers and managers, entrepreneurs and directors.

Various domains have different expectations about curators conceived of as producers, artistic directors, or enterpreneurs. What these notions have in common is that curators are themselves creative and establish the conditions for developing, realising, and disseminating the creations of others. Another common denominator is that whereas curators are individual actors, they also establish, maintain, and develop organisations, infrastructures, and platforms that leverage their own activities and ensure that these are effective beyond themselves.

2. The Significance of Curatorial Practices: Our project emphasises the significance of highly diverse curatorial “practices.” Seen thus, curators assume different tasks within diverse contexts and processes. They are also active in different ways and utilise large repertoires of practices, methods, and procedures that can be consolidated into “clusters.”

In the first instance, these clusters are characterised by selection practices: Curators filter developments, select potentials and artefacts, assess objects and opportunities, interpret themes and stories. Second, these clusters comprise organisational practices: Curators structure processes, realise initiatives, organise resources, and mobilise knowledge. Third, such clusters concern communication practices: Curators bring into circulation objects and controversies, translate between contexts and nexuses, interrelate artefacts and actions, tell their own stories, and develop their own theories.

3. The Emergence of Curatorial Strategies: Our project focuses in particular on the emergence of specific strategies. Different positions can be taken in this open field of action, such as developing specific strategies. Key aspects:

· “Curatorial Strategies” characterise robust patterns of action and modes of operation amidst uncertainty: Taking robust action in the dynamic spheres of action, process constellations, and force fields of global “Creative Systems” requires constantly expanding one’s capacity to take decisions, to act, and to innovate.

· “Curatorial Strategies” emerge from their distinction to alternative strategies. Thus, a strategic perspective raises the question which specific approaches, models, procedures, and methods make a difference, and how these position themselves amidst the competition among possible alternative models and approaches, … .

· “Curatorial Strategies” define themselves in terms of specific value creation. Thus, they also evaluate opportunities for action and options for development, and thereby embody the function of “judgment devices,” that is, decision-making instruments that select and reveal the resulting effects.

· “Curatorial Strategies” are always measured in terms of success. Concretely, this means the ability to formulate notions of success for specific initiatives, ventures, and experiments, as well as to do justice to, and thereby to affirm, such notions in realising and asserting activities.
The “Global Creative Systems: Curatorial Strategies” project regards itself as a laboratory. As such, it implements its own key focus and develops insights into its subject, which are verified experimentally through its own practice.

Approach: “Laboratory for curatorial experimentation”

By laboratory, we mean an organised structure in the sense of an experimental system (and thus a “creative system”) providing a platform for experimentation. This experimental system needs to be understood in terms of establishing and developing global “creative systems,” and thus also within the context of the creative economy: this is a particularly exciting context, whose perspective on the curatorial experiments carried out within this project is characterised by various qualities:

  • An experimental system allows one to ask questions not yet clearly formulated and to which there are no unequivocal answers.
  • An experimental system is characterised by a repertoire of methods, instruments, and practices enabling one to discuss the questions raised and their possible answers.
  • An experimental system is capable of defining highly diverse experiments suited to answering answering specific sub-questions and providing partial answers.
  • An experimental system consists of instruments, procedures, and techniques for recording experiments and entire series of experiments, and thus for making both comprehensible.
  • An experimental systems implies notions of knowledge that can be created, corroborated, criticised, and further developed through experiments and series of experiments.
  • Our experimental system on “Global Creative Systems” is situated within different media and thereby produces different forms of knowledge, content knowledge, and qualities of knowledge.
  • Our experimental system interconnects descriptions (“mappings”), stagings, publications (such as papers, books, magazine, articles, etc.), case studies, devices, tools, etc.

This perspective affords insights into our current research on the situation and dynamics of the “creative economy” in Switzerland (a series of experiments within the context of “Global Creative Systems: Curatorial Strategies.” See further Christoph Weckerle & Simon Grand, “A New Contribution to Switzerland’s Creative Industry: A Force Field between the Perpetuation of Tradition and New Tendencies”).

Against the background of the project outlined here, we do not intend to simply continue the prevailing discussion on the state and the perspectives of the so-called “creative industries” in terms of the familiar categories and questions. Our aim, instead, is to raise for discussion new questions, categories, and viewpoints capable of opening up new perspectives and spheres of possibility, not only for creative actors but also for economic policy and for enterprises and other organisations seeking to connect their creative and innovative processes through various models to the potential of the “creative economy.”