Designing Death: Challenges and Aesthetics for the 21st Century – panel videos

This panel was held on Wednesday 15th March 2017, in connection with the The Material Legacies exhibition at the Stephen Lawrence Gallery which ran throughout March.

Death is personal.
Death is social.
Death is constructed.
Death is meaningful and meaningless.
Death is ritualised but also intuitive.
Death is annihilation and transcendence.
Death is art and science.
Death is human.

Dying is one of the most personal experiences we will have in our lives and yet there are still norms for what bereavement and funerals should look and feel like.

This panel considered the growing movement which questions whether any models or systems of categorisation still speak to our contemporary understanding of death. Funerals in the UK now have more scope then ever to be a richly personal occasion and design is contributing to this movement. The funeral industry is adapting to the contemporary need for more individualised rituals and people’s desire to use funerals as a creative opportunity to further embody or understand the lives of the dead in an individual way. These shifts challenge what the dead mean to us and how bodies and environments merge to create new associations and experiences of death.

Chair
Stacey Pitsillides

Stacey Pitsillides is a Lecturer in Design at the Creative Professions and Digital Arts Department, University of Greenwich. Her research considers how technology and design shift our understanding of death and bereavement. As part of this research she has curated events for public engagement that question legacy and aesthetics. These include Love After Death for Nesta’s FutureFest (https://www.loveafterdeath.co.uk/) and Material Legacies for the Stephen Lawrence Gallery (http://www.greenwichunigalleries.co.uk/material-legacies/). In addition to this she is on the standing committee for the Death Online Research Symposium and has been the co-facilitator of three unconference events discussing issues of death and digitality.

Website: http://www.digitaldeath.eu/
@RestInPixels | Digital Death and Beyond Blog

Panel Speakers:
Ivor Williams

Ivor Williams is a designer who specialises in death and dying, through his work as Senior Design Associate at the Helix Centre and his research and consultancy group Being and Dying. He explores the use of technology-for-good as co-founder of the design company, Humane Engineering. Their first product, Cove, is a music-maker designed to support grieving adolescents.

Website: ivorwilliams.info
@ivorinfo | @beinganddying | @helixcentre

Louise Winter

Louise Winter is a writer and the founder of Poetic Endings – a modern funeral service offering ceremonies of style, substance, relevance and meaning. She’s also the editor of the Good Funeral Guide – the only independent resource that exists to help the public get the funeral they want.

Website: www.poetic-endings.com
@poetic_endings | Poetic Endings Facebook | Poetic Endings Instagram

John Troyer

Dr. John Troyer is the Director of the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath. His interdisciplinary research focuses on contemporary memorialisation practices, concepts of spatial historiography, and the dead body’s relationship with technology. Dr. Troyer is also a theatre director and installation artist with extensive experience in site-specific performance across the United States and Europe. He is a co-founder of the Death Reference Desk website (http://www.deathreferencedesk.org), the Future Cemetery Project (http://www.futurecemetery.org) and a frequent commentator for the BBC.

Website: www.bath.ac.uk/cdas
@DeathRef | @FutureCemetery | @CenDeathSociety

Dr Ros Taylor MBE DL

Ros is Clinical Director at Hospice UK. She combines her role at the charity with her work as a palliative doctor at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Fulham, London, one of the world’s leading specialist cancer treatment hospitals. Ros joined Hospice UK as a director in October 2014. Prior to that she had been a trustee at the charity since 2009 and was also the Director of the Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted, a position she held from 1996 until 2015. She has a special interest in medical education, medical humanities, ‘whole person care’ and has lectured widely, both nationally and internationally. Ros is also a Deputy Lieutenant in the County of Hertfordshire and was awarded an MBE for Services to Hospice Care in 2014.

Website: https://www.hospiceuk.org/
@hospicedoctor

Why do the Working Class find it hard to break into the publishing industry?  

In a recent interview, author Kit De Waal made headlines when she asked the question “Where Have All the Working Class Writers gone?  “What I don’t see in bookstores are stories that speak about my life, my experiences and see something about someone who came from a working class background”[i]

Hadrian Garrard, director of the arts organisation Create, has also warned “that the UK is in danger of returning to a pre-1950’s era when the arts were considered to be largely the preserve of the rich”[ii]Movements that gave the working class a voice, such as the “Angry Young Men[iii]  in the 1950s, including writers such as Kingsley Amis, Colin Wilson and John Osborne, are hard to come to by today. While the “anger and disillusionment with conformity and the conservative values” from that period in time remain to this day, systematic problems have  led to a culture that does not give voice to the disillusioned and disadvantaged. A recent survey by the University of Goldsmiths and Create found that “three-quarters of creative industry workers came from a middle class background.” 

In the ’70s, Government benefits gave many working class writers the opportunity to kick-start their career. Author Alan Warner has said that his time on the dole “absolutely formed me as a person. It gave me a haphazard literary education and it made me appreciate the incredible value of free time.” [iv]  Similarly, writer Geoff Dyer described his time on the benefits system in the 1980s, as “idyllic”. Providing support for writers, musicians and other artists may have been an unintentional side effect of the benefits system, however there was not the feeling of ‘cheating the system’ that there is today. A culture of Scrounger stigma’, brought on by shows like Benefit Street, has put “poor people off applying for essential benefits”. [v]  There seems to be a resentment of the poor, and even more so for the unemployed. For a work driven culture with a need for instant results, long form writing is not seen as a resourceful field. Monetary cuts, and changing societal views has led to the total disbandment of the idea you can be on benefits and develop towards becoming a writer.

Like the working world, the current education system has also become increasingly results and measurement driven. It favours grade results in pursuit of higher league table placements, summed up by the OCR board as “Too many exams and not enough education” [vi]Creativity is said to become one of the most important “skills for workers by 2020” [vii] , with the “creative industries being the fastest growing sector within the UK” [viii] yet schools are basing their education system around  Ebacc, a government programme that measures school performances only on results of the traditional and more ‘academic’ subjects. This has been linked to a “28% drop in the number of children choosing creative subjects”.[ix]

We are not encouraging enough children to go into the creative world at a young age, “60% of jobs are hidden behind connections” [x] and the little work experience that people get at a school age heavily focuses on traditional 9-5 jobs. Freedom of career choice is being severely limited for those unaware of the opportunities around them. Perhaps there is the feeling that the middle class will cover the gap the working class cannot get into, but by losing that voice, publishers are losing potential stories, markets, and interest.

There are many problems facing writers from lower class backgrounds, a big one being the balance between pursuing creative endeavours, while having to maintain the necessity of a working life. For Kit De Waal, it was only when “she was 45 and had adopted her second child” that the opportunity to take “writing seriously”[xi] became available. Financial woes have restricted the amount of ‘free-time’ people have, with “12.7 % of Britain working 50 plus hours a week”[xii]  in order to survive in the current climate of housing crisis, and rising rent. For the middle and upper class, this is less of an issue. Having the financial support of parents, or a partner, provides a base of a stability to write that the working class cannot afford. The problem was big enough for Kit De Waal to take personal action, by setting up her own  scholarship for an MA Writing degree, as she was keen to back someone who would not ordinarily think about taking a creative writing coursebut, outside of sparse opportunities like this, there is a clear lack of options for working class people wanting to become published writers.

De Waal has also recently led the production of an anthology of working class writers. Too often, working class writers find that the hurdles they have to leap are higher and harder to cross than for writers from more affluent backgrounds. ‘Common People’ will see writers who have made that leap reach back to give a helping hand to those coming up behind.” [xiii] What this and the scholarship provide are an immediate direct solution, but the broader issues remain embedded societally.

It’s hard to get noticed as a writer, and even harder to get signed by a publisher, so it would seem that self-publishing could be a solution for the working class writers who don’t have the connections within the industry. Unfortunately, this again goes back to the issue of ‘free-time’. While it may seem easier, self-publishing requires the knowledge of editing, EBook formatting, print design, printing and all the other processes that publishers typically handle. In the case of self-publishing, these would either have to be self-taught, or out-sourced for a fee. Plus with “786,935 titles being issued to self-publishing in 2016” [xiv] alone, writers face an “uphill battle to gain the credibility for work” [xv] within an incredibly large market.

Working class writers need space to breath, to make mistakes, to take the kind of chances that the middle and upper classes can. As stated earlier, the arts continue to grow in importance for the British economy, writing is potentially a viable career, and, while from the economic point of view of those at the top it makes no immediate difference whether a writer is working class or not, choosing not to help the disenfranchised will have consequences in the long run. People want stories they can relate to, they will want working class stories, and while writers from the outside could do this, that genuine perspective will be lost. Kit De Waal is doing a great thing by providing a helping hand to working class writers, but it’s time for the government, and the rest of the publishing industry to follow suite. By choosing not to nurture the creativity of the young and the poor, we are setting up a narrow field within the arts.

 

[i]  “Where Are All the Working Class Writers? – BBC Radio 4.” n.d. BBC. . http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09fzmjt.

[ii] Ellis-Petersen, Hannah. 2015. “Middle Class People Dominate Arts, Survey Finds.” The Guardian. November 23, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/nov/23/middle-class-people-dominate-arts-survey-finds.

[iii] “The 1950s: English Literature’s Angry Decade.” n.d. The British Library. Accessed March 2, 2018. https://www.bl.uk/20th-century-literature/articles/the-1950s-english-literatures-angry-decade.

[iv] Dyer, Geoff, A. L. Kennedy, Kerry Hudson, Alan Warner, Lemn Sissay, and Chris Killen. 2015. “Gissa Job! Writers on the Dole.” The Guardian. August 1, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/aug/01/writers-recall-time-dole-unemployment-benefits.

[v] Ramesh, Randeep. 2012. “‘Scrounger’ Stigma Puts Poor People off Applying for Essential Benefits.” The Guardian. November 20, 2012. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/nov/20/scrounger-stigma-poor-people-benefits.

[vi] “[No Title].” n.d. Accessed March 2, 2018. http://www.cambridgeassessment.org.uk/Images/140057-achieve-autumn-11.pdf.

[vii] “Website.” n.d. Accessed March 13, 2018. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-10-skills-you-need-to-thrive-in-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/.

[viii] Kampfner, John. 2017. “Creative Industries Are Key to UK Economy.” The Guardian. January 1, 2017. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/01/creative-industries-key-to-uk-economy.

[ix] “GCSE Results Announced Today See a Continuing Free Fall in Arts Subject Entries.” 2017. Cultural Learning Alliance. August 24, 2017. https://culturallearningalliance.org.uk/gcse-results-announced-today-see-a-continuing-free-fall-in-arts-subject-entries/.

[x] “How to Find Unadvertised Jobs.” 2012. The Guardian. November 23, 2012. http://www.theguardian.com/careers/careers-blog/how-to-find-unadvertised-jobs.

[xi] Foster, Dawn. 2016. “Kit de Waal: ‘Working-Class Stories Need to Be Told’ | Dawn Foster.” The Guardian. February 3, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/03/kit-de-waal-working-class-stories-need-to-be-told.

[xii] Cary, Peter. 2017. “A Landmark Report Just Made It Clear How Bad British People Have It.” The Independent. November 15, 2017. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/british-workers-longer-hours-lower-pay-expensive-housing-oecd-developed-nations-uk-comparisons-a8055736.html.

[xiii] (“Common People: An Anthology of Working Class Writers by Kit de Waal (editor) on Unbound” n.d.)

[xiv] “Self-Published ISBNs Hit 786,935 in 2016.” n.d. PublishersWeekly.com. Accessed March 2, 2018. https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/manufacturing/article/75139-self-published-isbns-hit-786-935-in-2016.html.

[xv] “The Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing.” n.d. Accessed March 2, 2018. http://bookmarketingtools.com/blog/the-pros-and-cons-of-self-publishing/.

How the representation of disability in screen media is subverting expectations.

It’s said that “One of Five” [i] of the British population suffer from some type of disability, yet flicking through your television, you’d struggle to see this represented. It’s not that there’s a lack of disabled stories being told in screen entertainment. In the past year alone, there’s Stronger (2017) with Jake Gyllenhaal and Breathe (2017) with Andrew Garfield. They tell remarkable real life stories of inspiring disabled people, but what they don’t do, is feature people who actually have a disability. As playwright Christoper Shinn bluntly puts it, Pop culture’s more interested in disability as a metaphor than in disability as something that happens to real people”. [ii]

In Hollywood, portraying a disabled character is a sign of triumph and skill for able bodied performers. It’s a complex situation; we need more disabled characters on screen, but sometimes the only way these stories can be told is with a big-name, non-disabled actor to draw people in. Change it seems, will instead come from outside the mainstream, and that is what director Len Collin and writer Christian O’Reilly are aiming to do with their feature film Sanctuary (2016). Opting for the relatable over the spectacle, the film tells the fictional tale of the growing relationship between Larry and Sophie, who are played by actors with intellectual disability. While the film could perhaps be seen as a response the law in Ireland that prevented “people with an intellectual disability in Ireland banned from having sex”[iii] (since repealed), it’s not the focus of the narrative. The conversations throughout are mostly mundane, as they discuss love, life and television. Sometimes it veers into darker directions, such as suicide, but empathy never seems to be the emotion the film looks for. Opting for a restrained narrative in comparison to a more expected sermonising tone allows the characters, and in turn the intellectual disabled actors showcase a more, personable and individual side to disability on film.

The biggest success of the film is how it reaches an audience with a story that normalizes disability as part of regular life, and nothing is doing this on as large a scale as a recent commercial campaign for the Mars Chocolate, Maltesers. The advert portrays three women having chat, with one of them happening to have a disability. A joke is made that involves a mention of her cerebral palsy but, rather than being crude or disrespectful, it’s presented in a ‘regular life’ kind of way. Another advert that is part of the campaign has a character in a wheelchair telling the story of how she accidentally runs over the bride’s foot at a wedding. The adverts were hugely successful for the Mars Chocolate, in which the company stated it was the “most successful in decade…..Maltesers achieved an 8.1% uplift compared  to the target of  4%” [i]. The success and importance of the campaign cannot be understated when “an average broadcast TV campaign in the UK gets 237 million views[iv]. It places the focus on the disabled character, but never on the disability, opting instead for a sense of normality, allowing the relatable side to be a focus of the campaign.

The equal representation of disability has yet to reach all aspects of screen media, but there are growing efforts to change this. Chief marketing and communications officer of Channel 4 Dan Brooke has spoke up in the past about how The creative industries can lead the way on inclusivity for disabled people”[v] . He wants to make Channel 4 “the vanguard for change”, pointing to shows like “the Paralympics, The Autistic Gardener and The Undateables”. It’s not just disabled focused shows either, with “C4 News guest hosting disabled announcers”[vi]  and a “paralysed man hosting an episode of “Come Dine With Me[vii] . There is also the comedian Francesca Martinez, who, as she puts its “wobbled out of the disability closet” and used stand up comedy to find a way to “speak honestly about who I was”. Francesca has featured on shows like ‘The Wright Stuff’, ‘The Jonathan Ross Show’ and ‘Loose Women’, not just as a disabled person, but as a comedian who happens to have a disability.

The arts can be powerful tool in awareness, and when “Two thirds (67%) of the British public feel uncomfortable talking to disabled people”, andOver a third (36%) tending to think of disabled people as not productive as everyone else[viii] , an education is sorely needed. Perhaps there’s no harm in seeing an able bodied actor like Daniel Day-Lewis portray a disabled character, but when he then goes and walks onto the stage to accept an award for that, there is a clear sense of dissonance created. Instead, it would better serve to follow the path of success that maltesers found with their advertising campaign and begin to represent disability as the everyday reality that it is.

[i] Maltesers’ disability campaign “most successful” in decade [Internet]. [cited 2018 Jan 12]. Available from: https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/maltesers-disability-campaign-most-successful-decade/1433980

[ii] Shinn C. Dear Hollywood: Disability Is Not Just a Metaphor [Internet]. The Atlantic. 2014 [cited 2018 Feb 16]. Available from: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/07/why-disabled-characters-are-never-played-by-disabled-actors/374822/

[iii]  Change in law removes illegal status around sexual relationships for people with intellectual disabilities [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2018 Feb 16]. Available from: http://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/change-in-law-removes-illegal-status-around-sexual-relationships-for-people-with-intellectual-disabilities-789721.html

[iv] £5.28 billion invested in TV advertising in UK in 2016 [Internet]. thinkbox. [cited 2018 Jan 12]. Available from: https://www.thinkbox.tv/News-and-opinion/Newsroom/5-28-billion-pounds-invested-in-TV-advertising-in-2016

[v] The creative industries can lead the way on inclusivity for disabled people [Internet]. [cited 2018 Feb 16]. Available from: https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/creative-industries-lead-inclusivity-disabled-people/1445774

[vi] Disabled guest announcers take control of Channel 4’s continuity mics – Channel 4 – Info – Press [Internet]. [cited 2018 Feb 16]. Available from: http://www.channel4.com/info/press/news/disabled-guest-announcers-take-control-of-channel-4s-continuity-mics

[vii] Disabled guest announcers take control of Channel 4’s continuity mics – Channel 4 – Info – Press [Internet]. [cited 2018 Feb 16]. Available from: http://www.channel4.com/info/press/news/disabled-guest-announcers-take-control-of-channel-4s-continuity-mics(Gilbert )

[viii] Most Brits uncomfortable talking to disabled people | Disability charity Scope UK [Internet]. [cited 2018 Feb 16]. Available from: https://www.scope.org.uk/About-Us/Media/Press-releases/May-2014/New-research-Majority-of-Brits-uncomfortable-talki

Home Media Insights: The Changing Landscape of Filmed Entertainment

The 17th January 2018, saw the launch event for two books providing a critical perspective on the recent history of home media distribution:  Cult Media: Re-Packaged, Re-Released and Restored and DVD, Blu-Ray & Beyond: Navigating Formats and Platforms Within Media Consumption, both edited by Jonathan Wroot, Lecturer here at the University of Greenwich, and Andy Willis.

Meanwhile guest speaker Robert Price, Managing Director for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Chairman of the British Association for Screen Entertainment (BASE) was there to give an insight into what the future might hold for the home entertainment market.

Here are three key points that stood out from his talk:

The popularity of the movies is not in decline.

 One of Robert’s main points was that content is driven by customer demand, and the large number of content available proves that there has been a growth in cultural significance for movies. In the UK, “£4.1 billion is spent on watching films every year”, over “£77 per person”, and within this, the home entertainment market was worth “£2.7 billion in 2017” an increase of “7.5% from 2016”. It’s said that the average buyer spends £99 on home entertainment a year.

The growing importance of the foreign market was highlighted throughout the talk. “Fox now distributes to over 130 countries Worldwide”, and the global theatrical box office took in an insane, “£39.9bn”, up “3%” from 2016. Franchises are being propelled by the global market, with the Transformers films being “kept alive by the high numbers in the Chinese box-office”; it’s estimated that between 2016-2021, the Chinese movie market is expected to grow by “68.5%”.

Above all, the way we interact with movies on a social level is the driving force for commercial success. Robert stated that a past 21st Century Fox release, Deadpool (2016), was partly made due to the highly positive response that leaked test footage received online, spurring it into production. Along the same lines, he added that “movies create a constant stream of conversation and consumption”, with the recent release of the Avengers Infinity War trailer prompting “1.45 million conversations on social media” for a film that does not release until April.

It’s clear that digital has changed the way we consume content

The relationship between digital and film does not just end at the social level, but has also remodelled the way we consume entertainment. The power of Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming services has continued to rise in recent years, partly due to the fact that they operate via distribution methods that differ to the studio strategy of old. They don’t have to follow the standard 5-year release window, as all their content is made available on the service, giving them an edge on distribution. Having new content available instantly and constantly is a major incentive for customers. The combined number of paying subscribers (Netflix, Amazon and Now TV) for October 2017 is “10.8 million”, up from “9.5million” in October 2016.

Netflix’s original content is increasing more and more, but while this has led to “quality exclusives”, the overall library of third party content is considered by many to be “poor”, leading to the “number one reason people cancel Netflix” being that “they ran out of things they wanted to watch”. Studios, like Fox are pulling content from third-party streaming platforms (see link for more info: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/25/foxs-fx-could-pull-more-shows-off-of-netflix-amazon-and-onto-fx.html) so, since for the customers “content is still king”, Netflix have upped the number of their own productions.

It’s estimated that the annual video content budget for Netflix is “£4.4 billion”, with Amazon operating in a similar fashion with a “£3.3 billion” budget. These are not the only contenders, as Apple have begun to dip their toe in original content production, with it being said their current budget is “£0.7 billion – a figure that will surely rise. Netflix has changed from a streaming platform to a full-blown competitor for the major studios, and Robert added that he feels that “It’s almost inevitable that Netflix will soon be in every home.”

 

Home Entertainment has “powered the Hollywood economic model”, but this way of work is “under attack” from the rise of digital.  2017 marked the first time that digital sales overtook physical in the UK home entertainment market. We can attribute this shift to the fact that “there is new content everywhere“, with an “explosion” of devices creating “access ubiquity”. Movies are now watched on “36% of televisions”, but “89% of computers, 42% of games consoles and 58% of iPads”. The digital streaming market will only continue to rise ; in 2013, “digital subscriptions made up 7% of home entertainment sales.” In 2017, this figure is up to “32%”.

So Hollywood will have to change…

While change has been hard to receive, it is not proving detrimental to the market as a whole. Fox reported that digital has grown from “10%” of home entertainment revenue to “60%”, but the overall market has yet to suffer, with the UK’s filmed entertainment “£4.8billion” value in 2016, showing an increase from 2014’s figure of £3.8 billion”. The big studios aren’t retreating from increasingly powerful streaming services, but instead are welcoming the challenge.

With the Fox/Disney deal still fresh in the news, a lot of the discussion centered around the potential danger this could bring to the film industry, Robert was positive about the deal, and stated how it was “driven by scalability”. There is a need for “more content and more outlets of revenue”, and with that being said, the smaller avenues like “Fox Searchlight” should not be facing consequences as a result of the deal, and could perhaps even increase their output, as it provides Disney with a new audience.

(See link for more information on Disney’s plan for their streaming service: http://deadline.com/2018/02/disney-streaming-service-launch-slate-star-wars-marvel-1202281846/)

In fact Robert highlighted the potential danger of the “tent pole” release strategy, that tends to put too much focus on the blockbuster films, an example being that “The Last Jedi”( 2017), while successful made less money than previous release, “The Force Awakens” (2015). The point Robert kept returning to was the importance of delivering content that people want. Failure won’t come from piracy or streaming but from a lack of engagement with the consensus of the audience.

 

Should the Film Industry implement the ‘Rooney Rule’?

The Creative industry continues to have a problem when it comes to hiring minorities and women  for top tier positions. “Now is the time for action” [i] is the rallying cry from a lead author of the report, “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair?” [ii] What this action should be, however, is harder to define. Perhaps the best solution could come from a different industry, namely the NFL’s ‘Rooney Rule’.

The National Football League’s ‘Rooney Rule’, named after former chairman of the league’s diversity committee, Dan Rooney, is the policy that requires league teams to interview minority candidates for heading coaching roles. It was implemented in 2003, after the controversial firing of two black coaches. The policy was used to make sure minority coaches, who may not have been considered before, were given a chance in a high coaching role. Many have cited its success, pointing to the fact that between 1992 to 2002, less than 10% of coaches were minorities, but in its first decade this figure has risen to about 20%” [iii]. Since then, other companies have begun to implement the rule as a means of combating diversity issues. The Football Association confirmed “that it will enforce the ‘Rooney Rule’ when selecting future coaching roles within the England set-up” [iv] Outside sport, companies like Facebook, Patreon and Pinterest have highlighted the ‘Rooney Rule’ as influencing their hiring policy. “It’s been very well received, and there are strong lead indicators of its effectiveness” [v], Maxine Williams, Facebook’s global head of diversity said, adding that the rule has slowed down the hiring rate, but that “it builds the habit of looking longer, looking harder”.

Perhaps the film industry could benefit from implementing the policy when hiring directors and writers? The ‘Rooney Rule’ was originally created for a job role that only hires men, but the idea could be changed to implement women into the policy. Aaron Mendelsohn, secretary-treasurer of the Writers Guild of America West has suggested just that “It should be mandatory that at least one female writer and one writer of colour be interviewed for open writing assignments….. In sports it’s called the ‘Rooney Rule.’ In screenwriting it’s called ‘smart hiring” [vi].  Figures show that in “1989, 25% of the writers on television series were women”, yet in 2016 it was “29%, rising just four points”.[vi] Diversity needs to be more than just ‘filling a quota’, as Francesca Butler, WGAW board candidate added We need to do away with the idea that diversity is hiring one woman or non-white writer and calling it a day”.The Great Diversity Experiment” [vii] , which uses practical social experiments in an effort to prove that diversity leads to better results, highlighted the ‘Rooney Rule’ as one of five steps the creative industries can take to change the industry.

“Look harder, further and accept that often a round peg in a square hole is a good thing.. – the ‘Rooney Rule.'” [viii]  The ‘Rooney Rule’ can make it so that writing rooms are open to hiring more than one woman or minority. Rather than fulfilling a quota and moving on, the ‘Rooney Rule’ means that diverse candidates are being looked at constantly and hiring rates will improve.

There have been multiple cases of now big-name women and minority film directors who have struggled for years to gain funding and jobs. In 2017, Patty Jenkins directed Wonder Woman (2017), which released to worldwide acclaim and broke the record for the “highest-grossing film directed by a woman” [ix]. Her last film before this was also her debut, Monster (2003). Despite Monster earning $60 million from a $8 million budget, winning Academy Awards, and being hailed as the ‘best film of the year’ by various critics, Patty Jenkins struggled to make another picture. Jenkins “met with Warner Brothers right after making Monster wanting to make Wonder Woman”, but instead spent the decade “working on films that never came to fruition” [x], before moving on to TV. Some directors are never able to get going again, such as Julie Dash after her 1991 independent film, Daughters of the Dust (1991). The film was critically acclaimed across the board, but Dash was unable to get another film financed. “I pitched to every existing studio out there and every mini-major from A to Z,” [xi], recalled Dash. She was even unable to get an agent following the film’s release. The ‘Rooney Rule’ could go some way towards solving the problem of talented filmmakers feeling left behind. Sometimes a successful film isn’t enough, you need connections, and the policy could serve as a bridge between studios and minority and female directors.

The ‘Rooney Rule’ has, however, come under wide criticism, with the success of the rule being heavily debated. After the English Football Association’s introduction of the rule, there were complaints from black coaches, saying they “didn’t want to be interviewed to fill a quota” [xii]. There was also a case in 2003, when the Detroit Lions “hired a white coach without fulfilling the ‘Rooney Rule’” [xiii] , but they fought this, saying that they only interviewed, and wanted one man in the first place. If implemented into the film industry, there are sure to be similar problems. Adam Moore, Associate Affirmative Action and Diversity Director for the Screen Actors Guild was sceptical of the rule being introduced into the film industry. When asked whether the ‘Rooney Rule’ being used at an executive level could encourage the major studios to hire more women and people of colour, he replied, “I don’t know how much stock I put into the familiarity leading to actual jobs argument,”, adding that the ‘Rooney Rule’ applies to high-ranking NFL jobs, not to the players themselves[xiv].

The idea does seem however to have some merit to it and could potentially go some way to solving diversity issues, especially for writers, directors and executives. Perhaps it would serve best as a guideline, or a recommendation, rather than a binding rule that studios have to legally follow. There may be only be one director the studio may want to hire, like Disney with JJ Abrams and The Force Awakens (2015), so they should not have to interview just to fulfil a rule. But if Disney are planning a new film without any director or writer attached, the ‘Rooney Rule’ could be implemented, and may even introduce them to a talented minority or female director. It makes the studios realise that the talent is there, and even if they do not hire them straight away, it puts the under represented filmmakers into a conversation they previously weren’t a part of. The ‘Rooney Rule’ isn’t meant to create replacements for existing options, but instead to show that there are other ones available. It may make the process of hiring more demanding, but the results can be beneficial for the industry at all levels.

[i] Jagannathan M. The pool of Hollywood film directors is still alarmingly white and male [Internet].. 2018 [cited 2018 Jan 22]. Available from: https://moneyish.com/ish/the-pool-of-hollywood-film-directors-is-still-alarmingly-white-and-male/

[ii] [No title] [Internet]. [cited 2018 Jan 22]. Available from: http://assets.uscannenberg.org/docs/inclusion-in-the-directors-chair-2007-2017.pdf

[iii] Zarya V. Why is the “Rooney Rule” suddenly tech’s answer to hiring more women? [Internet]. Fortune. [cited 2018 Jan 19]. Available from: http://fortune.com/2015/08/10/rooney-rule-diversity-in-tech/

[iv] Staff S. What is the Rooney Rule and how will it affect English football? [Internet]. The Independent. 2018 [cited 2018 Jan 19]. Available from: http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/rooney-rule-what-is-how-nfl-england-football-managers-pick-bame-coach-fa-martin-glenn-a8150056.html

[v] Feloni R. Facebook is using the same approach the NFL took to increase diversity in the league [Internet]. Business Insider. 2016 [cited 2018 Jan 19]. Available from: http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-is-using-the-rooney-rule-to-increase-diversity-2016-1

[vi] Robb D. WGA West Election: “Rooney Rule” Proposed As Diversity Takes Center Stage [Internet]. Deadline. 2017 [cited 2018 Jan 19]. Available from: http://deadline.com/2017/09/wga-west-election-diversity-rooney-rule-proposed-1202162045/

[vii] [No title] [Internet]. [cited 2018 Jan 22]. Available from: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/59ffde_297b52eab73c4c29a430f3d21c7d3a22.pdf

[viii] [No title] [Internet]. [cited 2018 Jan 22]. Available from: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/59ffde_297b52eab73c4c29a430f3d21c7d3a22.pdf

[ix] Stefansky E. Wonder Woman Is the Highest-Grossing Live-Action Female-Directed Film in the World [Internet]. HWD. Vanity Fair; 2017 [cited 2018 Jan 19]. Available from: https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/06/wonder-woman-highest-worldwide-gross-female-director

[x] Patty Jenkins as T to RF. “Wonder Woman” Director Patty Jenkins: How to Make a Female Heroine “Vulnerable,” But Not “Lesser in Any Way” [Internet]. The Hollywood Reporter. 2016 [cited 2018 Jan 19]. Available from: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/wonder-woman-director-patty-jenkins-how-make-a-female-heroine-vulnerable-but-not-lesser-any-w

[xi] Buckley C. Julie Dash Made a Movie. Then Hollywood Shut Her Out. NY Times [Internet]. 2016 Nov 18 [cited 2018 Jan 19]; Available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/movies/julie-dash-daughters-of-the-dust.html

[xii] Edwards L. Ipswich Town coaches Kieron Dyer and Titus Bramble slam “Rooney Rule” [Internet]. Telegraph.co.uk. 2014 [cited 2018 Jan 19]. Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/11224598/Ipswich-Town-coaches-Kieron-Dyer-and-Titus-Bramble-slam-Rooney-Rule.html

[xiii] Sichel J. NFL Investigates Oakland Raiders: May Have Hired White Head Coach Before Interviewing Black One [Internet]. Daily Wire. The Daily Wire; 2018 [cited 2018 Jan 19]. Available from: https://www.dailywire.com/news/25763/nfl-investigates-oakland-raiders-may-have-hired-jared-sichel

[xiv] Rosenberg BA. How Hollywood stays white and male [Internet]. Washington Post. The Washington Post; 2015 [cited 2018 Jan 19]. Available from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/act-four/wp/2015/05/14/how-hollywood-stays-white-and-male/

How can creative businesses be both ethical and profitable?

The relationship between cultural value and economic value lies at the heart of the creative industries and is crucial to the lives and work of every artist and creative practitioner. The value that creative businesses aim to create is not only financial, but also cultural and social and they are often motivated by strong ethics. This has a significant effect on how they function as businesses.

It is however a complex and varied relationship, much contested and, perhaps, often misunderstood. David Throsby attempted a thorough examination of this relationship in Economics and Culture.[1] It is also central to more recent research carried out by NESTA[2]  and the AHRC [3] .  Such enquiries and analyses have begun to develop a more expansive and richer language and set of concepts for thinking and talking about the connection between cultural and economic value. Our discussion panel ‘How Can Creative Businesses be both Ethical and Profitable?’ (University of Greenwich, 3/5/17) sought to contribute to this ongoing discussion, with a particular focus on social value, understanding the latter to constitute an important form of cultural value.

The three contributors to the panel each occupy a particular position with regard to cultural and economic value:

Sheeza Ahmed Shah is the co-founder of The Up Effect, a crowd funding platform for social enterprises. Before they accept a business onto their platform, The Up Effect staff scrutinize its business and social impact plans to determine whether they are mutually supportive and add up to a coherent package. They are looking for businesses with a clear social purpose, which also have a viable and scaleable revenue model. Sheeza is clear that social impact is only achievable and sustainable to the extent that a company can make money and grow.

Seva Phillips manages NESTA’s Arts Impact Fund, which supports cultural organisations in developing their social aims and making sure that the cultural value that they create has social impact. Seva stressed that, to be successful in this endeavour, organisations need to be clear about motivation – why they want to achieve a social impact in the first place, outcomes – what exactly the change is that they want to achieve, and accountability – how they will evaluate whether they have achieved these outcomes.

Florence Magee is Head of Artist Development at SPACE and Programme Manager of the London Creative Network. Her role is to help individual content creators, such as artists, photographers and crafts people, to strengthen the sustainability and increase the capacity of their businesses. The majority of people she works with do not currently make a living from their creative practice alone, but sustain it financially through income from other work. Sustainability and growth in this context mean helping people to maintain their arts practice and to develop its profile, but not necessarily to derive their main income from it.

Our panel thus represented a broad spectrum with regard to the aims, objectives and context of cultural production with a social purpose and it became clear that certain aspects of business and creative production mean different things in different contexts. While Sheeza’s platform helps companies to grow in terms of scaleability and expanding their size and customer reach, for the individual cultural content makers that Florence works with, growth does not so much mean expanding the size of the company (many of her clients are sole traders) as increasing the cultural value of their work – in terms of their profile, the venues in which they exhibit, the publications in which they publish and so on. This increase in cultural value, she points out, is what will increase financial value. Furthermore, while the companies who crowd fund on The Up Effect explicitly define themselves as social enterprises, most of the practitioners who Florence works with would not categorise their practice as having a social purpose, despite the fact that ethics and politics may deeply motivate their work and how they approach it. Their values may be embodied and expressed in their work but they would not generally produce a specific plan for the social impact of their work. Social value is likely to be implicit rather than explicit.

At the same time, Seva pointed out, ethics is becoming something that consumers and audiences want to buy into. Ecological sustainability, fair trade and employment practices and social activism have the potential to translate into financial value and to be advantageous to a company in the marketplace. Large corporations are as aware of this as are social purpose startups. This is why Bank of America Merrill Lynch are investors in NESTA’s Social Impact Fund.

Both Seva and Sheeza stressed that social enterprise is in fact becoming a crowded market and it is vital that part of the social impact that a social purpose company achieves is to tell its story effectively and to make this story a central part of its brand. At the same time, this story needs to genuinely reflect the core mission of the company, not be simply a marketing strategy. This is not easy to get right and is something that large corporations often get wrong in social media campaigns, as Colette Henry recounted in a previous Creative Conversation. There are, in general, some obvious pitfalls inherent in the monetization of social value and care must be taken to get the balance right.

Another issue that arose in discussion was the lack of equitable reward structures to encourage the development, sharing and exploitation of original and innovative ideas. Creativity and innovation are buzzwords in contemporary culture, not only in the creative arts, but in government and across all business sectors. However, it is often the case that, while artists and other innovators generate cultural and social value through new ideas and practices, the financial value is realized by other agencies, which have the resources to scale up and monetise these ideas. Sometimes this may be the result of a fruitful and equitable partnership, but, as ideas are not in themselves protectable intellectual property, this is often not the case.

Some Conclusions and Further Questions

As expected, the wide ranging discussion threw up more questions than it answered. Social impact has clearly become a central focus for discussions about the relationship between cultural and economic value. At its most basic level, this is because evidence of social impact has become something that customers will pay for, making it an easily identifiable and measurable signifier of the correlation between economic and cultural value. This is largely a positive development. Adam Arvidsson has written about the way that businesses may become more and more dependent on ‘productive consumer publics’ for their value in the marketplace, giving such publics the power to ‘set the values that are attributed to consumer brands.’ [4]

However, if ‘economic impact, often defined more narrowly than conventionally understood by economists, has become the principal way for proponents of arts and culture to argue its economic importance,’ [5] so too the application of too narrow a definition of social impact and/or an overemphasis on its monetisation or cost effectiveness (an important consideration with regard to the introduction of the Public Services Social Value Act) would be unhelpful. This would have the effect of straitjacketing, rather than developing and encouraging creative and social practice.

At the same time, the prevalence of discussion around community interest, social purpose and social impact could and should encourage creative practitioners and businesses to think more about how relevant this might be to what they do. Many creative practitioners and companies may not immediately think of themselves in these terms, but, on reflection, might find that they do operate according to strong ethics and are creating social value or have the potential to do so. Building this more explicitly into their strategy could help their business and the local and wider communities of which they are part.

Questions that seem particularly pertinent to explore further, with regard to how creative enterprises might practically develop their cultural, social and financial value, include:

    • Cultural content producers tend to channel creativity and develop original ideas at the level of content, while pursuing traditional business models for their sector, e.g seeking public funding, focusing on increasing the cultural value of their work through existing institutional frameworks. Should they perhaps also be focusing on developing original and creative approaches to their business model itself? If so, what might these be?
    • What more equitable reward structures might be developed to encourage the development, sharing and exploitation of original and innovative ideas? How might artists and other creative practitioners develop forms of expression for early stage ideas and creative practices that give them a status as cultural assets with a definable and tradable value?
    • Crowd funding is an example of how digital technologies can be used to catalyze and motivate users to come together to form a customer base that is simultaneously a community. What other ways might there be to achieve a scalable convergence of market place and community ? For example, a multitude of online hosting platforms exist – for websites, video, audio, designs, online stores etc. – to facilitate marketing and distribution of creative work. To what extent are these helping creatives to create viable businesses? Where are the opportunities for increasing cultural and social impact and profit? How might such approaches perhaps address the two questions above?

[1] Throsby, D, Economics and Culture, C.U.P 2001

[2] Bakhshi, H, Measuring Cultural Value, NESTA 2012

[3] Crossick, G & Kaszynska, P, Understanding The Value of Arts and Culture, AHRC 2016

[4] Arvidsson, A, ephemera: theory & politics in organization, Volume 13(2): 367-391, 2013

[5] Crossick, G & Kaszynska, P, Understanding The Value of Arts and Culture, AHRC 2016

 

Screentest Festival: Freelance Panel

March 10th & 11th 2017 saw the UK’s national student film festival; Screentest host a weekend of film screenings, panels and workshops at the University of Greenwich Stockwell Street building. For students wanting to get into the film festival circuit Screentest is a valuable event.

During the weekend, Screentest hosted a Freelance panel which involved four young freelancers from various aspects of filmmaking discussing their personal experiences as freelancers in today’s film industry.

Panellists:
Taz Fairbanks (@tazfairbanks) Freelance Location Sound Recordist and Boom Operator
Zak Harney (@zakharney) Freelance Director and Assistant Director
Ciaran Obrien (@ciaranobrien) Freelance Director of Photography
Zoe Alker (@zoealker) Freelance Director and Writer

Top Tips for Being Freelance:
Although the following tips revolve around freelancing in the film and television industries, the advice can be applied to other professions in the creative industries.

  • As a freelancer you need to be a person who isn’t satisfied with a nine-to-five job. The hours will be long and you won’t get typical holidays or a specific amount of working hours a week. You will be flexible, able to work early mornings, late nights and weekends.
  • Don’t be afraid to try your luck when it comes to making contacts and working on a particular project. Make sure you call [a production company etc.] and talk to the person you want to work with. It is better than letting your email get stuck in an unread inbox.
  • It takes sacrifice and determination to be a freelancer but there is a potential to have a very rewarding career.
  • Don’t be afraid to sell yourself as a service. Make sure to tell people what is great about you and specifically say what you can provide if you work for them.
  • Figure out your day rate and stick to it. When you are studying, it is a great time to get work experience and learn technical skills. However once you have graduated and possibly have begun to invest in your own kit, it is time to figure out how much you are worth so you don’t get exploited! If you are using your own kit for a shoot, make sure you are charging for the use of your kit on top of charging for your working hours you will be putting in. Remember that kit would cost a certain amount from a kit hire facility so look into their rates and bare this in mind when working out your day rate.
  • Face to face interaction is very important as busy working professionals don’t get time to look at their emails all of the time, so ensure you make an impression on people when you can. A way to do this could be by supporting fellow filmmakers at industry events or getting involved with local events and projects. If you go out of your way to support people, it won’t go unnoticed. Supporting projects, events and people is a great way of networking too. You are more likely to be remembered if you meet and talk to people rather than emailing or calling.
  • Value your own work. Enjoy what you do and take pride in your work.
  • Don’t let people expect you to work for free. Working for passion projects may be an exception but consider how much time you can allow to give up for free before making commitments.
  • Don’t underestimate yourself. Respect your own technical skills and talent. Use your instinct when making business decisions.

How Should We Publish Our Research?

The Creative Conversations Project has been hosting events & panel discussion since 2015 and have decided to publish a series of books based on our findings. Our first publication will be a curated collection of articles expanding upon our research into The New Space of Publishing, which we aim to bring out this summer. One concern for the publication began to take the full attention of the team, how do we disseminate our research to the widest possible audience? To answer this question I composed a mini-project entitled Digitising Academic Publishing, which aims to:

  • Understand the best way Creative Conversations can publish our findings.
  • Contrast traditional and contemporary publishing models to provide a comprehensive understanding of the market.
  • Identify key milestones in the history of academic publishing.
  • Better understand the future of digital academic publishing.

Our publication will take two forms: a physical print (limited print run), which will allow us to explore & understand the particular logistics and aesthetics involved in producing a book as a physical commodity. From this we will gather first hand insight into traditional academic publishing models. The findings will also be published and distributed online allowing us to explore the advent of digital & hybrid publishing models, self-publishing & distribution, as well as digital design & formatting. Publishing online will also present new challenges when trying to reach the widest possible audience.

What Is Academic Publishing?

Academic publishing is the field of publishing which distributes academic findings and research. This can be done in a number of ways (for full description see the appendix at the bottom of the page).

The purpose of academic publishing is attributed to its conception. Now over 350 years old the first academic journals, The Royal Society of London’s Philosophical Transactions and the French published Journal des Sçavans aimed to capitalise and document the scientific revolution that was occurring[1]. The widespread dissemination of knowledge provided the foundation for the industrial revolution and widespread growth, fueling the overall keen interest in science, history and the arts, that preceded it.

Modern academic publishing provides much the same purpose, allowing for the growth and continued development of learned professions. However, publishing increasingly has become a symbol of status for academics. Those with a higher publishing status considered themselves to be more academically viable. This problem has seen a recent spike in journal subscription costs[2].

The Big Five?

Within any capitalist market, the reliance on continued growth and prolonged market sustainability eventually leads to dominant market powers who consist of huge conglomerates. The big five in international academic publishing are Reed Elsevier, Springer Science+Business Media, Wiley-Blackwell, Taylor & Francis, and Sage, which now control over 50% of the academic markets, with some publishers owning up to 70% of specified academic areas as of 2015[3].  In contrast, in 1973, market share of the five largest publishers was only about 20 percent. Open access was proposed as early as 1994[4] as an attempt to prevent this oligopoly, but was not immediately implemented. The ensuing result was that journal prices increased substantially and, since research institutes required access to multiple subscription services, poorer academic institutes were priced out[5].

The creation of market dominance has occurred in similar fashion to the music[6] and commercial publishing markets[7]. The sudden drop of physical consumption of academic journals in favour of digital publications caused the market to restructure and those able to offer subscription services prevail. This, twinned with a boom in research institutes and outputs, saw prices increase six fold since 1990[8]. However, a 2012 article argued that the statistics were inaccurate with regards to the rising costs of publications, due to the changing dynamic of sales within the market[9]. The article provided key areas to consider when identifying if publishing costs are really increasing at such a rate:

  • Purchasing Patterns – The application of subscription services and how these will be affected by fair usage.
  • Price Per Journal – The Increase of one journal adjusted for inflation.
  • Cost Per Article Download – Globally an article cost £0.70 in 2008[10].
  • Growth in Content – In 1990 there were 16,000 academic journals, and 26,000 by 2010[11].
  • Growth in Research – Ever increasing funding for research outputs.
  • Growth in Usage – In 2011 the number of cited references per article in major scientific disciplines had gone up by 1/3 to 1/2 from 1990[12].

Similar to the music and commercial publishing markets, the digitisation of articles has left the commodity worthless, while access to a large collection of articles is of great value. The push will leave article reservoirs to continue to grow in significance as the market overall continues to stutter.

The Future?

Regardless of the current state of the academic publishing market, the recent application of Open Access in the UK has seen a sudden opening up of the market with the introduction of new university presses and legitimately ranked self-publishing platforms. We have seen a resurgence in independent market control and competition.

Things we’ve covered:

  • The different types of academic publishing models.
  • The importance of academic journals to human development.
  • The effects of dominance in the academic publishing market.
  • How information reservoirs will become more significant.

http://blogs.gre.ac.uk/creativeconversations/2017/03/09/introduction-two-new-mini-projects/

 

Appendix – Types of Academic Outputs


Monographs:

A study of a single specialised subject or aspect of it – usually highly detailed on a limited area of a subject or field of enquiry.

Research Papers:

A written record of insight into a particular academic discipline. Research papers follow strict formatting. They rely on the referencing of other papers, books or original source materials.

Academic Journals:

A specific area publication intended for professionals. Usually compromised of multiple writings from several academics, they are published regularly and are regarded as one of the main sources of authority in academia. The academic journal was created to help academics disseminate research to a larger audience in a coherent and competent way. Peer review provides that the development of knowledge remains consistent and competent. Journals are now distributed through a mix of physical and digital subscription services. Journals are normally numbered to allow professionals to easily refer back to.

Magazines:

A magazine is a collection of stories, articles or news on particular academic studies. They are produced periodically to keep their readers updated with breakthroughs and the latest news in their specific fields. Usually available through subscription services.


Did you know that before the 19th century books were referred to as ‘magazines’?

The original origins of magazine referred to storage of a ‘collection’ of goods and materials, hence why people called books magazines.


Books:

An academic book is an extensive publication. Normally a collection of papers by one or more people, or collection of papers & other materials. The scope of a book can range from area introductory texts to advanced understandings, which deconstruct specific academic areas.

References –

[1] C, Costa. The Participatory Web in the Context of Academic Research: Landscapes of Change and Conflicts. (2013).

[2] Mabe, Michael. Ware, M. The STM Report (2015)

[3] Larivière V, Haustein S, Mongeon P. The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era. (2015).

[4] Harnad, S. A Subversive Proposal. (1995).

[5] Habib, A. How Academic Journals Price Out Developing Countries. (2011).

[6] IFPI. Digital Music Report. (2015).

[7] Wischenbart, R. Global Trends in Publishing 2014. (2014).

[8] Bosch, S., Henderson, K., & Klusendorf, H. Periodicals Price Survey 2011: Under pressure, Times are changing. Library Journal. (2011).

[9] Gantz, P. Digital Licenses Replace Print Prices as Accurate Reflection of Real Journal Costs. Volume 11, No. 3, (Summer/Fall 2012).

[10] Research Information Network. E-journals: their use, value and impact final report (2011)

[11] International STM, ALPSP and the Publishers Association. Scientific Technical and Medical (STM). (2010).

[12] Research Information Network. E-journals: their use, value and impact final report (2011)

Creative Hubs in the Digital Age

What is the Value of Creative Hubs in the Digital Age?

In 2015 The British Council’s Creative Economy Team released a Creative Hubkit [1] as part of a report into Creative Hubs. The kit highlights the fundamental ideas used by existing creative hubs and how these can be used to establish new ones:

10 key elements of a creative hub:

  1. A creative hub is flexible. The hub can take form as an online platform or alternatively in a variety of physical spaces.
  2. A creative hub promotes collaboration
  3. A creative hub nurtures idea growth and networking.
  4. A creative hub engages together as a community and will positively impact the local community.
  5. A creative hub focuses on creativity, culture and technology.
  6. A creative hub has aims of creating social, economic and cultural value through enterprise and social innovation.
  7. A creative hub is diverse and involves people from a range of social, economic and cultural backgrounds.
  8. A creative hub can facilitate with practical spaces, hardware and tools i.e. work benches, studios, screen printing materials, 3D printers etc.
  9. A creative hub will be structured with a new business model. There will be a shared mission statement that works towards improving humanity or society.
  10. A creative hub is a supportive environment that strives for growth in creative practice, business and audience reach.

Makerversity is an example of a modern face to face creative hub, as highlighted by The British Council[2]. The business model revolves around using their work space to bring people together. It boasts a variety of creative and technical expertise in order to encourage work, inspiration, and most importantly community. According to The British Council’s Economy Team “these [kinds of] spaces promote community spirit, vital to local and global economic and social development.”[3] Interestingly Makerversity is a members only scheme. In order to acquire a membership there is a monthly fee. The fees are in place to ensure all users have access to quality facilities and also to provide social networking events.

However not all hubs require membership. The business models that are more inclusive are the ones that don’t require membership payment. In being able to offer unlimited free access, they are able to provide access for all and are consequently diverse. Ultimately, and understandably, all hubs need donations or funding for running costs, especially when they intend to expand.

Hubs such as HackSpace are non-profit and are specifically community-run. They provide workshops and shared spaces for work, learning and teaching. Membership is an option but there isn’t a specific payment amount required. Their members help to run the organisation and will pay only what they think is fair.

2017 marks the launch of Europe’s largest creative hub. Officially launching June 17th 2017; Plexal will be located at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The hub will be the first of its kind, emulating a mini city. With the latest creative technology hosted in an environment created by architects and designers, it aims to be the next innovation of creative hubs. Plexal membership prices are estimated to start from £200 for a basic co-work space and over £400 for a premium private office. The scope and size of the creative hub will being a diverse range of creatives with varying business models.

According to Claire Cockerton CEO of Plexal, the new hub could potentially create a new definition for what constitutes a creative hub and the scope of its environment. Claire explains [4] that the difference with Plexal is that “the whole focus of our space is on connected devices and we’re focusing on sport, health, fashion and IoT technologies.” Plexal’s name derived from plexus meaning, “A complex structure containing an intricate network of parts.”[5] Cockerton has said Plexal is, “very much trying to embody the concept of connectivity and also humanity.” If other creative hubs follow Plexal’s lead, integration of state of the art technology and in house specialists such as lawyers etc. could impair the efficiency of standard practical spaces.

With any creative hub there is a need for a purpose and drive. Value is derived from the members that make up the community, sustainability derives from the hub. As discussed in The British Council’s Creative Hub Report [6] creative hubs hold strong shared ‘value and values’ with their ethos and work practice, for example; promoting social change, improving education or gender equality etc. With these values at the forefront of the hub, a positive impact will be made on the identity of the hub, its members and the networks it builds. As a combination of talented people working collaboratively in a positive social environment, the individuals gain confidence and as a team are more likely to succeed. “…these shared values are powerful motivators for the often precarious and risky lifestyle of the creative economy.” [6] This is what makes creative hubs valuable to other sectors, businesses and authorities.

Additionally The Creative Hub Report [6] also points out that “success is not defined in the same way in every hub. Understanding the unique proposition of a hub, and its relation to the local creative community, underpins a successful outcome.” With this in mind it would be interesting to monitor if and how non-profit creative hubs are able to keep their values when faced with economic pressure from profit driven creatives.

In conclusion it is extremely important to understand the current digital climate of the creative industries. The Creative Hub Report states “the development of a creative hub is an ongoing process, and it points to the need to continually review the relevance of the governance to practice and to the stakeholders if a resilient hub is to be sustained.”[6] With the opening of Plexal and potentially similar hubs to follow in the future, it is likely that we will see a gradual change in the way that creative hubs work and how collaborative production takes place. Although technology may currently empower creatives to connect in an instant, it is the creative hubs with their focus on ethical values that are driving working dynamics.

 

[1] “Creative Hubs”. British Council |Creative Economy. N.p., 2017. Web. Jan. 2017. http://creativeconomy.britishcouncil.org/projects/hubs/

[2] “In Focus: Makerversity”. British Council |Creative Economy. N.p., 2017. Web. Jan. 2017. http://creativeconomy.britishcouncil.org/blog/15/01/04/focus-makerversity/

[3] “Creative Hubs”. British Council |Creative Economy. N.p., 2017. Web. Jan. 2017. http://creativeconomy.britishcouncil.org/projects/hubs/

[4] “PLEXAL: The Quirky Innovation Centre With A ‘High Street’ That’s Being Set Up In London’s £150 Million Tech Hub”. Business Insider. Sam Shead., October 2016. Web. Jan. 2017. http://uk.businessinsider.com/plexal-here-east-london-olympic-park-2016-10

[5] “The Definition Of Plexus”. Dictionary.com. N.p., 2017. Web. Jan. 2017. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/plexus

[6] “The Creative Hubs Report”. The British Council, 2016. Web. Jan. 2017  http://creativeconomy.britishcouncil.org/media/uploads/files/HubsReport.pdf

An Introduction to Two New Mini-Projects.

Local in a Digital Age

What does it mean to be local in a digital age?

This research sets out to examine confluences between the types of communication and exchange networks and constructions of personal & community identity that are enabled & encouraged by digital technology, on the one hand, and physical proximity and location on the other.

Its particular context is the creative industries, taking Greenwich as the overall case study, and, within Greenwich, five more specific case studies, relating to different creative sectors.

Principal Research Questions:

What significance do creative practitioners / businesses / customers / audiences ascribe to their location in Greenwich?

What is the role of face to face interaction (between creative producers and customers/audiences, other practitioners, members of the wider community etc.) in creative arts and events? What significance (personal, social, economic, logistical etc.) do they ascribe to this interaction?

How do creative practitioners / businesses / audiences use digital technology to produce, promote and participate in creative arts and events? What significance (personal, social, economic, logistical etc.) do they ascribe to this technology?

As part of this research we are conducting a short questionnaire. If you are local to the Greenwich Borough and have a couple of spare minutes,  please feel free to tell us your opinion.

Click here: https://goo.gl/forms/jeQkJdAKLJRK3Ac33.

Digitising Academic Publishing

How has the digital revolution changed academic publishing?

This research aims to examine the changing shape of academic publishing; contrasting new and old academic publishing models and identifying how digital publications have affected the way in which the public, scholars and students access information. The crux of the research is to present the best possible way for academics to disseminate their work to the widest audience.

The work aims to understand the effects of Open Access on academics, publishers and academic institutes. It will include, examine and assess business models used by publishing companies, university libraries/ presses and distributors, and identify how these entities have adjusted in the digital market place.

 Principal Research Questions:

How should an academic publish their work? – Identifying if traditional publishing has become synonymous with reputation and how quality can be maintained within new publishing models.  

What is the future of the academic publishing market? – A look at worldwide programmes to create universal dissemination of knowledge. 

Should an academic self-publish? – How self-publishing has become an integral part of the industry and why it should or shouldn’t be considered for academics.

How has the digital market redefined conventional publishing tropes? – With the majority of reading conducted on digital devices, how has the market adjusted to maintain consistence and ease of use?