Written by Manfredi de Bernard and Roberta Comunian
Recent research (de Bernard et al. forthcoming) acknowledges that while ecological notions in the study of creative and cultural industries (CCIs) and framework have received increased attention by academics, consultants, and policymakers, there is very little clarity on its definition and understanding. Predictably, the confusion is also echoed in the varied and sometimes eclectic series of visual models that have emerged in the last seventeen years connected with an ecological understanding of CCIs, which all propose slightly different models. De Bernard et al. (forthcoming) try to clarify through a systematic literature review the range of theoretical and empirical contributions on cultural and creative ecosystems (CCEs). Similarly, in this blog, we recognise that even if the differences across model and visualisations is often significant, these can be grouped following a series of shared features. In particular, the present review will focus on the eventual presence of a hierarchy of some kind, even in the minimal hierarchy of one identifiable centre of the ecosystem, and on the possibility to distinguish explicit connections in the visual representation on the blurry notion that is CC ecosystem.
Overall, we identify four types of visual representations of CCEs in the academic and policy literature, as summarised in table 1 below.
Type A: Non-hierarchical models without visualised connections
Very few authors identify simply who and what is included in CCEs without further considerations about the kind of relations that ties them together. It is even unclear whether Neelands uses Figure 1 to represent a CCE - as suggested by Barker (V. Barker 2020) - or just as a graphical ornament (Neelands et al. 2015: 13). In the first case, it would still be a legitimate understanding of a CCE: all the main CCI sub-sectors taken together, connected - yet through unclear dynamics -, as they are just jointly listed.
Tarani (2011: 368) synthesises his understanding of a CCE simply as a far-from-equilibrium system, a series of point with a particular direction that is, in an unexplicit manner, in a mutual influence status.
It is worth mentioning that a few authors also consider the spatial distributions of CC ecosystems’ elements and their visualisation: arguing for the limits of the creative cluster notion. Foster (2020: 8) stresses the not-clustered and disperse spatial distribution of collaborators in a creative project, whilst Mengi et al. colour the two “corridors” that indicate the natural and planned clusters in Brisbane (2020: 8) that he considers CCE. There is no reference to hierarchies or specific relations/connections amongst the nodes even in these spatial representations.
Type B: Non-hierarchical but visualising connections
Holden (2015) and other authors argument for broader adoption of ecological thinking in CCIs is based mainly on their intrinsic complex networked nature. Hence, it is no surprise that visual representation of such network, connections and relations are considered essential by several authors. For example, as already suggested by Holden (2015: 28), Foster (2020: 15), and Dovey (2016: 95) visualise the CCE as a structure made of links and nodes, in both cases, a web of project-related collaborations.
Markusen et al., in a simplified model, stress the structural interdependence of the three spheres that compose their understanding of CCE (Markusen et al. 2011: 9). Graphically different - lines instead of intersections between circles – but fundamentally identical, is Mohamed and Walker’s (2019: 47) model.
Among these, it is important to include - despite the significant differences from all the models reviewed - the proposal of Jeffcutt (2004: 77). Despite being among the first to introduce ecological terms in CCIs research, the author’s ideas have seen scarce development, as the literature has taken another direction. The elements included are all intangibles – “End-user” should be intended as a passive end of the process – but the main dynamics are represented through the lines. Peculiarly, the CCE is represented from the perspective of the individual firm.
Type C: No visualised connections but with a hierarchy
In many models, the authors identify one specific centre or core. Sometimes this is the outcome or recipient of ecological processes, such as the audience or the delivery of cultural products; some other times, its raison d’etre, such as “culture” or creative workers’ activity. In other words, one element among others is considered crucial, defining one CCE's very existence. However, how it relates to the other, or how the others’ reciprocal influence shape the whole ecosystem, is not elaborated.
This is the case of the visual representations proposed by Create NYC (2017: 37), Schippers (2016: 16) and Jung and Walker (2018: 23). In these documents, the relevant elements are identified, and at least one of them is perceived to be central (cultural participants and stakeholders, music practice and artisans, respectively), but how they influence one another is unclear. Gasparin and Quinn (2020: 9) articulate Vietnam’s CCE in ‘value rings’ – social, economic and creative – that echoes four central values: social orientation, creativity, exploration and market orientation. Although with the specific understanding of creative ecology as a policy environment, Murray and Gollmitzer (2012: 433) follow a similar approach. However, what is identified as the centre of one model, whether the production or the artists’ community, or the consumption/ audience, even within similar structures, suggests two radically different understandings on who is, or should be, the primary beneficiary of ecosystem-nurturing actions.
Worth mentioning the model proposed by Holden (2015: 9) and developed by Barker (2018: 50), which is at the border of this and the next section. Indeed, the model lists the series of actors and factors that, all together, contribute to shaping the undefined element of “culture” that lies at the centre. But, even if their relations are not specified, their role partially explains them.
Type D: With visualised connections and hierarchy
The models that provide both hierarchies and visualised connections are underpinned by an extensive reflection by the authors on what a CCE is, who and what is involved, and the kind of dynamics that tie them together. This is the case of Stern and Seifert (2017: P.I-6), CURDS(2001: 11) and Bakalli (2015: 45), listed from the most simplistic to the most complete. Even if CURDS’ visual model is unclear whether a hierarchy is at work, the article clarify it so: “At the heart of the cluster are the creative individuals with sets of skills and knowledge that enable them to produce the core outputs … In addition the individuals band together to form various forms of associations or collectives for mutual support, and interact with a set of cultural and creative support agencies … This core set of activities is then surrounded by another set of activities that support the creative industries but only fit in the core knowledge pool to varying degrees … Business support agencies, local authorities and educational institutions also sit astride the boundary … Finally there is the audience, which itself can be seen as both part of the cluster and slightly detached” (Ibid: 10-11).
Indeed, if the first seems an expanded version of Markusen et al. model, CURDS’ provide many connections, probably all those considered reasonable by the authors, whilst Bakalli additionally include a direction of the main process – in his understanding, the delivery in the local and international market of creative and cultural products – an element absent in most other models.
This blog offered an overview of visual models used by a range of authors to capture the components and dynamics of CCE. As detailed in De Bernard et al. (forthcoming) in connection with the broader literature review of CCE, there are various definitions and theories but few shared points of agreement. Some models remain quite vague (type A), aiming to mainly visualise a representation of the sector without necessarily imposing boundaries or hierarchies. While others – such as type B and D – strive to make visible the actors and relations that are often hidden and therefore use the visual model as a tool to promote a broader understanding of CCE. However, what should be hoped for, is an archetypical visual model for the CCE notion: indicative, not prescriptive. Differences in the local context – city or rural, west or east, emerging or affirmed economy – produce different ecosystems, both in terms of who/what is responsible for its thriving and the kind, timing and intensity of its structural connections, that would hardly be represented in the same way. But if not everything, something can be considered essential to draw one visual representation of one CCE. Indeed, the novelty element that set CCE aside from the former theoretical objects in the field, or the primary role given to the interconnectedness of actors and elements responsible for the delivery of cultural products and the support of creative workers’ activity over the elements themselves, suggests that any valuable model should at least stress the interconnectedness of many elements that leads to a structure hard to atomise, so to highlight the raison d’etre of the very notion of CCE.
Written by Jessica Tanghetti and Lauren England
Even if history is characterized by the physiological alternance of periods of imbalances and recessions, none of them could be compared, in terms of effects, to the Covid-19 pandemic. For the first time in contemporary history, people across the globe have been forced to suddenly change their habits and working modalities, resulting in serious and deep social and economic consequences.
Cultural and creative industries, due to strict social distancing measures and enforced closures of venues, are among the sectors which have suffered the most from the economic and social consequences of the pandemic. Since the recognized relevance of CCIs, which contribute for $ 2.250 bn to the global economy (3% of GDP), accounting for $ 29,5 million jobs worldwide (Unesco, 2015), the sector has internationally become the subject of numerous surveys and studies, aiming to address the impact of the pandemic on the sector and its workers.
Comunian and England (2020) identified the following key concerns in initial (UK) sector surveys: the impact of Covid-19 on the immediate changes in revenues and its short-term economic viability. Wide-spread concern over the long-term financial impact and viability/survival of organisations and individuals’ ability to continue working in the CCIs was also highlighted. The second most visible concern was the support that CCIs and workers require in response to Covid-19. There was an emphasis on support requirements (from the sector and government, including understanding, eligibility and effectiveness of support available) and perceptions of government support measures (at the time of survey). The findings presented on this front identified issues in eligibility for government support measures.
A wide overview of the issue is provided by UNESCO, which in April 2020 launched the “Culture & COVID-19: Impact and Response Tracker” series, aiming to offer an analysis of the evolving cultural situation. Also, in May it released the report “Museums around the world in the face of Covid-19”, according to which 90% of museums in the world have closed for the pandemic and 10% will never open again. The key trend is represented by the resilience shown by museums in quickly developing their online presence. The issue is confirmed also by the report issued on museum and museum professionals by ICOM in May, which shows that social media activities increased for more than half of the museums surveyed. At the same time, according to respondents, there will be a reduction in projects and programmes in at least 80% of museums, a number that rises to 93% and 87% in the regions of Africa and the Pacific respectively.
Many studies have analysed the cultural landscape of European countries. One of most accurate has been issued by the German Government, where the Kompetenzzentrum Kultur und Kreativwirtschaft estimates that CCIs in Germany will experience a turnover loss of approximately EUR 21.7 billion or 12.7% of its annual turnover (conservative scenario) and a 23% loss (EUR 39.8 billion) in the most severe scenario, underlining that CCIs employs 1.7 million people with only 940 000 of them being employees benefiting from social protection.
An analytical overview has been provided also by the French Government, where the Ministry of Culture carried out a survey among 7,800 cultural players, according to which Covid-19 crisis will result in an average decrease in turnover of 25% in 2020 compared to 2019 (22.3 billion euros). The effect will be greatest on the performing arts sector (-72%), heritage (-36%), visual arts (-31%) and architecture (-28%).
In Italy the issue hasn’t been yet explored under an institutional level. Nevertheless, surveys have been conducted highlighting the precarity of cultural work, as the one by “Mi riconosci - sono un professionista dei beni culturali” which highlights that 79% of the respondents registered a decrease in their incomes due to the pandemic, while the 78% see as inadequate the measure provided by the Government to support the sector.
The full extent of the economic impact of Covid-19 on the UK’s creative industries is not yet known, although projections calculated from a number of UK sector surveys indicate ‘a combined £77 billion turnover loss over the course of 2020 compared to 2019 (-31%). In total, ‘409,000 CIs jobs are considered at risk’ (Oxford Economics, 2020, p.3). In London alone, it is estimated that the impact of Covid-19 on the ‘culture and creative industries together with its supply chain will cost the economy £16.3bn and put 151,000 jobs at risk’ (GLA, 2020).
The situation is severe also outside of Europe. The report “Measuring COVID-19’s devastating impact on America’s creative economy” highlights estimated losses of 2.7 million jobs and more than USD 150 billion in sales of goods and services for creative industries nationwide. The fine and performing arts industries will be hit hardest, suffering estimated losses of almost 1.4 million jobs and USD 42.5 billion in sales. In terms of creative occupations, the report estimates losses of more than 2.3 million jobs and USD 74 billion in average monthly earnings for the creative occupations, representing 30% of all creative occupations and 15% of total average monthly wages.
Different studies have instead analysed the impact of Covid-19 in CCIs in Africa: research from the five countries Senegal, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, Kenya, Namibia and South Africa highlight that the financial losses regarding CCIs are unbalanced between the countries, ranging from USD 134,360.00 for Uganda to USD 1,493,639,269.27 for South Africa (Ribio Nzeza Bunketi Buse, 2020).
Another important finding is related to the precariousness of the cultural work - which has been exacerbated, rather than created, by the pandemic (Comunian & England, 2020). The vulnerability of creative work (and workers) in relation to the crisis has been widely acknowledged by sector organisations and individuals, with reports of devastating loss of income emerging as early as March 2020 (CIF 2020). Worldwide, 16,1% of the respondents to the ICOM study of museum professionals said they have been temporarily laid off, and 22,6% have not had their contracts renewed. The freelance sector is particularly fragile: 56,4% of the respondents stated that they will have to suspend the payment of their own salary as a result of the crisis, and 39,4% said their firms will have to reduce the number of staff. In Europe, the sector plays a considerable role, employing 8.7 million people in 2018, equivalent to 3.8 % of the total number of persons employed within the EU-28 (Eurostat, 2019). Even if it is still early to predict the effects of the pandemic under a quantitative point of view, data on enforced closures and events cancellations highlight an alarming situation for the sector and its workforce.
Written by Tamsyn Dent
The King’s College London Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries and Policy Evidence Centre Creative Industries Research Frontiers Seminar Series.
Seminar 1. Creative and cultural ecologies: Mapping and understanding
22nd January 2020, Anatomy Museum, King’s College London
On January 22nd, King’s College London hosted the first in a seminar series titled ‘Creative Industries Research Frontiers’. This series is jointly organised by the DISCE team at Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries (CMCI) and the Creative Industries Policy Evidence Centre (PEC) through a shared commitment to exploring the emerging issues and research challenges linked to the creative economy. The first seminar, ‘Creative and cultural ecologies: Mapping and understanding’ brought together academics, practitioners and policy makers to share knowledge and empirical research on the relevance of creative and cultural ecologies.
The keynote presentation, Why Should We Care About Creative and Cultural Ecologies? Six Provocations by Nick Wilson and Jonathan Gross from CMCI directly responded to the topic. Drawing from their wide research in this area, the paper outlined the relevance of the ecological approach to understanding the value and sustainability of the creative economy and its relationship with cultural democracy.
Following the keynote, four research papers further developed this topic. Victoria Barker from the University of Derby introduced her work on the creative ecology in the West Midlands. Drawing from three case studies with local theatre’s she was able to present a broader understanding of the institutions and networks that contribute to a local creative economy.
Nicole Foster from the University of the West of England presented findings from research on a creative cluster in the South West. In her summary of the cluster criticism she applied cultural ecology perspective to higher the role that diverse, informal and voluntary networks, public funding bodies, universities, audiences, users and intermediaries play in cultural work.
Athena Piterou from the University of Greenwich presented research on the development of a cultural and creative industry cluster in the city of George Town, Penang, Malaysia. The city, which was awarded World Heritage Status in 2008 provided a space to analyse the rise of the creative city with a geographical focus on South East Asia.
The final paper, given by Ana Isabel Escalona from the University of Zaragoza, drew from a study that applied the European Union’s Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor methodology to small cities (50-100k inhabitants) across Spain. She was able to present analysis on both metropolitan, non-metropolitan geographical locations and tourist destinations to explore the relationship between cultural vibrancy and the local creative economy.
The panel, chaired by Bruce Tether from Manchester University included responses from Paul Bristow, Director, Strategic Partnerships Arts Council England; Holly Donagh, Deputy Chief Executive, A New Direction; Clive Gillman, Director, Creative Industries Creative Scotland; Mary-Alice Stack, Chief Executive, Creative United and Denise Proctor, former Chief Executive, Noise Festival and current Creative & Digital Industries Representative for Cheshire & Warrington LEP responded to the papers.
It was useful to hear their reflections on the ecology approach to understanding the value and inter-connectedness of creative ecosystems, and how that approach can be applied in a policy context. Acknowledging the wider political challenges, including the tensions between research findings and political agendas, there was consensus on the value of re-thinking creative development at the local and national level across a broader network of stakeholders.