Tag Archives: creative economy

broadcast artists in a communication world

Just a brief follow up on yesterday’s piece. One reader yesterday pointed out that the CRTC did “get the internet” and that it was the interveners – The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) that “didn’t get it.” I think there is lots to dive into about the CRTC but part of his point is well taken. Check out this problematic quote from ACTRA:

“The Internet is just another media-distribution platform like any other that we’ve had,” said Stephen Waddell, executive director of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists. “And in our view, if the CRTC doesn’t give some opportunity to Canadian content to have a place on that platform, we’re going to be immersed in non-Canadian content.”

The number of problems with this statement are almost overwhelming. Building on some of the reasons I discussed yesterday the internet is not like any other distribution platform. Rather than analyze it line by line, I thought I would hand things over to Clay Shirky, who in Here Comes Everybody explains how our  friends at ACTRA are caught in the same dilemma as scribes at the end of the 15th century:

Consider the position of a scribe in the early 1400s. The ability to write, one of the crowning achievements of human inventiveness, was difficult to attain and, as a result, rare. Only a tiny fraction of the populace could actually write… In this environment a small band of scribes performed the essential service of refreshing cultural memory. By hand-copying new editions of existing manuscripts, they performed a task that could be preformed no other way. The scribe was the bulwark against great intellectual loss…

…Now consider the position of the scribe at the end of the 1400s. Johannes Guttenburg’s invention of movable type in the middle of the century created a sudden and massive reduction in the difficulty of reproducing a written work… a scribe, someone who has given his life over to literacy as a cardinal virtue, would be conflicted about the meaning of movable type. After all, if books are good, then surely more books are better. But at the same time the very scarcity of literacy was what gave scribal efforts its primacy, and the scribal way of life was based on this scarcity…

…The spread of literacy after the invention of movable type ensured not the success of the scribal profession but its end. Instead of mass professionalization, the spread of literacy was a process of mass amateurization. The term “scribe” didn’t get extended to everyone who could read and write. Instead it simply disappeared, as it no longer denoted a professional class.

This is what the internet has done to radio, television and cinema professionals. It has radically lowered the barriers for the creation of Canadian content.

So do we lament the loss of scribes? Not at all – we are liberated because today we can all write. Has the acerage quality declined? Possibly, we aren’t all writing Dante’s Inferno. But the best writing is way, way better (and better paying as well).

Will we lament the loss of television, cinema and radio (I doubt they will disappear completely) no. Something new and more interesting will arise to replace it. With the end of scribes we didn’t writers, instead we gained something far more valuable, the growth of contemporary authors! (who in 1350 could have imagined a world of authors, book stores, top 10 best seller lists?)

Now, imagine if there had been a tax on every printing press to pay for scribes to continue copying books… that would have just made books more expensive and less accessible.

We must acknowledge ACTRA fear of the new world. However self-serving, it is rational and genuine. Everything is going to be unpredictable for a while. But the future also the opportunity for something new an amazing – unimaginable ways for new types artists and mediums to describe the human condition and touch our souls. Just because it won’t be the way it has been done – through the broadcast mediums of radio, television, and cinema – doesn’t mean that it won’t be good. Indeed, I predict, that once the dust has settled, there will be more artists, producers, actors, and creatives in general, many of who will continue to get paid well. It’s just that the line between amateur and professional will be more blurred. There may even be a role for a professional association – although I imagine it will look, much, much different. Scary, yes. But also unavoidable.

The New World Order: Flat, Spiky or Divided?

Just started Who’s Your City by Richard Florida out of personal interest but also to better figure out why it is the Vancouver sometimes works, and sometimes really doesn’t work. Figuring out that puzzle, and doing something is part of the reason I joined Vision (and yes, I’m still recovering from the victory celebrations).

I’m already sensing a convergence between Florida and some of my other favourite authors – namely Friedman (who Florida references) and Thomas Barnett (author of The Pentagon’s New Map among other books).

All three are noticing the same thing, and are even writing along similar veins, but there remain important distinctions, with important policy implications.

Flat: Friedman (whom I’m least familiar with) says the world is flat, that innovation, industry, commerce, etc… can now happen anywhere, so we have to prepare for a flat world. Here, I’d argue the core unit of analysis is the individual. We are all free agents, able to do anything or be anything, so we’re going increasingly going to start doing it anywhere. Yes, Friedman believes that governments and industry have massively important roles, but he ultimately sees a world where any place can become a place where people can prosper. If they agitate for it and build it.

Spiky: Florida’s analysis is that world is quite spiky, dominated by a set of mega-regions and super-cities where the bulk of the economic activity and culture is produced. These hubs are connected to one another and largely uncaring of the enormous economic valleys that separate them. For Florida, the fundamental unit of analysis is the city (or mega-region). These determine where power and influence will flow. Importantly, mega-regions cannot be constructed overnight – indeed there is a powerful self-reinforcing mechanism at work. Mega-regions attract talent from around the world, both further increasing their status and starving smaller cities and regions of the key resource – social capital – they need to grow. Individuals are important – but only in so far as they cluster. Countries are important too – in the Friedman sense that they create a generally favourable atmosphere – but they are not critical to the equation.

Divided: Barnett sees a divided world. One on the one side is the Functioning Core, characterized by economic interdependence and incentives to abide by rules, one the other is the Non-Integrated Gap characterized by unstable leadership and absence of international trade and weaker incentives to abide by international rule sets. Barnett’s primary unit of analysis is the state. He is principally concerned with the impact of globalization (and the rule-sets it creates) on state actors – how it constrains them and incents them to behave certain ways. In this world citizens are influence, but it is connectivity, largely (but hardly completely) determined by the state that matters most. Convince a state to connect with the world, and it’s path towards free market democracy (or some close variant) is predetermined.

I had so much fun mashing up the Firefox download map with Barnett’s map (and had an incredible response) I thought I’d try to do the same again but with these three authors. Below is a Flat World, overlaid with Spiky depiction of where the most innovation (patents) occurs, overlaid with Barnett’s division between the Function Core and the Non-Integrated Gap. Hoping to write more about these three views of the world over the coming weeks.

What’s interesting about the map’s below is that Barnett and Florida correlate quite nicely. And while they are complimentary I think it Florida’s reinforces the best critique of Barnett’s map I’ve read to date:

“Connectedness is a network property and networks are fractal not contiguous. There is no contiguous region that is disconnected. Within each disconnected country there are islands of connection and within each connected country there are islands of disconnection. This is true at all levels, continents, nations, regions, cities, and companies, right down to individuals. There are terrorist cells in US cities fighting to disconnect the world and Journalists with satellite cell phones in remotest Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia working to connect everything.”

I’m willing to bet almost anything that Florida’s maps follow a power law distribution. And the above description – well in Florida’s map there are valleys of non-innovation and non-connectivity within Barnett’s Core. The question is: Can the Mega-Regions assert enough control over these values to ensure their rule-sets are followed?

Innovation (# of patents)

Flat spiky and divided

Connectivity (Light Based Regional Product per Square Kilometer)

Flat spiky and divided (econ)


Foundations for a Creative Economy

I just finished Max Wyman’s “The Defiant Imagination” and have reviewed it here.

The information age doesn’t give rise to an information economy… when we all have access to vast amounts of information it will be our capacity to use that information that will matter. Those who are creative, you can imagine something new and different, will prosper. Max Wyman articulated that when I met him and it struck me as critically important. His book explains how the arts, and particularly the arts in education, will be essential to equipping us with the skills of imagination we will need to prosper in the creative economy.

The Creative Econom(ii)

As many of you know I’ve recently become an owner of a Nintendo Wii – that fun games console you control, not by pressing buttons, but my using a motion controlled wand (e.g. when you play video game golf, you actually swing the wand like a golf club). Needless to say it’s hilarious and fun.

One interesting feature of the Wii is that it allows you to download channels that bring content to you via your console. One of these is the Everybody Votes channel. This channel offers up a constantly updated set of questions – such as “Graffiti is…: Urban Art or Defacing Property?” – on which you vote. What makes it particularly interesting is that you get to see the result broken down by gender, province, country, etc…

Obviously, the survey data gathered by the Everybody Votes channel is deeply skewed and not representative of the population as a whole. But I think this is also what makes it so interesting.

For example, recently, the program asked the question “Which is worse to have stolen from you: Things or Ideas?”

Interestingly 50.6% of participating Canadian Wii users selected “Ideas.” So just over half of Canadian Wii users believe it’s worse to have recognition for an idea stolen than it is a tangible, likely fungible, asset.

Young people valuing ideas over things? Video-gamers valuing ideas over things? Could be a sign of the creative economy – where one’s ability dream or mash up new ideas is what’s valued most. I’m willing to bet that most Wii users are young professionals acculturated to this new reality.