Now here’s a great idea: today we had the first meeting in Birmingham of a book club looking at books and policy documents of relevance to the Creative Industries. At the moment it consists of a small group of academics/researchers/lecturers at Birmingham City University but the plan is to widen its scope. Evidence of that comes from the fact that even though I’ve moved on I still got an invite as did someone who works for the Arts council and Creative Partnerships.
Up for discussion was ‘We-think’ by Charles Leadbetter. At the risk of truncating what was a wide-ranging discussion I’ll just say that nobody really thought the book was that great to be honest. Generally it’s so utopian about the future of how we function as a society, as shaped by the collaborative influence of the internet, that one of our group described it as “like overdosing on marshmallows or a double-dose of ecstasy with crack on top”. Many of the examples given in the book to exemplify We-think in action lack a sufficient depth (and in parts seem curiously under-researched) but there was value in some of them in highlighting that collaboration as Leadbetter conceptualises it isn’t a new thing.
We touched on big themes – the role of cultural studies, the public sphere, praxis, technological determinism – and suggested that this was a book that would appeal to policy makers since it identified in straightforward terms the kind of opportunities for positive action that the web offers. That’s not a criticism (that policy-makers somehow can’t read complex stuff), rather a strength since academics who can articulate in clear terms are to be applauded. Which makes the lack of rigour in the book all the more disappointing, as is the occasional attempt at futurology – inadvisable in an era of such rapid change.
The above does little justice to two hours of superb debate and a realisation that this kind of discussion should also involve others who want to raise the level of debate about the Creative and Cultural Industries. It’s not in my remit to dish out invites but we meet again on the 17th December – drop a line to paul.long [at] bcu.ac.uk if you’re interested.
Up for discussion next the very-difficult-to-find-at-a-reasonable-price John Hope Mason’s ‘The Value of Creativity’ in the context of the government’s Creative Britain policy paper from earlier this year.
(pic by Sifter – British Library Reading room)