Category Archives: Cultural Economy

Looking Into Some Books to See _Out the Window_

The following is a literature review I did last winter to better familiarize myself with the media literacy, participatory culture, and networked publics literatures. I post it today in preparation for my minor field exam tomorrow. Full disclosure: it is heavily laden with in-text citations.

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“I too will try to recollect what I can, knowing well that any totalizing description of LA-leph is impossible. What follows then is a succession of fragmentary glimpses, a freed association of reflective and interpretive field notes which aim to construct a critical human geography of the Los Angeles urban region.”

Edward W. Soja (1989, p. 223)

Geographer Edward Soja imagining Los Angeles in cinematic terms in 1989. Better still, though, might be to consider his ruminations not as evocative of cinema but of its more affordable, and thereby more democratic kin, video. As Soja wrote his opus, media artist Anne Bray was founding Freewaves “A Magnet for Media Arts,” intending to use video as nothing less than a tool for structural reformation of the public sphere (Rogers, 2010). In the years hence, and in a turn paradigmatically expressive of the communications revolution, Soja’s 1989 cheap and readily available film video is 2011’s exotic, the museum conservator’s charge, having been replaced by an even more flexible, affordable, and apparently democratic technology: digital video.

In those twenty years and change, the communications revolution altered the landscape, real and virtual, beyond our wildest collective dreams (Allon, 2004; Appadurai, 1990; Bar, Baer, Ghandeharizadeh & Ordonez, 2008; Barnett, 2004; Buckingham, 2000, 2003, 2009; Bull, 2004; Canclini 2001; Caron & Caronia, 2007; Castells, 1996; Couldry, 2004; Couldry & McCarthy, 2004; de Block & Buckingham, 2007; Gibbs, 2004; Ito, 2008; Jenkins, 2006; Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton & Robison, 2009; Kabisch, 2010; Lim & Kann, 2008; Massey, 1994; McCullough, 2006; Morley, 2000; Moores, 2004; Rogers, 2007, 2010; Russell, Ito, Richmond & Tuters, 2008; Shirky, 2010; Singhal & Rogers, 2004; Soja, 1989; Townsend, 2006; Tuters, 2004; Tuters & Varnelis, 2006; Varnelis, 2008; Varnelis & Friedberg, 2008). Freewaves missed not a beat during this telecommunications tempest. It was among the first media arts organizations to use the Internet as a screening/archive to supplement the citywide screenings, and in doing so illustrated video’s Internet-borne transition from production- to distribution-centeredness (Rogers, 2007), and thus the evolution of creative consumer to producer (Bar, Baer, Ghandeharizadeh & Ordonez, 2008; Barnett, 2004; Buckingham, 2000, 2003, 2009; Bull, 2004; Caron & Caronia, 2007; Castells, 1996; Couldry, 2004; de Block & Buckingham, 2007; Gibbs, 2004; Ito, 2008; Jenkins, 2006; Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton & Robison, 2009; Kabisch, 2010; Lim & Kann, 2008; Rogers, 2007, 2010; Russell, Ito, Richmond & Tuters, 2008; Shirky, 2010; Townsend, 2006; Tuters, 2004; Tuters & Varnelis, 2006; Varnelis, 2008; Varnelis & Friedberg, 2008).

Characterizing Freewaves as a media arts organization only glances lightly on its true pursuit. Media and Cultural Studies scholar Kenneth Rogers (2007) avers, “Freewaves is less organization than it is a network” (p. 38). Likewise, its endeavors radiate outward, subsuming creative production, distribution, and educational outreach in collaborations with arts and social justice activists to nourish connective links between otherwise disparate Angelenos and their lives. Its most recent project, the cooperative Out the Window,embodies the apogee of Freewaves’ aspirations.

The first of its kind participatory learning experience for young people and the Los Angeles Metro ridership, it is a collaboration among four of the city’s media arts organizations – Freewaves; UCLA’s Center for Research in Engineering, Media, and Performance (REMAP); Echo Park Film Center; and Public Matters. The project’s first phase comprised the instruction of students from East Los Angeles, Echo Park, and Historic Filipintown to consider, reflect on, and creatively document their neighborhoods. Their resultant art and related questions were then broadcast from June 13-18, 2011, and again in October and November, joined by local Angeleno artists’ productions, on LA Metro bus televisions to the riders with the aim of sparking SMS-enabled and web-facilitated dialogue in a purposively mobile space among parties already separated by time and place.

Thus, Out the Window reflects a hearteningly optimistic take on the “annihilation of space by time” Marx (as cited in Morley, 2000, p. 172) foresaw so long ago. How so optimistic? And why these methodologies? What are the ideological, technological, and educational conditions that helped give rise to this particular project? The following paper comprises select literature that examines just these questions. In the first portion, I will consider writings on new media’s intersection with space, what I believe to be the Out the Window collective’s bedrock assumptions, and its turn to locative media to articulate these conditions and beliefs. In the second section, I will delve into pedagogy – of the media, the border, and the oppressed – all aimed at the creation of a participatory culture and the “networked public.” Note I wrote “hearteningly” and not “exclusively optimistic” above. Even the most fanatic supporters of new media submit provisos, and there are of course detractors. The paper submits their positions, too, and concludes with thoughts on implications for media research itself. I maintain understanding these literatures underscores Out the Window’s unique and important contribution to art-generated urban social justice: dialogue, education, participatory democracy, and self-expression.

Communications Technologies and Public-Private Spaces

“Why not argue that media coverage massively multiplies the interconnections between places, rather than weakening our sense of place?”

Nick Couldry (as cited in Moores, 2004, p. 23)

Whether we are living in the incipient stages of the electronic-architectonic metamorphosis of the city (Couldry, 2004) or in the middle (Tuters, 2004), the notion that the opportunity for public space has proliferated as a result of new media is widespread (Allon, 2004; Barnett, 2004; Canclini, 2001; Caron & Caronia, 2007; Couldry, 2004; Couldry & McCarthy, 2004; Gibbs, 2004; Ito, 2008; Jenkins, 2006; Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton & Robison, 2009; Kabisch, 2010; Lim & Kann, 2008; Moores, 2004; Morley, 2000; Russell, Ito, Richmond & Tuters, 2008; Tuters, 2004; Tuters & Varnelis, 2006; Varnelis, 2008; Varnelis & Friedberg, 2008). Specifically, Fiona Allon (2004) disagrees with David Harvey (1989), saying his time-space compression needs to be rethought and that communication technologies have in fact summoned “new spatialities and temporalities” (p. 261). As more media points are added to the virtual landscape, we experience “a restructuring of the articulations between the public and the private” (Canclini, 2001, p. 23), apparent also in the “reordering of urban life” (ibid.). Mobile telephony has even rendered Augé’s (1995) non-places and Caronia’s “no-when times” (as cited in Caron & Caronia, 2005, p. 38), erstwhile existential states of abeyance, functional. Sitting, riding in the bus to our unique destinations, we can now reach out in collective communication.

Our whole concept of community is in flux. Associations of people are further flung (Appadurai, 1996; Castells, 1996; Jenkins, 2006; Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton & Robison, 2009; Lim & Kann, 2008; Massey, 1994; Morley, 2000; Moores, 2004; Rogers, 2010; Russell, Ito, Richmond & Tuters, 2008; Soja, 1989; Tuters, 2004; Tuters & Varnelis, 2006; Varnelis, 2008; Varnelis & Friedberg, 2008), “psychological neighborhoods” (Meyerowitz as cited in Morley, 2000) join the earthbound ones, and indeed, communications technologies provide us the “raw materials for a new cartography…in the details of people’s daily lives” (Rouse as cited in Morley, 2000, p. 43). Communications scholars Andre Caron and Letizia Caronia (2007) remind us not only do these media propagate community, communications technologies construct meaning in our lives. Following Certeau (1984), they argue our cell phones are not incidental effects – our communiqués are cultural artifacts, material and discursive objects. Our “mobile conversations are effectively powerful social glue” (p. 176).

While some embrace these new geographies, others are less sanguine. Artist and critic Michael Gibbs (2004) coins the term “Cellspace” (p. 280) to reflect the enmeshing of our digital information with the real world, noting the edges between public and private space have become so obliterated we will have desperately private mobile phone conversations in the most public of forums. In “‘To each their own bubble’: mobile spaces of sound in the city,” Media Studies scholar Michael Bull (2004) suggests that the more the public realm warps to meet our communication technologies customs, the more we warp with it, becoming all the more alienated from one another. Social-cultural anthropologist Arjun Appadurai (1996) holds new media are creating communities devoid of sense of place; as such we should regard all cultural forms as “fractal” (p. 46) in configuration.

Doreen Massey and the Situationist International on Los Angeles Metro Buses

“…praxis, not therapy; form, not structure; situation, not power.”

McKenzie Wark (2011, p. 159)

While many voices and minds contribute to Out the Window’s formation, I submit geographer Doreen Massey (1994) and the Situationist International (SI; 1952-57) are the project’s primary ideological forebears. Massey’s power-geometry concept critiques Harvey’s time-space compression, noting its effects are distinct depending on an agent’s class, gender, and ethnicity. Massey’s “power-geometry” obliges us to see that “time-space compression needs differentiating socially” (1994, p. 148). However, while power relations are asymmetrical, marginalization does not equate to impotence; migrant populations can and do deploy control in their new cities (de Block & Buckingham, 2007). To bulwark their agency and better sociospatial relations, what we need is “a sense of place which is extroverted, which includes a consciousness of its links to the wider world” (Massey, 1994, p. 195).

The Out the Window collective recognize Los Angeles as a fractal-metropolis. Its articulation of Bull’s alienating cell phone for opening discursive spaces between parties unfamiliar is a direct attack on that metropolitan condition. Better still, its infiltration of Transit TV, the (confoundingly) private television system operating in LA Metro (public!) buses, is pure Situationist détournement, and each bus ride, a conceivable dérive (Wark, 2011). The playful tempo and energy of the videos evoke painter and theorist Asger Jorn’s contribution of artistic materialism to SI practice. Art is not embedded in Marx’s superstructure but within our infrastructure; it is playful, social. Jorn proposes, in contradistinction to Althusserian Marxism, games and “ontology of nature as flux, difference, and cooperation” (p. 53). The Situationists believed ultimately in a low theory, with “critical thought indifferent to the institutional forms of the academy or art world” (p. 3).

Locative Media

“…location aware, networked, mobile devices make possible invisible notes attached to spaces, places, people, and things.”

Ben Russell (as cited in Tuters & Varnelis, 2006)

May ‘68’s posters are today’s locative media. Accordingly, programmatic text-friendly Situationism is widely agreed to be a precursor to the locative media movement (Gibbs, 2004; Tuters, 2004; Tuters & Varnelis, 2006). Certeau (1984) agreed with the Situationists that the best way to come to know your city is to walk its streets. This existential practice reforms: individuals are no longer consumers but producers (Kabisch, 2010). Through locative media, one returns “to the messy multiplicity of the street level” (McCullough, 2006, p. 26), where she is “messaging, searching, meeting, and tagging” (p. 27). The experiences and consequent discourse are not of virtuality, but hybridity (Kabisch, 2010).

Artists are drawn to locative media for reasons manifest. First, it is the latest addition to the public space intervention stable (Gibbs, 2004; Townsend, 2006; Tuters, 2004; Varnelis, 2008). “In practice, psychogeography brings the art installation and its public…from the contained space of the gallery into the body of the city” (Tuters, 2004, p. 1). Second, it is at once unfettered from the worries attending much media art equipment, such as monitors and projectors, and reinforced by the proliferating open source software for “mobile geography, collaborative mapping, and social organization” (Gibbs, 2004, p. 280). Next, locative media is apparently bound to discourses of human subject-centered representation, foregrounding the human experience in space with two types of Situationism-inspired mapping options: annotative (virtual place-tagging) and phenomenological (action tracing) (Tuters & Varnelis, 2006). Finally, locative media can be politically powerful: tagging systems in particular are potent methods for sharing authorship for the re-designation of places and things in the urban realm (Townsend, 2006).

However, if a primary objective of locative media is to illustrate the nuances and textures of culturally constituted space (Townsend, 2006; Tuters, 2004; Tuters & Varnelis, 2008), interaction designer and researcher Eric Kabisch (2010) finds it wanting. “A place – in all its richness – becomes a static marker on a map, a journey becomes a line, and a community becomes a polygon outline…. We must move from modes of…representation and move to those which engage the interaction and performance of the user and the environment” (p. 50). Locative media researcher Marc Tuters and architecture scholar Kazys Varnelis (2006) also write about locative media’s brush with neo-Cartesianism, but dismiss that critique as emblematic of “another nostalgia, one for an autonomous art” (ibid.). They do, however, agree that some locative media artists collaborate with the commercial and state sectors, those most associated with the articulation of hegemonic power, certainly not grassroots social movement (Kabisch, 2010; Tuters & Varnelis, 2006).

Media Literacy

“For want of a better term, media literacy is a form of critical literacy.”

David Buckingham (2003, p. 38)

What is media education? Why is it important? Simply, it is the process of teaching media literacy, the ability to read and write media. Multiliteracy education refers to dealing with the ever-widening range of media and the concomitant requirement to go beyond traditional literacy training (Buckingham, 2003). Advocating scholars regard such education as not just important, but essential (Buckingham, 2000, 2003, 2009; Caron & Caronia, 2007; de Block & Buckingham 2007; Jenkins, 2006; Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton & Robison, 2009). Media and education scholar David Buckingham (2003) contends media is embedded in children’s social relationships, thus multiliteracy is not just about modes of communication but the “inherently social nature of literacy” (p. 38). Attaining media literacy upholds the process of interpretation, criticism, and identity building (Buckingham, 2000, 2003; Caron & Caronia, 2007; de Block & Buckingham 2007; Jenkins, 2006; Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton & Robison, 2009). Per the Share, Jolls, Thoman media literacy framework, students learn to consider the following questions: Who created this message? What creative elements are employed to get our attention? How many might perceive this message differently from me? What lifestyles are reflected in or omitted from this message? And finally, Why is this message being sent? (Jenkins, 2006; Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton & Robison, 2009). These questions foster young people’s attainment of skills, knowledge, moral frameworks, and self-confidence (ibid). Further, critical appraisal of the media fosters “‘identity work’ … laying claim to more prestigious or powerful social identities” (Buckingham, 2003, p. 109). Caron & Caronia (2007) argue teens’ use of communications technology artifacts likewise encourages individuation.

In The Making of Citizens: Young People, News and Politics, David Buckingham (2000) advances children are cynical about the news due to a “growing awareness of their own powerlessness” (p. 203) His suggestion, that this can be ameliorated by departing from the classical, incredibly conservative format of the news model, relates to communications scholars Arvind Singhal and Everett M. Rogers’ (2004) “entertainment-education,” wherein media messaging is conceived to exploit mass media’s appeal “to show individuals how they can live safer, healthier, and happier lives” (p. 9).

Communications and convergence culture scholar Henry Jenkins also advocates for sociopolitical actualization through creativity. I will return to participatory culture in greater detail later, but for now here are the set of new media literacies laid out by him and others in 2009’s John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Report on Digital Media and Learning, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton and Robison). This list of integral “cultural competencies and social skills” (2009, p. xiii) adds to conventional classroom knowledge: play (which de Block and Buckingham, 2007 also promote), performance, simulation, appropriation, multitasking, distributed cognition (the ability to use tools), collective intelligence, judgment, transmedia navigation, networking, and negotiation.

Border Pedagogy

“It is also about linking learning to social change, education to democracy, and knowledge to acts of intervention in public life. Critical pedagogy encourages students to learn to register dissent, as well as to take risks in creating the conditions for forms of individual and social agency that are conducive to a substantive democracy.”

Henry A. Giroux (2005, p. 216)

Education scholar Liesbeth de Block and David Buckingham (2007) bemoan the tendency to treat children as passive recipients of socialization in their adoptive countries. They are active performers and often, as in the case of economic migrants (those migrating for employment opportunity and improved standard of living – the clear majority of the immigrants in the United States and certainly among the Out the Window teen participants’ families), develop ambiguous power relations with their parents post-migration. They are the “front line” in migrant families’ endeavors to negotiate their new environments (p. 23).

Just as media literacy advocates see their project as component to a larger political objective, so too does cultural critic Henry Giroux (2005) conceive his border pedagogy. Pedagogy matters because it is the province in which issues of authority, social praxis, and political intercession are learned, practiced, and implemented. Border pedagogy requires even more. First, the liberal concept of multiculturalism and consensus needs replacing with a “radical notion of cultural difference and citizenship that recognizes” (p. 24) that discord persists between constituencies. Second and third, that its core values are those of “democratic revolution – freedom, equality, and justice” (p.  24), and that these tenets must be proclaimed within each of the diverse public spheres. Finally, recalling Situationism, Giroux enjoins students to participate in “cultural remapping as a form of resistance” (Giroux, 2005, p. 25).

Liberating Discourse in the Digital Divide

“And we may see the emergence of an educational ‘underclass’ that is effectively excluded from access, not merely to economic capital but to social and cultural capital as well.”

David Buckingham (2003, p. 203)

“The pedagogy of the oppressed, as a humanist and libertarian pedagogy, has two distinct stages. In the first, the oppressed unveil the world of oppression and through the praxis commit themselves to its transformation. In the second stage, in which the reality of the oppression has already been transformed, this pedagogy ceases to belong to the oppressed and becomes a pedagogy of all people in the process of permanent liberation.”

Paolo Freire (1993, p. 36)

How to bridge the digital divide? It exists. Surveying 461 LA Metro riders in 2011, the Out the Window team discovered that while 51.5% of English-speaking riders usually use the Internet, 43.9% of Spanish-speakers never use it. (This relationship exists even when controlling for age.) One cannot conceive of media – whatever the form – without thinking of the sociocultural implications and modalities (Allon, 2004; Appadurai, 1996; Bar, Ghandeharizadeh & Ordonez, 2008; Barnett, 2004; Buckingham, 2000, 20003, 2009; Bull, 2004; Canclini, 2001; Caron & Caronia, 2007; Castells, 1996; Couldry, 2004; Couldry & McCarthy, 2004; de Block & Buckingham, 2007; Freire, 1993; Gibbs, 2004; Ito, 2008; Jenkins, 2006; Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton & Robison, 2009; Kabisch, 2010; Lim & Kann, 2008; McCullough, 2006; Moores, 2004; Morley, 2000; Rogers, 2007, 2010; Russell, Ito, Richmond & Tuters, 2008; Shirky, 2010; Singhal & Rogers, 2004; Tuters, 2004; Tuters & Varnelis, 2006; Varnelis, 2008; Varnelis & Friedberg, 2008).

What’s more, the implications of the digital divide are nuanced. A 2004 research (as cited in Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton and Robison, 2009) demonstrated that young gamers later become gainfully employed adults. A year later, a study conducted in the United Kingdom found the divide yawns not in terms of access but speed, site, quality, and support – the extent to which the Internet is engaging and rich (ibid.). Who and what provide this engaging access? Schools, after-school programs, and parents (ibid.). This is relevant because access amounts to cultural capital, to “cultural forms of expression and communication” (Buckingham, 2003, p. 183). Oscar Gandy (as cited in Couldry, 2004) goes so far as to say that the “real digital divide” (p. 24) is encountered in market and political language, and that information flow and storage have raised critical questions about how to assure trust in markets and politics. And the fact remains that access, humdrum access, costs money. While mobile telephony manages somewhat to traverse the divide, the locative commons command progressively specialized hardware to function – and we continue to pay handsomely to private corporations for access to said commons (Tuters, 2004).

Jenkins (2006) worries that focusing exclusively on access obscures the greater threat, the participation gap. The emphasis should be on a pedagogy that inspires youth to see themselves as creative producer, which bears with it a call for adult education in simultaneity. Jenkins concedes those about whom he waxes poetic in Convergence Culture (2006) are “disproportionately white, male, middle class, and college educated (p. 26). His is an impassioned defense: he is an “active fan” (p. 12) and “critical utopian” (p. 258).

Out the Window has a similar critical utopian spirit. It also hearkens critical pedagogy theorist and philosopher Paolo Freire’s manifesto, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1993). Freire advocates for nothing short of radicalization of its actors. Fed “by a critical spirit” (p. 19), radicalization is invariably creative and, vitally, assures a revolutionary’s steadfastness. Cardinal to Freire’s theory: that the oppressed are not marginalized within society, nor is their ambition with revolutionary leaders to overpower their persecutors, but to liberate them also. The revolutionaries and the oppressed actualize this collective liberation through their “permanent relationship of dialogue” (p. 50), constituted by “the essence of dialogue itself: the word” (p. 68). Together these groups can intervene in reality and achieve global change. For Freire, all true words are praxis and their articulation summons social justice.

In his Theory of Revolutionary Action, Freire upholds intersubjectivity between Subjects-Actors (revolutionary leaders) and Actors-Subjects (the oppressed) in contradistinction to the Theory of Oppressive Action, featuring Actors-Subjects (the dominant elites). This mode manifests in the “co-intentional” (p. 51) learning that revolutionary leaders engage in with the oppressed. “Problem-posing education” embraces an ardent practice of discovering reality, it “strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality” (p. 62). This joint tutelage assumes neither party bears more knowledge than the other – all people must regard themselves as independent, autonomous thinkers. Caron and Caronia (2007) echo this sentiment in their concept of “intentionality,” namely that the deliberate interfacing with an object or phenomenon encourages rebellion against apparent constraints to overcome adversity; “where there is choice, there is responsibility” (p. 53).

The Consumer Citizenry and Participatory Culture

“To consume is to make more sense of a world where all that is solid melts into air.”

Néstor García Canclini (2001, p. 42)

Media and communications scholar Couldry (2004) addresses us from the Old World, anthropologist Canclini (2001) from the Southern Cone, and Jenkins (2006) from the megaUSA. Despite their discrete milieus, they all contend a consumer society can be our society. Couldry (2004) proposes the productive consumer, noting the network has exposed the false legitimacy of the producer-consumer hierarchy. Canclini, for his part, disagrees out of hand that neoliberalism is the only viable avenue into globalization. Likewise, he believes our prevailing conception of credible democratic participation is hobbled from the start. Were we to frame citizenship as a “political strategy” (p. 21), our options would be legion. Instead, we delimit ourselves, treating it as a reason-bound, Habermasian “political matter” (p. 20). Just the act of reconsidering citizenship assumes agency, the right of entry into and belonging in a sociopolitical structure – “the very arrangement in which we desire to be included” (p. 21). His media citizenship obviates the production-consumption binary, instead zeroing in on the institutional contingencies “through which cultural value is produced, reproduced, and contested” (p. 69). In the purchasing and appropriation of goods, we proclaim our cultural citizenship, thus rights as citizens.

“Empowerment,” for Jenkins and his MacArthur team (2009), “comes from making meaningful decisions within a real civic context” (p. 12). “Participatory culture” defined: “culture in which fans and other consumers are invited to actively participate in the creation and circulation of new content” (2006, p. 331). Better still, we have diverse access points; participation can occur at three levels, production, selection, and distribution. No, he acquiesces, popular culture will not exorcise America’s demons, but interacting with it can at least offer some semblance of agency, perhaps help fend off the general sense of disempowerment-fed malaise Buckingham (2000) implicates in young people’s political apathy. Jenkins’ (2006) convergence culture affirms both Couldry’s productive consumer and Canclini’s cultural citizen. Consumers now seek seek their peculiar quarry from among the scattered media. We “will go almost anywhere” (p. 2) for the entertainment we want.

Networked Publics

“Increases in community size, decreases in cost of sharing, and increases in clarity all make knowledge more combinable, and in groups where these characteristics grow, combinability will grow.”

Clay Shirky (2010, p. 142)

The implications are myriad. Another favored term, “networked publics” underscores the imbricated array of cultural, social, and technological advancements constitutive of and constituted by the emergence of the communications revolution (Ito, 2008). However we phrase it, “network publics,” “network culture” (Varnelis, 2008), “network society” (Castells, 1996), the ostensibly infinite digital landscape has ushered an altogether novel human existence. As much (perhaps more) than its relevance to technology or industry, convergence culture embodies “norms, common culture, and the artistry of everday life” (Russell, Ito, Richmond, & Tuters, 2008, p. 72).

Information sharing is a central virtue of the networked culture. While their concerns are of divergent scales – linguist and new literacy advocate James Paul Gee regards the individual while “collective intelligence” media scholar Pierre Lévy, the group – they share an abiding interest in Internet participation as expressive of “living in a world where knowledge is shared and where critical activity is ongoing and lifelong” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 192). Collective intelligence crusader Clay Shirky (2010) explains cognitive surplus emerges from four conditions: means, motive, opportunity (it requires a community, after all), and culture, or the collectively held assumptions about operations.

As a democratic phenomenon, collective intelligence is invariably “disorderly, undisciplined, and unruly” (Jenkins, 2006, p. 53), but however messy, that democratic exchange is as imperative in the Internet as it is anywhere else. While nformation and communication studies expert Lim and political scientist Kann (2008) endorse Jenkins’ stance that amateurs spreading their media and engaging in participatory culture “is an important aspect of democracy” (p. 99), they are slower to call it democratic. Rather, “it is convivial” (ibid). Some select from Habermas’ and Rawls’ respective contributions to deliberative democracy, espousing citizen involvement in discourse. Others choose mobilization, the development of expansive social networks. Others still are “uncivil, anarchic, and even undemocratic” (ibid, p. 80). Media theorist Neil Postman (as cited in Morley, 2000) and political theorist Chantal Mouffe (as cited in Morley, 2000), recalling Giroux (2005), each remind us this negotiation is fundamental to democratic action. Postman’s Internet “community” is as likely a faction not of shared but of variant interests, and the participants in which must juggle each others’ predilections. Mouffe maintains it is precisely the discrepancies among groups that assures democracy. Agonistic pluralism understands that “a healthy democratic process calls for a vibrant clash of political positions and an open conflict of interests” (as cited in Morley, 2000, p. 191).

Lim and Kann (2008) caution us not to read a robust e-clashing so readily as an expression of egalitarianism. Internet initiatives alone will not suffice, but must be done in coordiation with “other media networks, as well as between cyberspace and geographical place” (p. 90). Just as Massey’s (1994) mundane world comprises power-geometries, so too does the virtual one. In whichever realm, then, we must champion “network neutrality” (Bar, Baer, Ghandeharizadeh & Ordonez, 2008), recognizing that “networks can consolidate power in the act of dispersing it” (Varnelis & Friedberg, 2008).

What (Research) Is to Be Done?

“There is no value anymore, if there ever way, in research that assumes the researcher somehow has a radically different and ‘better’ perspective on the problems of everyday life.”

Nick Couldry (2004, p. 25)

Singhal and Rogers (2004) maintain entertainment-education is a propitious tool for social change. They contend it can positively impact audience appreciation and concomitant comportment, as well as establish conditions for advancement at both the local and institutional levels. Of course there are a whole host of factors that determine its effectiveness: audience characteristics, organizational factors, media environment, audience research, program-specific factors, and infrastructural factors. Not a one of them insignificant.

At the pedagogical level, there also remain realities and practical impediments to media research. For one, production is so profoundly a social, collaborative process that we cannot say that students’ visual output is an accurate portrayal of reality (Buckingham 2009). Buckingham (2003) rails against “Romantic notions of ‘creativity’ and ‘self-expression’ (p. 137). Production is not an end in itself but a unit of data for integration “into larger critical analysis education, and rigorous self-evaluation for theoretical insights” (p. 84). Such expeditions into meaning require that educators and researchers engage in starkly reflexive analysis. The asymmetrical power relations between teacher/researcher and student are as abstract as they are ensured (Buckingham, 2000, 2003, 2009; Caron & Caronia, 2007; Couldry, 2004; de Block & Buckingham, 2007).

Conclusion

“Networked digital media are beginning to be taken for granted in everyday life. Although the nature of adoption varies widely by factors such as nation, region, class, and gender, an increasing number of people are domesticating networked media for their ongoing business, for socialization, and for cultural exchange.”

Mizuko Ito (2008, p. 1)

Perhaps not remarkably, scholars in all this paper’s represented disciplines call for interdisciplinary work (Canclini, 2001; Couldry & McCarthy, 2004; de Block & Buckingham, 2007; Giroux, 2005; Varnelis, 2008). This is because the quotidian superimposition of the Network on authentic and virtual spaces is irrefutable. There has developed a mobile sense of space, virtual dimensions have gained in popularity, and mapping and tracking technologies have propagated. These conditions do not reflect normative goods – there are grinding tensions (Varnelis & Friedberg, 2008). They affect all, so all best weigh in.

Still, optimists within the discourse find assurances in Ito’s domesticated media. Returning to the subject of art, Jenkins (2006) charges the Internet’s cultural economy in all its variegated colors helps bridge the digital divide. The Internet acts as a meeting ground for an array of grassroots communities, it is a media archive for “amateur curators” (p. 275), and is spreadable media, thus a vehicle for agency. Buckingham (2003) agrees that the creative industries are not just economic boons to their communities, but convey appreciable psychological benefits, such as self-esteem and discovery of heretofore-unknown talent. The Out the Window team champions this idealism, hoping to share this psychosocial windfall with its student-creators and rider-participants and endeavor to transform Los Angeles from a fractal to a connected, egalitarian, and liberated network.

References

Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization (Vol. 1). Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press.

Augé, M. (1995). Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity: Verso Books.

Bar, F., Baer, W., Ghandeharizadeh, S., and Ordonez, F. (2008). Infrastructure: Network Neutrality and Network Futures. In K. Varnelis (Ed.), Networked Publics (pp. 109-43). Cambridge: MIT Press.

Barnett, C. (2004). Neither Poison Nor Cure: Space, scale and public life in media theory. In N. Couldry & A. McCarthy (Eds.), MediaSpace: place, scale, and culture in a media age. London and New York: Psychology Press.

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Scott, A. (2004). Cultural-Products Industries and Urban Economic Development: Prospects for Growth and Market Contestation in Global Context. _Urban Affairs Review_, 39(4): 461 -490.

In this article, Scott aims to address the real feasibility of placing cultural-products industries at the center of economic development policies, as has been increasingly common practice since the first generation of “place marketing and associated heritage-industry programs” (464) of the 1980s.

Today, says Scott, cultural economy industries are bound together by these three common features. They are:

  1. focused on aesthetic and semiotic content creation
  2. the more disposable income, the more industries’ products are consumed
  3. their presence encourages local agglomeration for production, which is then circulated into global markets.

About the functional points of industries: First, they’re “composed of swarms of small producers complemented by many fewer numbers of large establishments” (467). Second, the small producers tend toward flexible specialization and the large firms toward mass production, sometimes turning into “systems houses” (467), hubs of larger production networks. They conform to a contractual/transactional model with a heavy reliance on part-time/freelance labor, the instability of which leads to “intensive social networking activities” (467).

Cultural products industries operate best when their component parts cluster geographically. Globalization has in fact accentuated “agglomeration because it leads to rising exports combined with expansion of localized production” (472). Production may move elsewhere, creating “alternative clusters or satellite production locations” (473), such as Vancouver filming locations.

Partnerships between cities, facilitated by communications, also exist. Using the audiovisual industry as an exemplar, Scott hypothesizes “a much more polycentric and polyphonic global audiovisual production system in the future that has been the case in the recent past” (475), one that will get increasingly “enmeshed in [widening and decentralizing] global networks of commercial and creative interactions” (475).

Regarding developmental initiatives for the cultural economy, in cities where the cultural-products industries exist, the best policy comprises interventions “at critical junctures in the production system and the urban milieu to release synergies” (479). In cities without preexisting cultural production, there is often a revamping effort using “the relics of the industrial past” (479). Such initiatives, however, can unleash gentrification. In all cases, policy makers must know they have to reach out to the wider world’s consumer base.

“A vibrant cultural politics attuned to these issues will no doubt attempt to intensify the push to diversity while seeking to mobilize opinion in favor of a global cultural economy that promotes intelligence and sensibility rather than their opposites” (484).

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Scott, A. (1997). The cultural economy of cities. _International journal of urban and regional research_, 21(2): 323–339.

Allen J. Scott, PhD Geography from Northwestern University, is Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Geography at UCLA. He has spent the last several years focusing on industrialization organization and location, urbanization, the cultural economy of cities, and economic development.

In this paper he explores “the intertwined effects of capitalist production processes and the ever-increasing cultural content of outputs, and the ways in which these effects make themselves felt in the growth and development of particular place” (325). Moreover, he asserts that these effects will be complex and far ranging, exhibiting both Adorno’s (2001) bleak assessment of the flattening culture industry and a more optimistic one.

Scott opens, explaining place and culture are inextricably liked and not without tensions: place is “always a locus of dense human relationships” (324) and culture is incident to “place specific characteristics” (ibid) that distinguishes localities from one another. The postfordist cultural product economy affirms the supply side’s differentiation marketing strategy and the demand side’s fad-driven consumption. The net effect: flexible, specialized production by small firms enabled by technological breakthroughs and networked organization.

The most important upshot for this “productive-cum-competitive regime” (327) discussion: “large metropolitan areas…[are] rapidly becoming the master hubs of cultural production in a postfordist global economic order” (327).

There are three main points of the cultural economy:

  1. it comprises a wide variety of manufacturing and service activities
  2. its employment signifies its sheer size, which seems to be growing
  3. much of the cultural economy is located in major city centers.

Scott then explains the cultural-products industries can be summed up in the following five technological-organizational dimensions:

  1. the technologies and labor processes involve larger amounts of human handiwork and computer technologies
  2. production is generally arranged in small- and medium-sized, dense networks
  3. multifaceted industrial complexes arise from the smaller networks, which in turn require labor pools, thus reducing the risks for both workers and employers
  4. the complexes of cultural products industries are “invariably replete with external economies” (333), which leads to “the hypothesis that innovation…is likely to be a geometric function of the size and the relevant reference group
  5. agglomeration encourages new institutional infrastructures which can assist the local economy.

Finally, while cultural economies are densely agglomerated in their home cities, they are likewise global actors, “embedded in far-flung global networks of transactions” (334). Their success is thus dependent on local penetration and foreign, cultural access. Multinational corporations are no an essential ingredient in cultural production circulation.

“[G]eographically differentiated cultural production nodes are liable to be the rule rather than the exception” (335).

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Molotch, H. and Treskon, M. (2009). Changing Art: SoHo, Chelsea and the Dynamic Geography of Galleries in New York City. _International Journal of Urban and Regional Research_, 33(2):517-541.

Mark Treskon is a doctoral candidate in NYU’s Sociology department. He has a BA in Geographical Studies from the University of Chicago, and M.Sc. in Urban Planning from the University of Toronto, and his research interests are urban sociology, public space, and housing. (See other entry for Molotch’s bio.)

In this article, the authors examine the commercial displacement of the gallery scene from SoHo to Chelsea from the mid-90s through the mid-00’s. Unlike residential gentrification, which seems to be just about rising rents, relevant in commercial displacement are the new values of what is sold in that particular space. Galleries are the sites of intense socialization, Oldenburg’s (1999) Third Spaces, which promote lucky meetings and consequent deal makings (Currid, 2007) and “designate the ‘buzz’ (Storper and Venables, 2004; Caves, 2000) that results as a fundamental economic resource” (518).

Molotch and Treskon here are less interested in the social issues generally linked to displacement (mostly because it’s not residential). Instead they want to know whether Chelsea galleries can withstand non-art pressures and, more generally, whether there can be durable gallery districts?

In terms of the “contingent scene,” Chelsea is protected from retail competitors and their clientele in a way that SoHo isn’t, and its upper-floors can still feasibly be gallery spaces, benefiting from the “art neighborhood” scene.

Chelsea benefits from “contingency artifacts,” too. The spaces, former garages and the like, were perfect for the new, bigger art and complex installations coming into vogue. Artists now can do their work in other, smaller places and present their works on a large, urban scale in the district. This means you can have a “bohemian product” (534) in an industrial setting — the works themselves have become more indicative of the spaces in which they’re presented.

“This represents an escalation in the meaning of ‘scene’…. If you want to be with contemporary art in a hip social setting, Chelsea becomes the necessary — and reliable — place to go” (534).

The place stability occurs via the twin forces of good reasons to move (e.g. higher rents) and reasons to stay (e.g. worry that others won’t follow). At this point, galleries stay in Chelsea because, even if they rents are high, they want to maintain in the sticky social setting.

Finally, the processes: (1) escalating rents can dislodge, (2) a leader can select a new site, (3) “scene dependence” encourages others to settle in the new zone, and (4) provided the value of art tracks with rising rents, the new district can be durable. However, if consumption preferences weaken, the durability can crack.

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Molotch, H. (1996). LA as Design Product: How Art Works in a Regional Economy. In _The City: Los Angeles and Urban Theory at the End of the Twentieth Century_, A. Scott & E. Soja, eds. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

In this chapter of Scott’s and Soja’s LA School exegesis on why the study of LA is relevant to all postmodern urban studies, Molotch explains it is the very essence of Los Angeles that permeates the city’s — and the world’s — commercial industry.

“Using Los Angeles as a case study, I investigate how local aesthetics…affect what businesses produce and market. Local art is a factor of production” (225).

Molotch discusses the intersection of high and low arts and its interpretation (e.g. Bertoia claims Nude Descending a Staircase as his inspiration for his steel rod chair), and LA’s diverse cultural makeup on creation. Since 1990, LA has been home to as many “creative occupation”-holding (Zukin, 1995) professionals as New York City.

LA’s characteristic playfulness, optimism, topography, and weather have all been brought to pioneering bear in the film, tourism, apparel, architecture, design, and automobile industries. These industries stay here, says Molotch, because there is inherent and irreplaceable value in their geographic association with LA. Moreover, since Southern Californians are so notorious for their lack of brand loyalty, this is a prime marketing testing ground for new products.

“The mistake is always to bracket art from production, and to think of the artistic, whether in material form or human, as defining the opposite of the practical” (264).

LA’s competitive advantage is based on its cultural production.

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Markusen, A. (2006). Urban development and the politics of a creative class: evidence from a study of artists. _Environment and Planning A,_ 38(10):1921-1940.

In this piece, Markusen critically addresses Richard Florida’s methodology, looks closer at artists as workers and residents, sees where the previous two jibe, examines how the arts organize in cities — where and how they work, and their role in gentrification — and finally, makes recommendations about pro-arts planning.

Richard Florida, famous for his anointing the creative class with his 2002 The Rise of the Creative Class, asserts that the new creative class has overtaken virtually all other classes, both collars and the wealthy, and that they prefer high-tech locations in amenity-filled, diverse cities. Markusen says hold on. “Creativity” is a fuzzy concept from the start, which Florida confuses even further by his use of occupational code statuses (i.e. he includes managers from some questionably creative categories, but omits such groups as tailors, millwrights, etc.) Second, he generalizes from select anecdotes, which is just a problem anywhere. Third, his regressions show a relationship between the creative class and high-tech, which has a few foundational flaws. Glaeser (2004) included educational attainment into Florida’s regressions and his erstwhile significant relationships, notably his gay index, were all gone. He further uses metropolitan areas, which cast a much wider net. Consider Silicon Valley — nowhere is more high-tech and its built landscape is very suburban, homogenous. His “glib treatment of diversity is particularly troubling” (1923) since he uses same-sex male households reporting as partners as a proxy for overall diversity. Both Clark (2004) and Glaeser (2004 find this “gay index” really to be correlated to education, one, and two, most Americans would agree that diversity, while inclusive of it, extends beyond sexual identity to include race, ethnicity, migrant presence, economic class mix, etc. Overall, there’s an issue of causality that lingers and Markusen’s biggest issue is the “seriously flawed conceptual treatment of creativity. Human creativity cannot be conflated with years of schooling…. It is simply incorrect, and indeed dangerous, to label people in large lumpy occupational groupings such as managers and professional workers as creative, and others–all production and service workers, for instance–as not creative” (1924).

Richard’s virtue is that he does see creativity as embedded in occupations, though, so Markusen studies discrete occupations to discover migration behavior, socioeconomic characteristics, and why artists migrate, to where, and how they relate with and to their communities.

The two reasons for location: (1) demand from artist-hiring commercial sectors, and (2) conscious lifestyle choice to promote one’s artistic development. The latter is possible because artists are more apt to be self-employed — they have high amounts of contractual work and direct access to consumers. Therefore, artists are “more footloose and apt to choose a place to live before committing to employment or marketing efforts” (1926).

Artists have comprised a growing occupation in the US in the last 30 years. There was a surge following new pro-arts funding of the 60s (e.g. Ford Foundation, the NEA, regional corporate funding), which was hampered during the 90s Culture Wars’ crippling of NEA funding. The upshot was a re-concentration of artists in the top three most artistic cities: New York, LA, and San Francisco.

Migrational findings:

  • urban economies both attract and homegrow artists
  • artists move between and within cities, and between cities and rural areas at relatively high rates (per the 2010 NEA “Creative Placemaking” panel, this migration is also generational)
  • educational institutions and cultural organizations skew spatial distributions
  • artists’ decisions are thought-out and deeply researched
  • where: toward denser cities, transitional neighborhoods
  • why: art schools, performance and exhibition spaces, affordable live/work and studio space, training institutions, artists’ centers, and amenities (nightlife, recreational)
  • how: ratio of men to women is higher, more apt to rent than own, whiter than their workforce as a whole, and highly educated as a group; while they might be poor, they can live in households with very high incomes

Markusen’s findings jibe with Florida’s regarding artists’ intermetropolitan, intraurban, socioeconomic characteristics, though the relationship to high-tech is unclear and his emphasis on agglomeration (1) overlooks precise locations and (2) inspires urban megaprojects, a la the Bilbao Effect.

Her research finds artists use smaller spaces, some permanent and some temporary for their work more than any one given institution. There are three artist-centric spaces, all incubators, spaces for exchange and debate. Creativity is not a zero-sum game.

“…this nurturing of artists may strengthen regional and neighborhood economies in ways that magnify their contribution to equity, stability, and diversity. Such spaces are a relatively underappreciated element in the urban economy and deserve to be studied and appreciated” (1935).

  • artists’ centers: offer conversations, classes, mentoring, shared workspace and tools, and where exhibits, readings, and performances take place; involve dedicated space that is available for ongoing visits, where membership and access to many events is available to all comers, and where other artistic functions are available on a more selective, often openly competitive basis
  • artists’ live/work and studio buildings: conversion of former industrial buildings converted into artists’ studios or live/work units; initiators of transformations are often artists themselves; conversions involve tax credits, city loans, and land or building write-downs
  • smaller scale performing arts venues: these provide the opportunities for an important segment of artists to learn their craft and network; for the “real time” enterprises that can’t be installed, stored, etc.; are often adaptively reused buildings

Artists, though linked with gentrification, are generally diametrically opposed, politically, to conservative development efforts. “But for the most part, artists are adamant in their support for more decentralized, neighborhood-based theaters, galleries, and other artist-centered spaces” (1936). Artists are social actors, not gentrifiers.

Conclusions: be more nuanced. (1) Major downtown projects aren’t the best approach. (2) Really look at who’s bringing in the money. (3) And if it’s the artistic community, then there are different approaches.

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Miles, M. (1997). The City (Ch.1), The Contradictions of Public Art (Ch.4), and Art in Urban Development (Ch.5). In _Art, Space, and the City: Public Art and Urban Futures_. London: Routledge.

Malcolm Miles, PhD, Architecture from Oxford Brookes University, is Professor at Plymouth University’s School of Architecture, Design and Environment. He chairs the Culture-Theory-Space research group and researches the intersection of critical theory, contemporary visual culture, and urbanism.

Miles here aims to undo the nostalgic view of public art, particularly transhistorical modern art, which, rejecting context, helps to “project a compensatory fantasy of the present which abolishes conflict” (88), including — especially — those of race, gender, and class. Genuine public art should reflect that there are numerous discrete publics, and that the public realm evokes more than urban sites.

“The reconfiguration of a city introduces, in treating its existing fabric as a contourless ground on which to inscribe a new design, the possibility of a radical break with history…. perhaps the urge for a new city derives from a desire to purge the unclean, abolishing the mess and complexities of the past” (23).

He levels, following Zukin (1995) and Deutsche (1991), an attack against using art for redevelopment purposes, particularly the prosperous 80s. The essential question, linking art, urban policy, and the predictable gentrification is, Who controls the process? Miles holds that Percent for Art projects ignore the difference between “urban development” and “urban regeneration.” The latter evokes something more sustainable and strives for social justice. The former, by contrast, too often means capitulating to developer interests. Saskia Sassen (1996) worries about cultural districts/centers because reflect middle-class interests and flatten difference. Yet, per Sassen, “A large city is a space of difference” (as cited on 118). Again, whose public art is this? Who’s in control? Because even though they’re agents of gentrification, it’s rarely the artists who feel empowered on their way out.

“Developers do not develop in order to construct the ‘city beautiful,’ they construct the city beautiful in order to conceal the incompatibility of their development with a free society” (130).

For Miles, “art” and “public” didn’t jibe in the 19th century and they still don’t today, and he contends the art-and-architecture trope is a framework for conventional, male-dominated public art. A sculpture in a plaza isn’t necessarily any more approachable than hallowed museum galleries. Per museum director Kathy Halbreich (1984), “Public art should not be restricted to artworks placed in public plazas but should encompass relationships and dialogues between artists and the public” (as cited on 94). But, per feminist art historian Arlene Raven (1989), “the new public-spirited art can…critique…the uneasy relationship among artworks, the public domain, and the public” (as cited on 100). (Thus, harking Helguera (2011), the community member’s input is key.)

Finally, Miles quotes Suzanne Lacy’s (1995) Mapping the Terrain proposal for new, socially active modes of art practice.

“An alternative history of today’s public art could read through the development of various vanguard groups, such as feminist, ethnic, Marxist, and media artists and other activities. They have a common interest in leftist politics, social activism, redefined audiences, relevance for communities (particularly marginalized ones), and collaborative methodology” (as cited on 101).

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Markusen, A. and Schrock, G. (2006). The artistic dividend: urban artistic specialization and economic development implications. _Urban Studies_, 43(10):1661.

Greg Schrock, PhD, Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Chicago, is Assistant Professor at Portland State University. His research focuses on the intersection of regional economies and local labor markets, and how economic and workforce development initiatives can promote social equity and upward mobility in low-wage sectors.

With this article, the authors aim to reconceptualize the additional, positive impact of artists on their cities that would not otherwise occur without them: the “artistic dividend.” Thus far, their contributions have been understated because current methodologies ignore critical improvements artists bring to manufacturing facilities, cross-fertilization into other sectors and artistic practices, or the fact that “regional consumption of the arts may be import-substituting, as consumers prefer to spend on performances and artwork rather than spending at shopping malls full of imports” (1662).

Artists “heavily patronize other artists’ work and as so much of this work is labor-intensive, the multiplier effect of local arts consumption maybe higher than expected” (ibid).

There are two forms of dividends: first, current income streams within the market and second, “returns to the region as a whole on past investments” (ibid), which echo Markusen’s (2004) “distinctive city” findings about artist distribution among cities. They operationalize the artistic dividend occupationally, and look at individuals who self identify as artists.

So how and where are artists locating themselves at the start of the 21st century? Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco lead the pack, having highly skewed location quotients (particularly in performing arts), believed to be linked with: increases in arts funding, emphasis on tourism, and the pursuit of cultural capital by city leadership.

At the same time, these cities reversed the trend of decentralization, with artistic communities reconvening in LA, New York, and San Francisco in the 90s, so much so that LA overtook the highest-concentration-of-artists mantle from New York. Artists did flock to other second-tier cities, making their populations more secure. Migration is affected by the artists’ decision about where they want to live and work, but work is not the deciding factor.

Without question, artists cluster by their particular practice. For example, designers and architects are more likely to have full-time professional occupations in their field. New York, LA, and San Francisco are home to the largest concentrations of designers but not architects. Because the latter’s work is so cooperative, they cluster in metro areas in general. Advertising industries are correlated with large pools of artistic groups, but Markusen and Schrock demurred to make claims about direction of causality. Artists, especially writers, are self-employed in varying patterns; therefore policymakers should look at more information than just arts organization impact studies.

The authors conclude with the following policy recommendations. Cities should: (1) support artists’ centers, (2) link resident artists with their corporate communities not for philanthropy but product development purposes, (3) improve their decision-making processes for arts funding, and (4) make more granular, strategic investments.

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Markusen, A. (2004). The distinctive city: Evidence from artists and occupational profiles. University of Minnesota: Project on Regional and Industrial Economics.

Ann Markusen, PhD in Economics from Michigan State University, is Professor at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis’ Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and Director of the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics. She is considered one of the foremost authorities on “creative placemaking” and has also taught at Rutgers, Northwestern, Berkeley, and the University of Colorado.

Tracking occupations in American cities, Markusen makes discoveries about the “distinctive” city, and the occupational and lifestyle trends of various artists, and gives recommendations for cities to articulate the arts to distinguish themselves from other municipalities.

Beginning with discoveries, cities “have not resurged at the expense of other second tier cities” (4) in recent decades. Some occupations trend toward major metros, others second-tier, others still avoid the second-tier, opting for cities bigger and smaller. A city’s size does not dictate the degree to which its economy is specialized or hierarchical, but distinctiveness does appear to be on the rise.

To study change over time, Markusen used the “occupational advantage” (7) measure in California cities and discovered the cities are becoming increasingly specialized. Regarding the artistic advantage: in the 1990s, artists showed a reversal in the decentralization trend, particularly in LA, New York, and San Francisco.

Reasons for the concentration of artists in these and other cities:

  1. sheer size, though “only at very high thresholds does the demand for elite arts activities show sensitivities to size of place” (11);
  2. demand might be higher in the traditionally elite cities because of the concentration of disposable income;
  3. the media and advertising industries are in larger cities and have a high demand for artistic labor pools;
  4. arts lure tourism dollars;
  5. cross-pollination and synergies across the various art practices;
  6. artists themselves are drawn to cultural amenities; and
  7. artists patronize other artistic works.

And now the factors that draw artists away from large cities to smaller ones:

  1. different types of artists prefer different locales;
  2. as they’re often self-employed, they are freer to move from city to city;
  3. their presence in a city is linked to the host-city’s sectoral strength;
  4. self-employment varies considerably across regions;
  5. because they’re often self-employed and “footloose,” artists are “paradoxically, capable of acting as stabilizers in a regional workforce” (18), often staying where they are and producing at the same frequency.

Conclusions:

  1. The notion that a city’s sheer size or personal wealth equates to artistic competence is unsupported.
  2. Sectoral strengths are linked to artistic clusters and migration patterns.
  3. Higher cost of living matters sometimes, sometimes not, in dissuading artistic presence.

So what can cities do to cultivate their distinctiveness? Cities should:

  1. play to their current strengths,
  2. “make more modest [arts] investments in smaller distinctive neighborhood-based arts complexes that will stabilize communities, home-grow artists, and create that…urban mosaic” (21);
  3. target the sectors that play up the distinctiveness;
  4. lure artists through amenities, arts education, social/housing benefits;
  5. subsidize artists’ spaces;
  6. link artists to each other; and
  7. rethink current arts investment strategies (read, megaprojects).

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LLoyd, R. (2005). 2005. _Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Postindustrial City_. New York and London: Routledge.

In this book-sized expansion of his Wicker Park case study, Lloyd goes a bit deeper into the qualitative analysis, particularly in his interviews, of the neo-bohemian lifestyle, and expands on his “artist as useful labor” theory.

“…neo-bohemia is not a reified natural area but rather a mode of contingent and embedded spatial practices” (245).

Constituent to this theory is the fact that neo-bohemias are antithetical to David Brooks’ (2001) “bourgeois bohemians,” or “BoBos,” whose consumer practices only track with postindustrial neoliberal capitalism practices. Instead, neo-bohemians exhibit an “elective affinity” (241) between their artistic, do-it-yourself ethos and neoliberal capitalism’s entrepreneurial impulses. The artist, then, is useful labor in this Internet-based, image-conscious economy. Just as neo-bohemia’s residents understand themselves through identification in and with their communities, and their own “subcultural capital” (243) provides them access to status and money, art has become the “MacGuffin for [contemporary] postindustrial economic activities” (244).

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Lloyd, R. (2004). The neighborhood in cultural production: Material and symbolic resources in the new bohemia. _City & Community_, 3(4): 343–372.

Using Wicker Park as a case study, Lloyd asks, what benefits exist in creative neighborhoods to artists? And how “does the space of neo-bohemia operate in the organization and deployment of labor power?” (345). Neo-bohemias are to Lloyd more important in the transition into the postmodern condition than were the Murgerian (1851) bohemias of modernity.

Neo-bohemias take acute advantage of post-industrial spaces and neighborhoods, the implications of which are pronounced. The neo-bohemia is not a rejection or negation of capitalism but magnifies capital interests (as exemplified in gentrification), and the development and agglomeration of new industries, many digital media. Creative industry members collaborate and cluster, thus largely bearing the cost of their own production. Their local ecology draws together residence, work, and showroom/performance spaces, creating manifest and identifiable settings for identification by “extra-local corporate interest, who recruit talent and co-opt cultural productions from these settings at their discretion” (348).

Lloyd identifies material benefits (e.g. cheap live/work space, creative exposure, local/flexible/desirable employment) and symbolic supports (e.g. identification as artist). However, there are conflicts and contradictions. Wicker Park is not like Park and Burgess’ (1921) community ecology because it’s deeply embedded in the mode of capitalist production, and the competitive dynamics are certainly shaped by forces of global capital accumulation. Moreover, gentrification may increase the cost of living, but that contributes to the creation of the new and desirable employment opportunities. Per Irwin (1977), some have to move out: “subcultural articulations have limited ‘carrying capacities’ that can be overwhelmed by an access of participants clamoring for inclusion” (367). Of note: those most upset about gentrification were the newest arrivals to the neighborhood (Huebner, 1994), illustrating Rosaldo’s (1989) “imperialist nostalgia.”

Finally, the underlying contradiction. For Logan and Molotch (1987 [2007 in this blog]), the growth machine players have no local interests. Theirs are telegraphed, profits-only considerations of entrepreneurs and the like. Here, the entrepreneur is also a resident.

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Lloyd, R. (2002). Neo-bohemia: Art and neighborhood redevelopment in Chicago. _Journal of Urban Affairs_, 24(5): 517-532.

Richard Lloyd, PhD Sociology University of Chicago, is Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University. His areas of expertise are urban sociology, sociology of culture, social theory, sociology of art, work and occupations, social change, and political sociology.

This article is Lloyd’s first publication from his ethnographic study of Chicago’s alternative enclave, Wicker Park, from 1999-2001, from which he developed the concept of the “neo-bohemia.” Spending those two years as participant observer, attending a wide range of events, and conducting long, open-ended interviews with approximately three dozen informants, Lloyd determined that the socio-spatial reformations within neo-bohemias belie much postmodern theory regarding the organization of the city, the spectacular (Sorkin, 1992) and the decentralized (Soja, 1989).

“The city remains a place where people actually live, not just visit” (519).

Therefore, Lloyd suggests, instead of conceiving culture as a strictly consumable commodity, we should start to investigate “the new intersections of consumption and production in consumption and production in urban space” (ibid).

The three trends he observes in Wicker Park (and expands upon in his 2004 paper “The Neighborhood in Cultural Production: Material and Symbolic Resources in the New Bohemia”):

  1. the displacement of manufacturing and adaptive reuse;
  2. the intensifying commodification of culture, produced and consumed locally, as well as exported; and
  3. the increasing valorization of artists’ human capital.

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Lachmann, R. (1988). Graffiti as career and ideology. _The American Journal of Sociology_, 94(2):229–250.

Richard Lachmann, Sociology PhD from Harvard University, is Chair of the Department of Sociology at SUNY Albany. His studies include: sociology of culture, popular culture, political sociology, war and terrorism, U.S. decline, military spending, and fiscal crises.

In this article, he asserts that neither the Beckerian (1963) nor the subcultural theories of deviance explain “for the interaction of organization and ideology in the individual and collective experiences of graffiti writers” (248). While writers enter the graffiti art world through Becker’s local ties and social networks, the importance of reputation is not enough to continue careers. Taggers require gang patronage and neighborhood muralists privilege gallery-endowed adulation and monetary rewards over local advocacy.

Throughout their careers, writers “use their immediate social ties to construct generalizations about their opportunities for fame” (249). However, they judge their own work based on the reputation and attendant rewards enjoyed by another. Writers’ corners had encouraged muralists’ earlier (Beckerian) views of fame and worth, but absent those locales, commercial fame preempted local admiration.

“…we must amend [Becker’s] insight by recognizing that…social actors…must reconcile what they learn and do in their individual careers with their broader experiences and observations, or, in the language of Marxist cultural theory, with the hegemonic culture” (249).

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DiMaggio, P. (1987). Classification in Art. _American Sociological Review_, 52(4):440-455.

Paul DiMaggio, PhD, Sociology from Harvard, is Professor of Sociology and past Chair of the Sociology Department at Princeton University. He has written on organizational analysis, particularly nonprofit and cultural organization, on art participation patterns, and cultural conflict in the U.S. He is currently studying social inequity implications of new digital technologies.

In this paper, DiMaggio presents a new framework “to analyze the relationships between social structure, patterns of artistic consumption and production, and the ways in which artistic genres are classified” (440). The societal level study of artistic systems provides insights into the menus of production, drivers of demand, and how artistic innovations reflect a society’s social milieu. The arts constitute today’s “common cultural currency” (443), thus he proposes these four dimensions of artistic classification systems (ACSs):

  1. differentiation: the number of genres in an ACS
  2. hierarchy: reflects the “degree of concentration of cultural authority” (447)
  3. universality
  4. boundary strength: the degree to which production and consumption are protected; “function of structural consolidation” (449)

These dimensions are affected by: formal characteristics of social structures, the organization of educational systems, and the internal relations between cultural dimensions. Importantly, different societies express each ACS dimensions differently, expressing particular cognitive and organizational aspects.

Taste is socially significant as “a form of ritual identification” (443) that helps establish social networks and attainment of desirable personal connections. To have good taste is to possess cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1985, 1986), which can then be substituted for economic capital. (Elsewhere DiMaggio has said that the communications revolution has expanded the social range of actors, “most status cultures are located in diffuse networks” [445].)

There are three mediating systems of production and each one expresses the ACS dimensions in whatever ways suit their objectives:

  1. commercial: producers, seeking profits, will proffer “more weakly framed genres than…ritual classification” (449)
  2. professionals: artists, aiming to establish reputations, produce “narrower, less universal” (449) variations among genres
  3. administrative: governments regulate, so they tend to be “variable” (450

DiMaggio concludes by proposing that the American erosion of cultural boundaries owes to these intersecting factors: the transition of local upper class to national elite, the rise of commercial classification principles with the rise of popular culture, the development of autonomous and competing high-culture art worlds, and the modern state’s mass higher education policy.

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Deutsche, R. (1998). _Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics_. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

In this book, Deutsche looks at “cities, parks, institutions, exhibitions, artworks, disciplines, identities” (xi) and “the less visible and the therefore more pressing struggles that…produce and maintain all spaces” (ibid). She names this exploration the “urban-aesthetic”/”spatial-cultural” field, and divides the book into three sections. (All chapters with the exception of “Agoraphobia,” an examination into the various public spheres, were published in the decade prior to 1998).

“…beauty and utility: weapons of redevelopment” (49).

The first, “The Social Production of Space,” maintains the dominant urban-aesthetic discourse obfuscates the city’s use of art to legitimize urban redevelopment. She upholds Lefebvre’s (1991) “appropriation of space,” as well as his characterization of capitalist space as “abstract” since it’s “pulverized,” hierarchical, fragmented by/for commodification, and made homogeneous for easy use/exchange. She affirms that late-capitalism urbanism, with its emphasis on property and exclusion for others’ comfort, shunts to the side those residents no longer useful in the city’s economy (see Castells, 1998; Smith, 1996; Zukin, 1989, 1995, 2010). Deutsche wants a counterpractice to this valorization of public art (which can be monumental, functional, ephemeral, digital) for its “usefulness” (64).

The second part, “Men in Space,” engages with the neo-Marxist geography discourse for forgetting gender altogether. Soja’s (1989) Postmodern Geographies, Harvey’s (1989) The Condition of Postmodernity, and even Davis’s (1990) City of Quartz, despite his using the noir trope, are utterly absent women. In “Boys Town” (1990), Deutsche corrects Harvey’s several mistakes/confusions, particularly his assertion there “is always a politics of representation” (230).

The third, “Public Space and Democracy,” interrogates exactly what is it we mean when we say “public,” and asserts that site-specificity should in fact be a critique of modern art. It is not autonomous, never undocked from arts, social, economic, and political operations. She argues that had Serra’s Tilted Arc (1981) defenders moved past artist/work hagiography and instead demanded actual dialogue about democracy, they might have gotten further. Further, claiming art is transhistorical neutralizes the shift in contemporary art. “Urban space is the space of conflict” (278). There is no absolute social foundation, and the premise that there is one unitary concept of urban space is a conservative one (e.g. notion of appropriateness). When someone has the right to name, they assume the rights of property.

“Conflict, division, and instability, then, do not ruin the democratic public sphere; they are the conditions of its existence” (289).

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