Tag Archives: cultural capital

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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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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Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R. Weigel, M., Clinton, K., and Robison, A.J. (2009). _Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century_. Cambridge and London: The MIT Press.

In this white paper, Jenkins and collaborators argue for participatory culture as a tool against youth apathy (Buckingham, 2000) and the digital divide. Per Livingstone and Bober (2005), the digital divide isn’t about access, but speed, site, quality, support — the extent to which the Net is engaging and rich. Per Wartella, O’Keefe and Scantlin (2000), we should emphasize technologies less, and skills and content access more to undermine the current class distinction.

The authors see three challenges, thus reasons, for policy and education interventions:

  1. the participation gap: it’s not just about access to the technologies, it’s about the human capital necessary to effectively articulate their capabilities
  2. the transparency problem: the world is layered with layers of media — critical reflection is necessary for youth to see through and to media’s often warped messaging
  3. the ethics challenge: without training, young people are hindered from assuming public roles in community engagement and media production

As remedy, book advocates for an ecological approach to media technologies and communities, and for youth media education that develops skills, knowledge, moral frameworks, and self-confidence. Defined, “participatory culture” has (1) relatively low limits to creative expression and civic engagement, (2) a strong creative and sharing support, (3) informal mentoring of the uninitiated, (4) participants who believe their input matters, and (5) that they share social connections with others. Participatory culture education shifts literacy emphasis from the individual and to the collective. They are also interested in the terms affiliations, expressions, collaborative problem solving, and circulations.

Per Jenkins et al., we need new media education, the literacies of which, “a set of cultural competencies and social skills that young people need in the new media landscape” (xiii). These skills build on and complement the traditional literacy, critical thinking, and technical training already learned in the classroom.

These new media literacies are:

  • play: experimenting offers a new way into problem solving
  • performance: assuming other identities fosters improvisation and learning
  • simulation: evaluating and reconstructing real-world operations
  • appropriation: making something one’s own through remixing and reinterpretation
  • multitasking: zeroing in on primary concerns
  • distributed cognition: interacting with tools so as to augment current cognitive capabilities
  • collective intelligence: pooling and sharing knowledge for common purpose
  • judgment: assessing and determining information sources for their merit
  • transmedia navigation: following information across various modalities
  • networking: searching, synthesizing, and sharing intelligence
  • negotiation: traveling through various communities, respecting their viewpoints, and comprehending other norms

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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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Buckingham, D. (2003). _Media education: Literacy, learning, and contemporary culture_. Cambridge and London: Polity.

Here Buckingham writes an urgent call for media education. He cites his frustrations with the lack of progress in policy; the enduring and misplaced association of media education with creative curricula, rather than being linked with education more generally; and an already low and diminishing regard for teachers. The book has four parts: the essential objectives of media education, a “state of the art” address about media education, a more detailed view of media education pedagogy, and the challenges/opportunities.

For Buckingham, childhood (just like everything else) is not homogeneous. Meaning and experience are contingent upon other social factors, such as gender, race/ethnicity, social class, geographic location, etc. Likewise, blockages to media democratization are political and economic, not just technological. We experience all these things at unique positions in our social terrain, social field (Bourdieu, 1989). Buckingham’s research suggests “there is a widening gap between children’s worlds outside school and the emphases of many education systems” (32) and laments 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” (203). An late 90s UK study determined that middle-class kids, the “technology rich” (181) were about three times more likely to use multimedia computers at home than their working-class counterparts, the “technology poor” (ibid). Lacking access to technologies, these children suffer insufficient access “to cultural forms of expression and communication” (183).

The “so-called ‘creative industries’ (193) benefits extend beyond the economic. Consider the self esteem, the uncovering of unknown gifts that can “bring about the social and economic regeneration of disadvantaged communities” (ibid). Still, the differences between those who already have social and educational capital and those who do not is stark from the start, and this has become all the more dire since education is now perceived primarily as a consumer commodity, with its agonizing and useless standardized examinations.

“…key point here is that…potential benefits of digital technologies will not be realized without informed intervention on the part of teachers and…of peers… [There is a] need for reflection, deliberation, and dialogue” (187).

Buckingham advocates for multiliteracy, noting it’s not just about the plurality of modes of communication — and to be sure, there is a plurality — but the “inherently social nature of literacy” (38). Media education is the process of instruction and media literacy is the outcome. Media literacy comprises: reading, writing, the study of production, of representation, of audiences, and language. Media “intervene” — they provide the mode of communication, the context, and the content — and media production requires collaboration. For Buckingham, creative production’s distinct “social, collaborative” (Becker, 1984) function, hence, instruction, is more important than the “Romantic” (137) arguments for self-expression. He cares more about the social.

In the classroom, Buckingham finds: (1) Contextual analysis allows us to recognize the interconnections between forms of media language, as well as production and audience. (2) Simulations putting students in the role of media producer results not in a parroting of mainstream media but a critical distancing.

This is more than just “functional literacy…. For want of a better term, media literacy is a form of critical literacy) (37-38).

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Wherry, F.F. (2011). _The Philadelphia Barrio: The Arts, Branding, and Neighborhood Transformation_. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Frederick Wherry, PhD in Sociology from Princeton University, is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is both a cultural sociologist who researches markets, as well as an economic sociologist who examines the motivating meanings in and from the market place. He has studied markets in Thailand, Costa Rica, and Philadelphia to better understand how cultural identity affects and improves opportunities within the global and local contexts.

In this book, Wherry holds that community stakeholders (local residents) can transform their neighborhoods through creativity and sweat equity, thus enhancing a neighborhood’s economic vitality and symbolic reputation/distinction (Bourdieu, 1989). The neighborhood in this case is Philadelphia’s Centro de Oro, or as was known from the mid-80s, “the Badlands,” a neighborhood beset by media’s binary narrative of “problem solvers” or “trouble makers” since the mid-80s. These nonmaterial constraints helped negatively shape not just how outsiders perceived the neighborhood, but how the neighborhood perceived itself. “Theirs is the story of how arts and culture contribute to neighborhood change” (21).

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Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. Richardson, ed. _Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education_. New York: Greenwood.

In this essay, Bourdieu lists the three “guises” of capital and elucidates how they collect, operate, and exchange in the process that determines an agent’s position in the social structure. The first, economic, is readily converted into money and sometimes institutionalized in the form of property rights. The second, cultural capital, can occur in three forms: the embodied state (i.e. “long-lasting dispositions of the mind and body” [p. 47]); the objectified state (e.g. books, instruments, tools indicative of education and training); and the institutionalized form (i.e. educational qualifications which confer “entirely original properties on the cultural capital which it is presumed to guarantee” [p. 47]).

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Bourdieu, P. (1985). The social space and the genesis of groups. _Theory and Society_, 14(6).

Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist, anthropologist, and philosopher. Coming from the Genetic structuralism and critical sociology schools, his main interests were power, symbolic violence, historical structures, and subjective agents. His noteworthy ideas comprise: cultural capital, the field, habitus, social capital, reflexivity, symbolic violence, and symbolic capital.

To Bourdieu, challenging Marxism is vitally important for contemporary thinking because “we are so impregnated” (p. 195) with it that we overlook its structurally embedded (and in the end, paradoxical) flaws. His hypothesis is simple. “Constructing a theory of the social space presupposes a series of breaks with Marxist theory” (p. 195). To elucidate, he uses three main points.

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