The cultural quasi-economy of esteem transactions is underpinned and permeated by the real economy of financial transactions

This is the approximate text of a short talk I was invited to give at the Cultural Value Scoping Workshop organised by Patrycja Kaczyńska at Edinburgh College of Art on 18 January 2017

I’ve been asked to talk about what we’ve learnt about the ‘transactions’ underpinning ‘cultural ecosystems’ as part of this discusion on whether scholarship on cultural value has been advancing. I’m really glad about that – especially about the word ‘transaction’, because one of the principal things that I think we’ve learnt is that, while the metaphor of ‘ecology’ can be useful, the reality of cultural production in our society is fundamentally economic.

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Online networks and the production of value in electronic music

Daniel Allington, Anna Jordanous, Byron Dueck

[Cross-posted from https://culturalvalueproject.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/dr-daniel-allington-dr-anna-jordanous-and-dr-byron-dueck-online-networks-and-the-production-of-value-in-electronic-music/]

This project began with Pierre Bourdieu’s argument that cultural value is a form of belief. Drawing on Marcel Mauss’s work in the anthropology of religions, Bourdieu (1993 [1980]) argued that a painting or a poem is a sort of fetish: that is, a ‘magical’ artefact whose special status derives from the fact that believers hold it to be magical. So, for Bourdieu, cultural production involves not only the production of artefacts, but also the production of belief in the value of those artefacts. It’s easy to see how this would apply to what Bourdieu called the ‘field of large scale production’, i.e. the commercial culture industries: big businesses such as major record labels and Hollywood film studios invest both in the production of what is now called ‘content’ and in advertising and other forms of publicity through which to generate demand for that content. But what most interested Bourdieu was what he called the ‘field of restricted production’ or the ‘field of art and literature’, which puts little emphasis on the audience, is embarrassed by excessive commercial success, and appears to operate on the principle of ‘art for art’s sake’.

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Livetweets from ‘Cultural work and cultural value’

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend Mark Banks’s AHRC-funded seminar, ‘Cultural work and cultural value‘. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the whole thing, missing most of Daniel Ashton’s talk (which was shaping up to be very interesting by the time I had to run off) and all of Kate Oakley’s (which was guaranteed to be interesting, but which I missed every second of). So there was one fewer tweeter for their contributions. But there was a lot of tweeting overall, indicating the excitement and enthusiasm of the event. See below; that’s the point of this post. You will, I hope, find some hints of what was said by Mark himself on the value of work, Calvin Taylor on the history of the economic/aesthetic/ethical value trichotomy, Christina Hughes on valuing in the campaign to save Birmingham’s jewellery quarter, David Hesmondhalgh on the neo-Aristotelian conception of aesthetic/cultural value, and the aforementioned Kate Oakley and Daniel Ashton on, respectively, cultural policy and the training of cultural producers.

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Livetweets from ‘Placing cultural work: (new) intersections of location, craft, and creativity’

It’s a couple of weeks since Mark Banks and Susan Luckman’s CRESC-supported ‘Placing cultural work: (new) intersections of location, craft, and creativity’ symposium in Camden (click here for details). It was a fantastic event with a sizeable and highly engaged audience and all invited speakers, hence a remarkable degree of interconnection between presentations despite a wide thematic range (from Susan Luckman’s analysis of how craftspeople present themselves and their homes on Etsy to Ruth Bridgstock’s quantitative study of creative subject graduates’ career pathways in Australia to Nicola Thomas’s history of regional craft guilds in southwest England – not forgetting studies of boutique festivals by Marjana Johansson, the gendering of artistic identity by Stephanie Taylor, and Newcastle’s leftwing Amber film collective by Robert Hollands, plus Julia Bennett and Julie Brown’s account of new initiatives involving the Crafts Council). As for myself, I presented the first output from my ongoing ethnographic research in Hackney Wick. Here are the livetweets as a partial record of what was said.

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Livetweets from my talk on social network analysis, interactive fiction, and cultural value (because I just can’t get over the novelty)

Last month at the Open University, I not-quite-livetweeted Tim Hutchings’s excellent talk on digital bibles. Last week at King’s College London, I found myself – for the first time ever! – being livetweeted (actually livetweeted, no time delays). I’d been liveblogged before, but this was different. So forgive my gauche enthusiasm, but I can’t get over the novelty. It also formed a tidy little record of what I spoke about – as opposed to what I thought I might speak about, or what I promised to speak about. Thanks are due to everyone, but especially to Simon Rowberry.

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Forthcoming symposium: ‘Placing cultural work: (new) intersections of location, craft, and creativity’

Time, date, location

The Open University, Hawley Crescent, Camden Campus, London, NW1

Friday November 15, 2013

9.00am-4.30pm
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Forthcoming seminar: ‘Network analytic approaches to the production and propagation of literary and artistic value’

I’ve just received details of my forthcoming seminar, ‘Network analytic approaches to the production and propagation of literary and artistic value’, at the Centre for e-Research (CeRch) at King’s College London. It will take place at 6.15pm on Tuesday 1 October in the Anatomy Museum Space on the 6th floor of the King’s Building at the main KCL campus on the Strand. As you can see from the abstract, the focus will be on methodology and its theoretical implications (my approach emerges from Bourdieu’s sociology but employs social network analysis: two things that are often assumed to be in opposition). However, I’ll be illustrating everything with details from my empirical research on interactive fiction and a couple of other ongoing projects where I also look at relationships between cultural producers (early 20th century authors probably; contemporary visual artists possibly; maybe also something on electronic musicians). I may find time to talk about the specific digital tools that I’ve been using (for those who care about such things: Python 2.7, NetworkX, PyGraphviz).

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The automation of intellectual labour: creative or otherwise, we’re all just workers in the end

In a recent blog post, Tom Campbell (2013) pondered the end of what has come to be known, since Richard Florida (2002), as the ‘creative class’ (or as Florida himself might prefer, the ‘Creative Class’). For those of you that don’t know, this social group is supposed to consist of ‘people who add economic value through their creativity’, including various kinds of ‘knowledge workers, symbolic analysts, and professional and technical workers’ who ‘engage in work whose function is to “create meaningful new forms”.’ (Florida, 2002, p. 68). Florida suggests that this class cannot be associated with the bourgeoisie of classical Marxist analysis because it is not defined by possession of property as Marx would have understood it: ‘Most members of the Creative Class [sic] do not own and control any significant property in the physical sense. Their property… is an intangible because it is literally in their heads.’ (ibid.) The latter statement seems remarkable only if one takes a superficial reading of Marx to be the last word on class. In fact, it describes a general characteristic of skilled non-manual workers, including members of the old professions: people whose income derives not from capital they possess but from work they perform, yet whose work commands a relatively high price on the labour market because its performance depends upon scarce forms of expertise. This describes the cool, smart, and quite possibly collar-less white collar workers Florida lauds no more nor less than it does doctors and accountants – and teachers too, whose work is precisely to develop expertise in others. These people belong to what Tony Bennett and colleagues (2009) prosaically call the ‘professional-managerial class’, which is – after the distant elite of politicians, high-ranking executives, celebrities, and the super-rich – the most dominant group in western societies today.

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