User:Luisa Moura/writing/essay creative industries

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The book “My Creativity Reader” is the source of the two essays compared bellow; they both focus on creative industries and other related issues like gentrification, collective generation of value and capitalism.

Both authors defend a similar position while making use of different examples and scales of approach. While Bavo focus specifically in Rotterdam and its urban policies, Pasquinelli opens a broader view on the definition and context of the creative industry, its mechanisms, agents and exploiters.

The essay of Pasquinelli aims to be an investigation of the social processes behind creativity, the creative power of collective desire and the political nature of any cognitive product; what or who produces value and for whom? There is a plea for a ‘disambiguation’ of political views around creative industries; the essay aims to focus on the collective production of value and the strong competition cognitive producer’s face in the ‘immaterial domain’. There is an increasing consciousness about the creation of ‘meaning’ as creation of ‘value’ and this generates a permanent status of conflict.

Pasquinelli points out that value is produced by an accumulation of social desire and collective imitation and refers to Tarde’s philosophy on the issue in order to illustrate his point. Tarde’s takes as premise the dissolving of opposition between material and immaterial labor (brain collaboration as traditional main force), considers innovation as driving force of capitalism (not the accumulation of money) and considers value as being based on a multitude of types: use, truth, beauty, etc. In line with Tarde’s philosophy, Lazzarato also suggests that an invention that is not imitated is not socially existent; and to be imitated an invention needs to draw attention, to produce a force of mental attraction on other brains, to mobilize their desires and beliefs through a process of social communication. Each immaterial object has to fight for its existence in the field of permanent competition; we can speak of a “Darwinist” environment for intellectual products. Pasquinelli uses the term “Immaterial civil-war” to give a title to his essay, referring directly to the conflicts within cognitive capitalism, in which all the produce has no clear class or composition and shares the same media space.

It is unclear how much value knowledge actually produces; the value of knowledge appears to be directly related by its diffusion. It gets multiplied by it. Knowledge produces value if it is adopted and the adoption creates interdependency (proprietary logic is no longer based on object and space, but speed and time). Managing the value produced by knowledge implies to have control on its diffusion, on the speed of it, on the contextual characteristics, on network alliances. “When everything can be duplicated everywhere, time becomes more important than space”

Capitalism is always looking for marks of distinction and having control on the dissemination of intellectual production is essential to keep its value. Pasquinelli divides this procedure of control into three steps: limiting the dissemination in order to avoid the mark of distinction to become a mass product; setting up of monopolies in order to guarantee rent over inflated value; feeding local resistance to generate more value. “The most avid globalizers will support local developments that have the potential to yield monopoly rents even if the effect of such support is to produce a local political climate antagonistic to globalization”. According to Pierre Bourdieu “the layer of cultural production attached to a specific territory produces a fertile habitat for monopoly rents and the better terrain for that is a field of historically constituted cultural artifacts and practices and special environment characteristics (…)”

The author mentions Harvey’s point on the need of tracking “the parasitic exploitation of the immaterial domain by the material one”. Barcelona is taken as an example of this; the real estate transformed the city in an international brand making use of all the local authentic ingredients like its rich culture, particular architectonic heritage, dense artistic milieu, geographical location and so on. The prices of housing in Barcelona increased so much that all the creative masses that actually helped branding out Barcelona started to have troubles paying for their living.

“The brand of Barcelona is a consensual hallucination produced by many but exploited by few (…) the creative workers produce symbolic value for the real estate economy that perpetually squeezes them (…) the so called creative class is nothing but a simulacrum of collective symbolic capital to raise the marks of distinction of a given city (…)”

In the essay about Rotterdam Bavo unfolds the strategy of the city to get detached from its depressed post-industrialized label and to conquer the title of the creative city of the Netherlands. This new position would allow the city to reach a greater state of development becoming more attractive for inhabitants with high education and high living standards. Due to several obstacles to this goal, like the industrial nature of the city, its history, working class inhabitants, urban structure and the competition with the nearby creative hub Amsterdam, Rotterdam decides to take an aggressive role on changing its fate by manufacturing its own creative class.

“No expense or effort spared to attract creative people and keep them in the city (…) desperate attempts to avoid further influx of non-creative people, like the Rotterdam Law (…) Simultaneously, non creative people got kicked away from locations with high potential for creative’s and entrepreneurs and spread throughout the city (…) Rotterdam didn’t wait for creativity to grow naturally out of its interstices; Rotterdam manufactures it.”

Bavo’s essay gives a deeper insight into two practical examples of urban planning using the creative industries as conceptual tool. In Rotterdam, the development of the Lloyd’s Kwartier anticipates an expected arrival of the so called ‘creative class’; it’s a ‘breeding place where creative’s can cooperate’. A lot of working areas are planned in a ‘creative fashion’ (open space, re-used buildings, etc) but these common working places are in the end no more than regular office units, all under one roof and one label, like the BINK in The Hague and the CREATIVE FACTORY also in Rotterdam.

The plan is not meant for artists, designers or musicians, once they wouldn’t be able to afford it; creativity here becomes only a label that yuppies, managers and so on like to refer to as life style. It becomes a mark of authenticity and distinction (…) “the creative class is a parasitic simulacrum of social creativity detached from the precariat and attached to the elite class” (Pasquinelli)

The purpose of the plan is to attract entrepreneurial people to a depressed and segregated area, but it actually failed to do so until now, once there is no integration between this sort of inhabitants and the surrounding area. The fact that the strategy, from content to form (creative docklands typology), is a copy paste from other solutions in many other harbor cities, also places Rotterdam in a pretty hard inter-urban competition in the field of creative struggle.

The second plan that Bavo refers to is The ‘Poetic Freedom’ which consists in the offer of a dilapidated building in Spangen, a neighborhood in Rotterdam West, to anyone who would commit to re-design and re-build it, within a communal effort, keeping it for at least two years and engaging ‘deeply’ with the local community; Spangen is a very problematic neighborhood, with a lot of unemployment and high criminality rate and only the creative middle class was willing to engage in this adventure.

This plan was highly subsidized by public funds, but its expected public dimension and social impact is far from what was initially dreamed about. The collective initiative only masks the will for individual ownership and the community apparently stays in a state of island mentality and exclusivity regarding the neighborhood; there is no actual integration and no actual positive consequence for the impoverished surroundings. At the same time the creative class is paying a far too high price for a freedom that happens to be fake; the city is imprisoning them within certain convenient borders, in exchange for a bit of living stability, instead of regulating their precarious working conditions.

Bavo compares the experiment of collectivism in Spangen with the role of the family for Capitalism. Vulnerable groups get to be stimulated to gather for a common purpose and to look after each other, freeing the State and the Market from a certain number of responsibilities. The role of the family under capitalism is to deliver disciplined and productive subjects and to function as a safety net when something goes wrong with the individual. “The family is caught in a double exploitation scheme: it assumes the costs for services that the society and the market are not willing to pay for, while clearly benefiting from them”. We can see this safety net provided by the family as playing a similar role to that of the creative networks (…) precarious work leads to dependency upon family, friends and creative co-workers in order to get commissions and be able to overcome major financial problems.

Bavo concludes his essay saying that one should learn how to not be creative: “It is only by a friendly, organized refusal of its manipulated role as creative avant-garde that the cultural sector can safeguard its most precious asset – its creativity – from being the object of perverse politico-economical games”

Pasquinelli also suggests the attack on the myth of creativity and insists on the fact that one shall not be too radical in this process, once radicalism suggests authenticity and that would only feed the myth further. People should also find their way to reclaim the economical surplus exploited only by few speculators (renegotiation of collective symbolic capital) “we are waiting for a generation of cognitive workers able to mobilize out of their imagery”

Sources: “My Creativity Reader – A Critique of Creative Industries” Matteo Pasquinelli “ICW – Immaterial Civil War: Prototypes of Conflict within Cognitive Capitalism” BAVO (Gideon Boie and Matthias Pauwels) “The Murder of Creativity in Rotterdam: From Total Creative Environments to Gentripunctural Injections”