Cultural Entrepreneurship: Good or Bad Work?

In her chapter entitled Good Work? Rethinking Cultural Entrepreneurship (in Creativity and Cultural Policy edited by Bilton), Kate Oakley rethinks entrepreneurship and the notion of good work. The thrust of her argument is that the policy rhetoric encouraging entrepreneurship in the cultural sector needs to take note of the challenges of cultural work and self-employment. A better understanding of different practices and individual experiences needs to inform the ‘rethinking of cultural entrepreneurship’. As Oakley states, there is a ‘disconnect between the discourse of cultural entrepreneurship and the reality of it.’

I’d like to pick up a few ideas from Oakley’s chapter and add my own research and comments to the debate. Continue reading Cultural Entrepreneurship: Good or Bad Work?

In Praise of Happy Accidents

“So the devil sings higher – ‘Oh just look at what you’re doing!’

Yeah, he’s joined by a choir of doctors and statesmen

who plan their sorry lives till their last days’ end.

But look at all the happy things that happen by accident!”

Polly Paulusma, from ‘She moves in secret ways’.

I have written about serendipity and the work of Sebastian Olma before, but here, guest blogger Graham Allcott of Think Productive offers his advice on ‘happy accidents’.

When we think about accidents, our risk-averse brains take us straight to thinking about “consequences” and the mess we’ll have to clear up.  When we think about serendipity or happy coincidences, we think only that these things must be magical or that we struck lucky for a day.

But what if you could make your own luck?  And what if accidents weren’t bad, but were opportunities to be relished, celebrated and capitalised on? Continue reading In Praise of Happy Accidents

Interviewing for a Blog: 1. How to Prepare

Be_Prepared_copyIncreasingly we are asking students to write blogs and interview professionals as part of their research. I have a series of notes which might be useful for any student either doing academic work or more general research for their blog.  I will post all the notes under the general heading of Interviewing for a Blog Post.

How to prepare: You can never be prepared enough for an interview. Professionalism and preparedness will be the least that your interviewee will expect.

Research, research research: The first thing to do is to research the person or people you are interviewing through their blog and other social media. Find out as much as you can. Research the company they run or work for. As a result of this research, you should get a good sense of their current status.

Prepare questions: Start to brainstorm some potential questions. You are unlikely to have a long time with them so you need some focus. Ask yourself: what do I want to find out? Is it about their management style? How they network? What aspect of their professional life am I interested in? How is the industry changing – their opinion on an industry sector and current trends or developments? You might want to go from general questions to more specific topics. This should result in a set of semi-structured questions to help you guide the interview but still allowing the process to feel like a conversation. Remember to ask open questions such as: How do you go about developing your networks? Not, do you network?

Time management: You need to think about practical things such as where you are meeting and how you will get there. Timing is very important – don’t be late! Check bus routes etc before the day of the interview.

Flexibility: Embrace the unexpected because real life does not always work out as you have planned it. For example, if you arrive all prepared and the person is running late, they might have a genuine reason and you should try to be understanding. However, don’t be shy about checking exactly when they will get there and asking to rearrange if you cannot wait.

Technology: Digital technology has developed in such a way that devices such as smartphones can act as video or audio recorders meaning that you may not need to invest in specialist equipment. However, if you have access to a good audio recorder or video camera then the quality will be of a higher quality. Whichever technology you use you should follow some simple rules about its use.

Be clear with your interviewee about whether you are recording to help you remember what was said, to support your writing, or you intend to publish the recordings themselves.

For audio recorders places the device as close to the person as possible. Even in a noisy environment your recording should be clear as long as the microphone is close to the person’s mouth.

A lot of video cameras have poor microphones so try to choose a quiet location as you want to avoid the camera being too close to the person therefore making them feel uncomfortable.

You might want to film a few general shots of the working environment of the interviewee. Do these afterwards. These shots can sometimes be useful when editing your video.

If you intend to publish your video interview then ask the person to look at you as they respond rather than the camera. Position yourself to one side of the camera and try to maintain eye contact with them. This can be tricky when using a hand-held camera so practice this before.

Be sure that your equipment works and that you have spare batteries (or your device is fully charged). As soon you can after the interview make a back-up of your recording to the hard-drive on your computer. Publish your audio/video material on hosting platforms such as Vimeo or Youtube (for video) or Soundcloud (for audio). You can then ‘embed’ the material easily in your blog post.

Check list to take to interviews:

Directions and/or a map

Contact details of your interview, address, phone number and email.

Some form of identification

Recording equipment

Notepad and pen

Relevant documents/literature/questions

The next set of notes will be about the interview itself.

Beyond the Campus

What role does Higher Education play in creating platforms, spaces and networks for creative arts and the creative industries? This question was the topic for the third workshop in a series of events, Beyond the Campus organised by Dr Roberta Comunian and Dr Abigail Gilmore and hosted by my colleague Dr Paul Long on Wednesday 6th November 2013.

The workshop focused on collaborations, networks and spaces shared by creative industries and higher education exploring both formal arrangements and practices as well as informal  networks and shared activities. Different spaces and networks were discussed including a keynote talk from Sebastian Olma challenging us to re-think the nature of work and the environments conducive to current working practices. Olma’s work is based on his study of serendipity as a crucial ingredient in innovative and entrepreneurial models of work, discussed previously in this blog.

My own contribution was a study of Birmingham’s creative milieu and how it can act as a space for students in ‘becoming’ a creative industries professional.  My research suggests that an opportunity to interact with the local creative industries community can offer an environment for experimentation in preparing for the realities of creative industries work.

I argue that by engaging in a creative industries milieu, characterized by its networks, relationships, key individuals and spaces (on and offline), students experience the realities of cultural work. Some students contribute to the local dynamic, establishing relationships which last well beyond their studies. But the process of immersing oneself requires cultural and social capital, and, as a student, is by no means easy. The research highlights some of the challenges through my interviews with international students and networks such as Birmingham’s Social Media Cafe. I suggest that a focus on encouraging interaction to explore the realities of creative work leaves little room for contesting or disrupting the status quo. A lack of critical reflection could be dangerous for creative industries students entering what is often described by academics as insecure and precarious work.

I hope that as part of the Beyond the Campus research, some of these challenges will be further developed.

My presentation slides:

Not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur

In a recent article, The End of Quiet Music, Alina Simone discusses her concerns with having to be entrepreneurial and ‘selling’ her music. Simone says:

 I was a singer, not a saleswoman. Not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur.

I dont agree with everything Simone suggests. For example, I have some concerns with the idea that patronage is the answer or that musicians can be supported by governments or other public institutions. However, I do have sympathy with the idea that not everyone is comfortable with being an entrepreneur. In fact, I come across this quite often. The sense that some, not all, individuals working within the creative and media industries will have to be entrepreneurial to get on, but are relunctance to fully embrace entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurial practices require high levels of personal investment and as Angela McRobbie argues, it can lead to self-exploitation. Blaming yourself if things go wrong and working hard for little financial reward; for ‘the love of it’.

 There is nothing wrong with being enterprising but the overwhelming positivity associated with enterpreneurs and entrepreneurship can provoke uneasiness. It is something we actively discuss on the MA Media and Creative Enterprise. The challenges and risks are too often gloosed over. I hope this becomes part of the discussion for the Centre for Entrepreneurs who are currently investigating the media view of entrepreneurship.

The Entrepreneurial State

I was interested to read about Mariana Mazzucato’s book, The Entrepreneurial State which looks at the role of the public sector in entrepreneurship. Of course, the public sector tends to be looked upon as the opposite of entrepreneurial and is much criticised for this (see Du Gay’s Organising Identity which touches on this subject). Mazzucato argues that in many cases, the innovations at the heart of many entrepreneurial companies, were often developed through publicly funded research. In a recent article in Public Finance International, she states:

But what if the image we are constantly fed – of a dynamic business sector contrasted with a necessary but sluggish bureaucratic, often ‘meddling’, state – is completely wrong?

What if the revolutionary, most radical, changes in capitalism came not from the invisible hand of the market but the very visible hand of the state?

According to Mazzucato, many technological innovations behind products such as the Iphone, GPS, touchscreen etc. were government funded. So rather than a ‘meddling’ state, she presents The Entrepreneurial State.

This position reminded me of a chapter by Anne De Bruin, Entrepreneurship in The Creative Industries, who writes about how various levels of entrepreneurship have enabled innovation in New Zealand”s the film industry. De Bruin states that the New Zealand government developed policies with the Screen Production Industry to grow the sector through funding opportunities and public and private partnerships. Similarly to Mazzucato, De Bruin explains that:

Typically, entrepreneurial focus has been on the individual and the firm. Recent research, however, has pointed to the need to consider the external context or a creative milieu as being of importance to innovation (see, for example, Kresl and Singh, 1999; Porter and Stern, 2001)…The strategic state is a key driver of innovation in the national economy and is seen as a catalyst in the creation of favourable systemic conditions for knowledge creation and an important actor within the National Innovation Systems framework and regional systems of innovation.

While De Bruin recognises Peter Jackson’s (Lord of the Rings) contribution as a film maker and entrepreneur, she presents his success and that of the New Zealand film industry as a partnership in which risk taking and entrepreneurial characteristics are applied at multiple levels.

How to collaborate when working remotely

In the spring of this year, we set up Think Productive Canada.  It was a big step: our first foray into international collaboration and one that was nearly a year in the planning. It’s been a fantastic experience so far.  But even though at Think Productive we’re used to working with people remotely, it turns out Calgary is very different from Coventry!  So here are a few reflections on successful collaborations around the world:

Get the technology right

Make it easy to communicate and define your tools, so that it’s always clear what tech to be using for what purpose – and you avoid wasting lots of time choosing, selecting and setting things up.  We use a mixture of email, skype, join.me (for sharing screens) and whatsapp (for sharing more personal updates).  We also use a free conference call service called “United Conferencing” which means we can have a UK team conference call, and have our colleagues in Canada dial in on a local rate number.

Continue reading How to collaborate when working remotely