Cultural Value Networks Summary Report

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bill Sharpe

Jonathan Dovey

This paper summarises an AHRC Connected Communities research project into Cultural Value Networks. Led by University of the West of England’s Digital Cultures Research Centre the six month project was based in a small scale ethnography of the Pervasive Media Studio.

The research project was designed in response to what we might call a ‘crisis of metrics’ in the arts and cultural industries (O’Brien 2010). There is primary dysfunction at the level of disagreement about what constitutes the Creative Economy, its size or main dynamic features. The crisis of public funding insists on increasingly transparent accounting for public money in the forms of Key Performance Indicators that threaten to make reductive cost benefit analysis the only game in town even when all the players agree to its inadequacy.

Our partner in this study was the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol, England. The Studio is a creative technology lab, supported through investment from the Watershed Arts Trust, the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol.

The Studio is managed by iShed, a Community Interest Company and subsidiary of Watershed. Watershed is Britain’s first Media Centre founded in 1982, a leading cultural agency in the UK, describing itself as ‘a path finding, cross platform production centre, sharing, developing and showcasing exemplary cultural ideas and talent’.

The Pervasive Media Studio operates as a residency programme, inviting creative technologists, artists, engineers, academics and students to co-locate to develop projects. Residents are given free desk space in the shared open plan Studio environment. The core proposition is that in exchange for space they will share their work, insights and processes with one another, understanding that this diversity of perspective will make for better, richer work. The principle underlying this method is that money is kept to the margins of the creative process, allowing residents to discover the value in their projects before they go to market.

The Studio sees itself as a key site of innovation for the regional creative economy by spawning creative businesses and start ups that have economic impact. In the financial year in which the study was conducted investment into Studio core cost was £175,000; in the same period residents generated turnover in investment, sales and research funding of £1m.

Publication Details

This report was produced by the DCRC for the AHRC Connected Communities programme.