What’s new in the International Journal of Cultural Policy: the creativity issue

It’s the only international journal of cultural policy, so it’s not surprising I cover it here regularly.

Even so, the most recent issue is a cracker – dealing with one of the hottest (and least understood) topics in cultural research: creativity.

Unfortunately, readers who don’t have access to institutional subscriptions will be unlikely to read it. So I’ve saved and made available Chris Bilton’s introduction to the issue below. As Bilton notes:

… the purpose ofthis special issue is to revisit the definition and implication of creativity in culturalpolicy, focusing on three considerations.

First, creativity is an essentially paradoxical process. Since 1997, when the UKgovernment endorsed ‘creativity’ as a central aspect of cultural policy, creativity hasindeed been associated with an individualistic, spontaneous and ungovernable freespirit – closely allied to Romantic theories of art and to the myth of individual creativegenius. This western theory of individual creativity has been exported to other countries with very different intellectual and cultural traditions, such as China. However, the consensus in scientific and academic studies of creativity has shifted definitions of creativity from an individual trait to a collective social process. Since the 1990s most of the literature on creativity has been concerned with sociocultural context, systems theories, networks and organisations – not with creative individuals. It is the combination of these two apparently contradictory aspects – individual personality and social process – which can cast fresh light on cultural policy. Seen from this perspective, ‘creativity’ becomes a touchstone through which we can interpret contradictions in policy. As Jonothan Neelands and Boyun Choe indicate, these contradictions are especially revealing in the UK, where the rhetoric of creativity in cultural policy first took flight. They can also expose flaws and contradictions in organisations as in Philip Schlesinger’s account of the BBC, or in general theories of management. And the tension between individual freedom and socialstructure is especially pertinent to discussions of creative labour.

The second consideration for this special issue is that the paradoxical, contradictorynature of creativity extends into contingent legal, social and economic aspects ofcultural policy. The tension between individual and collective forms of creativity areespecially pertinent to questions of copyright, where legal definitions of intellectual property reflect western theories of originality and individual authorship, in marked contrast both to eastern traditions and also to the expansion in open source, Web 2.0technologies and user-generated (or user-distributed) content (Kawashima). Individualand social forms of creativity also challenge approaches to education, and mightlead us towards an alternative model of cultural policy based on ‘social creativity’ (Wilson).

Finally, creativity in cultural policy further extends the disciplinary base ofcultural policy studies. Whilst cultural studies and sociology have already broadenedour understanding of this field, psychological theories of creativity have tended to lieoutside current cultural policy debates. Robert Weisberg has been writing criticallyabout the ‘myth of genius’ since the 1980s, but his work is little known in cultural policy studies. Legal definitions of authorship and copyright also bring a fresh perspective to cultural policy studies – as Nobuko Kawashima indicates, much is to be gained by looking at copyright from a cultural policy perspective rather than as a purely technical, legal issue. And management perspectives on creativity and innovation, whilst often considered to be alien or even antithetical to cultural policy, can address policy questions from an unexpected angle. Erich Poettschacher approaches creative organisations from the pragmatic perspective of a business consultant, yetimplicitly opens up alternative methods and policies for intervening in the creative economy.


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