Back up and running


Well, it’s been quite some time, but I’ve decided to get the Cultural Policy Blog back up and running.

Over the past couple of years I’ve been heavily occupied in a series of shorter- and longer-form projects, including a book and way too much time on Twitter.

But it’s time to get the band back together. I was particularly inspired by the high quality of cultural policy scholarship still being published in the academic and popular journals, and by the continuing example of awesome bogs like Crooked Timber.

So, here goes. I’m sure there aren’t too many regular readers left, but I’m hoping that with some diligence over coming months, I can again contribute to a vibrant international conversation about cultural policy.

– Ben

A Cultural Policy Blog is back and posting

If you’re a regular visitor to this blog (and I know there’s one or two of you out there!) you’ll probably notice that I’ve been missing in action for the past month or so.

The reason, dear reader, is simply the vast workload of my various other projects has prevented me from posting as much as I would have liked.

From today, I’m back in action and will be blogging pretty much daily again. There’s a load of interesting things to talk about in the cultural policy space, and I’ll be rolling out a series of posts on the current state and future of Australian cultural policy – so stay tuned!

What’s new in M/C Journal: the ambient issue

"Smear No. 12" by Luke Jaaniste, from the cover of M/C Journal. Image: M/C Journal

M/C Journal has just released its latest issue, edited by my colleague, QUT’s Luke Jaaniste. The topic is ambience, a special interest of Luke’s that he explores in his editorial, “The Ambience of Ambience“:

Now is not the time or place to give a detailed history of these discursive manoeuvres (although some key clues are given in Spizter; and also Jaaniste, Approaching). But a list of how the term has been taken up after Eno–across the arts, design, media and culture–reveals the broad tenets of ambience or, perhaps, the ambience of ambience. Nowadays we find talk of (in alphabetical order): ambient advertising (Quinion), aesthetics (Foster), architecture (CNRS; Sample), art (Desmarias; Heynen et al.), calculus (Cardelli), displays (Ambient Displays Reserch Group; Lund and Mikael; Vogel and Balakrishnan), fears (Papastergiadis), findability (Morville), informatics (Morville), intelligence (Weber et al.), media (Meeks), narratives (Levin), news (Hagreaves and Thomas), poetics (Morton), television (McCarthy), and video (Bizzocchi). There’s probably more.

The articles in the issue are just as interesting. Of particular interest to readers of this blog are two articles about “ambient journalism”, by Alfred Hermida and Alex Burns.

Hermida puts forward the now-conventional thesis that social networking technologies like Twitter are creating a new style of news-gathering:

… ambient journalism presents a multi-faceted and fragmented news experience, where citizens are producing small pieces of content that can be collectively considered as journalism. It acknowledges the audience as both a receiver and a sender. I suggest that micro-blogging social media services such as Twitter, that enable millions of people to communicate instantly, share and discuss events, are an expression of ambient journalism.

Burns takes issue with this. He argues that cirizen journalists or “para-journalists” may lack the professional expertise to carry out the functions of journalism in any comprehensive sense:

Craft and skills distinguish the professional journalist from Hermida’s para-journalist. Increasingly, media institutions hire journalists who are trained in other craft-based research methods (Burns and Saunders). Bethany McLean who ‘broke’ the Enron scandal was an investment banker; documentary filmmaker Errol Morris first interviewed serial killers for an early project; and Neil Chenoweth used ‘forensic accounting’ techniques to investigate Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer. Such expertise allows the journalist to filter information, and to mediate any influences in the external environment, in order to develop an individualised, ‘embodied’ perspective (Hofstadter 234; Thompson; Garfinkel and Rawls). Para-journalists and social network platforms cannot replace this expertise, which is often unique to individual journalists and their research teams.

As always, there is plenty more to read and digest in what I found to be a high-quality and thought-provoking issue of this journal.

A bunch of links: casualised higher education labour, Hollywood movie betting, collapsing business models in TV, whingeing arts administrators, Siva Vaidhyanathan lecture, and more

From around the blogosphere and the web – some links:

1. In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Peter Conn argues we need to acknowledge that “full-time tenured and tenure-track jobs in the humanities are endangered by half a dozen trends, most of them long-term.” Heading the list is casualisation, followed by older faculty who refuse to retire, the rise of for-profit higher education and a university system that continues to pump out PhDs.

2. Clay Shirky calls on the guru of complex systems theory, Joseph Tainter, to explain the current predicament of television production as a business model. Bottom-line:

The most watched minute of video made in the last five years shows baby Charlie biting his brother’s finger. (Twice!) That minute has been watched by more people than the viewership of American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, and the Superbowl combined. (174 million views and counting.)

Some video still has to be complex to be valuable, but the logic of the old media ecoystem, where video had to be complex simply to be video, is broken.

3. The high arts lobby starts to get shirty with the lack of hand-outs from Peter Garrett, as a number of arts administrators whinge to Michaela Boland in The Australian. Notice the parade of usual suspects, including a festival director, a couple of theatre company managers and the CEO of the Australian Council. Because that’s what “the arts” is for journalists like Michaela Boland.

4. Siva Vaidhyanathan is giving a lecture at Vanderbilt University, which be podcast on Thursday. I’ll post something about that this week.

5. Lyn Gardner in the Guardian profiles artist-led communities.

6. By way of Tyler Cowen, a New York Times article about Hollywood’s quest to prevent betting markets. Both the Cantor futures exchange and Veriana Networks would allow investors to buy or sell — or “short” — contracts based on a movie’s box-office receipts, in essence betting on how well a film will do when released in theaters.

What’s new in the International Journal of Cultural Policy? The IJCP’s special book review issue

A classic cover of Raymond Williams' classic study, Culture and Society 1780-1950.

The first issue of the International Journal of Cultural Policy for 2010 is a refreshing departure from its more typical, research-0based fare: an issue of book reviews by some of the leading thinkers in the field – many of whom I’ve discussed on this blog.

So, for instance, there is Jeremy Ahearne on Michael de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life,  Franco Bianchini on Peter Hall’s Cities in Civilisation, Bennett himself on Raymond Williams’ classic Culture and Society, and Eleonora Belfiore on  Janet Minihan’s The Nationalization of Culture: the development of state subsidies to the arts in Great Britain. Interestingly, given the strident debate that has developed about the “neo-liberalism” of the creative industries school, Stuart Cunningham has opted to review that capitalist classic, Joseph Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy.

Editor Oliver Bennett writes that:

This special issue gathers together some personal reflections on the intellectual influences of many of those that have contributed to the development of cultural policy as a field of academic enquiry. Each contributor was invited to write a short review essay on one book that had influenced his/her thinking and which s/he would want new students of cultural policy to read.

The collection thus serves a twofold purpose: it offers a fascinating insight into the intellectual force fields within which the study of cultural policy has grown up; at the same time, it provides a valuable resource for teachers of cultural policy, their students and all those with a general interest in the field.

For breadth and diversity, it’s one of the best issues of the IJCP for some time.

Back in business

I’ve been quite remiss in my blogging recently, and for that I apologise.

It’s not you, dear reader, it’s me. Ive been working hard on a new scholarly paper on the topic on cultural innovation and that has rather distracted me.

The good news is I have returned from the library with a stack of new books, papers and ideas, which I’ll be sharing over the next few weeks. And of course I’ll continue to post about contemporary events as they relate to cultural policy, of which there have been more than a few lately.

So, thanks for your patience. Normal programming is about to be resumed.

On holidays

Happy 2010! I’ve been on holidays over the past week at Lorne, Victoria’s Falls Festival, where I’ve seen some fantastic music and also got hot, wet and muddy.

The blog will return on January 4th with a post on music festivals, and we’ll head into the year from there. Until then, hope you’re enjoying yourself and remember to party and drive nice and safely 😉

Ralph Meyers gets the Belvoir gig


Ralph Meyers and Neil Armfield (source: Sydney Morning Herald).

Score 1 for the younger generation, but 0 for gender diversity: designer Ralph Meyers has been appointed as the new Artistic Director of  Sydney’s Company B Belvoir contemporary theatre company.

The appointment marks a trend gathering pace in Australian and international theatre, as designers come to new prominence in leadership roles. In Melbourne, for example, designer Anna Tregloan has gone from strength to strength as a theatrical producer and director, while in Europe designer Romeo Castelluci’s visually sumptuous interpretations of Dante are making him the darling of the international festival circuit.

On the other hand, the appointment will do nothing to appease those, like Brisbane theatre blogger Katherine Lyall-Watson, who are calling for far more gender equity on and behind Australian stages.

Meyers describes his role as akin to a festival director, which I find interesting:

”As an artistic associate at Belvoir, I have come to realise that the role of artistic director is akin to running a festival. You assemble teams, curate programs and inspire artists.”

Elsewhere: Read the official announcement from company B Belvoir.

Three interesting events

1. Cultural Studies: Past, Present and Future: A symposium on the state of cultural studies

3rd September 2009 (Thursday!)

Featuring: Graeme Turner – (University of Queensland): Introduction: ‘What’s Become of Cultural Studies?’

Chris Rojek (Brunel University West London): ‘Stuart Hall and the Birmingham School’

Frances Bonner (University of Queensland): ‘These are a few of my favourite things’

John Hartley (Queensland University of Technology): ‘From cultural studies to cultural science’

Discussant: Melissa Gregg (The University of Sydney)

2. The Ever-Changing New Media User at Swinburne University

15th September

Drawing on ten years of data and insights from a worldwide project in 30 countries, Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future, will separate myth from reality as he describes how the Internet, mobile and broadband are changing the fabric of daily life. Is the web a continued threat to television, or can the two live and thrive together? How will advertising evolve in a digital era? The presentation will examine the trends and developments that are likely to occur in the next two to three years.

3. The Art of Engagement Symposium at the Museum of Contemporary Art

21st October 2009

The Art of Engagement symposium explores innovative partnerships between contemporary visual artists, communities and corporate organisations. It takes the long-term Western Sydney project C3West as the starting point for a dialogue about contemporary art and its new modes of engagement.

Speakers include French multimedia artist Sylvie Blocher; Michael Krichman, US Executive Director of inSite, the acclaimed bi-national arts festival that built new networks across the San Diego / Tijuana border; Karin Becker, Professor of Media and Communication Studies at Stockholm University; and Frank Panucci, Director of Community Partnerships at the Australia Council for the Arts.

Graeme Turner – (University of Queensland)
Introduction: ‘What’s Become of Cultural Studies?’
Chris Rojek (Brunel University West London)
‘Stuart Hall and the Birmingham School’
Frances Bonner (University of Queensland)
‘These are a few of my favourite things’
John Hartley (Queensland University of Technology)
‘From cultural studies to cultural science’
Melissa Gregg (The University of Sydney