The latest version of my PhD proposal

Project title:

Cultural Entrepreneurship – the implications of entrepreneurship curriculum for an art, design and media education policy

Research project:

My research is specifically focused on the implications of an entrepreneurship agenda in Art, Design and Media education. It seeks to explore the notion of enterprise and entrepreneurialism in the wider cultural and creative industries, as it is expressed in practice, in academic debates and through creative industry policy to inform educational policies.

It can be argued that the concept of the cultural entrepreneur, the independent cultural worker setting up their own small firm or working freelance, is a phenomena which, though not new, has been particularly encouraged over the last 10 years, in line with an emphasis on the creative economy and entrepreneurship by the UK New Labour government. While the development of small independent businesses can be attributed to a variety of conditions including access to technology; availability of funding; demand from industry (film and TV in particular) and a desire to have a level of autonomy from larger commercial companies (Hesmondhalgh, 2007) the issue of entrepreneurialism has been central to government policy since the 1980s. The emphasis on an ‘enterprise culture’ and the idea of ‘going it alone’ was actively championed by the Thatcher government (Chell, 2008). This has steadily been introduced into higher education and supported through the creation of organisations such as the National Centre for Graduate Entrepreneurship (NCGE) and Enterprise Educators UK as well as influential research produced by organisations such as NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts). Recent research by NESTA suggests that current entrepreneurship for creative graduates is ‘crucial and is a focus for policy, but current provision is not adequately preparing students for growing their businesses beyond start up phase’.

Parallel to this, there has been a substantial level of criticism of the importance placed on the economics and commercialisation of the cultural and creative industries sector, questioning the impact on culture, cultural workers and the benefits for wider society.

The utopian, overoptimistic tone in which cultural work and the so called ‘creative industries’ are depicted, is put into question through this research, not merely to criticize New Labour policies  but to constructively reflect on debates important to higher education, particularly for vocational courses in art, design, media and performance.

There are contradictions between the notion of enterprise as being a ‘natural fit’ for the sector and a critique of the enterprise agenda. Firstly, there is a politically motivated debate critical of the enterprise agenda per say, looking to art as a means of critiquing society and concerned about the potential implications for all workers. Secondly, entrepreneurship theory offers a means of analysing and exploring how cultural work is produced, the environment in which it operates and how to equip students for an ever changing, ‘entrepreneurial’ world of work. The two perspectives could be described as polar opposites in that one is driven by ideological concerns while the other is a pragmatic approach to understanding a sector and equipping it with management tools. As educators, can we live with this contradiction?  Can we utilise the more critical perspective, dominant in cultural studies and sociology, as a means of generating a critical perspective from our students while simultaneously offering students tools from an entrepreneurial model of practice?

My next objective is to unravel some of the issues raised through empirical research, interviewing cultural workers from several UK cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and London.

  1. i wish i had known you in graduate school because i probably would have felt a hell of a lot more understood.

    first: have you read richard florida’s work on the creative class? not sure how his ideas translate to the UK–and his data is soft–but his ideas are intriguing. *his book came out when i was in school.

    second: do you think that transnational policy has an impact on the cultural workers in say the UK or in the developing world? i just think you can’t get away from the elephant in the room–namely hollywood. as much as each country’s policies, workers and labor function–if you’re discussing the “cultural industries,” you cannot escape the stranglehold the U.S. has on culture and trends. how does american “culture” impact UK policy? how does it impact students, their entrepreneurial approach and competitive advantage?

    just thoughts.

    thanks for giving me something interesting to think about.

    • Firstly, sorry for this very late reply… and thanks for your comments.
      I have read Florida. I’m not keen on his creative class as my research is focused on art, design, media – cultural producers – and I find the creative class too broad and unhelpful. I also find his approach overly simplistic in the sense that cities and urban environments are complex places and cannot be engineered by urban developers.
      In response to your point about transnational policy, I think this is an interesting issue to which I have not paid much attention. I am of course focused on UK policy but, you are quite right, I cant ignore globalisation and the impact in particular of the states. I think this is more relevant to specific subsectors of the cultural industries such as film and music but increasingly also for photographers etc.

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