Last year’s winner of the Memory Study Association Excellent Paper Award is Clara de Massol de Rebetz, with her article ‘Remembrance Day for Lost Species. Remembering and Mourning Extinction in the Anthropocene’. Clara is a PhD candidate at King’s College London in the CMCI department, supervised by Dr Jessica Rapson.
Her article was published last September 2020 in the latest issue of Memory Studies Journal, which you can read here. Clara explores memory and the future memory of extinction through the analysis of a local Remembrance Day for Lost Species, an international initiative encouraging people to globally gather in funeral ceremonies to mourn extinct species. She draws on Ursula Heise’s concept of ‘eco-cosmopolitanism’ (2008, 2016) and Michael Rothberg’s ‘multidirectional memory’ (2009) as well as fieldwork notes and interviews conducted during Lost Species Day 2018 in Brighton, UK to unpack the conditions of future memory at a time of ecological loss. As such, she considers what is lost and remembered at a time of mass extinction; identifying the Anthropocene – the geological epoch in which the incremental and disruptive impact of the human species has become the main planetary force – as an epoch of mourning.
The Care Manifesto stresses the need for and elaborates on an alternative to the neoliberal principles that regulate both our personal and shared existence. Informed by feminist, antiracist and eco-socialist theories, the authors argue for a radical change in the current understandings of human life, individualist and productivity. They instead argue in favour of an understanding of human life that is motivated by the recognition of the crucial complex interconnectedness of the social world and the fact that we are all dependent on one another, and we should hence care for both those near and distant from us. The manifesto reflects on the irony of the glorified archetypical figure of the productive white man that can conduct an independent life thanks to the paid and unpaid care work bore by others, mostly women and often immigrants. Long before the expansion of market logic and neoliberal politics, such gendered and racialized activity and its values have been undervalued precisely due to their association with womanhood. With many overlaps with Sen and Nussbaum’s capabilities approach and activists for disabled people rights’ claims, independency heavily relies on the fulfilment of, at least, basic needs to allow for the building of human capacity and the possibility for everyone to thrive.
The book elaborates on what ‘to care‘ would mean at different scales, and so reflects on what caring politics, kinships, communities, states, economies look like, imagining a future where people’s survival and thriving are at the core of all plans. Such imaginative effort is sustained through many examples of successful experiments that occurred on several occasions in the past, and occasionally currently occur in different countries and communities.
At a household level, Afro-American “other-mothers” and LGBTQIA+ “families of choice” represent fruitful alternatives to the nuclear family in which women with care work often become overburdened. Whilst these more recent practices show the efficacy in redistributing care work to more than one person, they also demonstrate the joys and efforts of caring, and strengthening of the ties of the wider communities in which people are living in. Guided by carefulness, communities should develop networks of mutual support, scale down social welfare with a grassroots perspective, enhance and prioritise public spaces, share commodities and experiment with innovative means of inclusion and democratic participation. Communities are then part of wider caring states, in which the Keynesian welfare state is integrated with grassroots, co-operative mutual support initiatives. The care rationale requires, in fact, a structural reconsideration of modalities of delivery of the state’s very core aim. It also encourages the fight against gross inequalities and market-delivered solution whilst orienting towards democratically controlled and collectively resourced public services. More broadly, the whole free-market economy is argued to require a radical re-discussion within a capacious perspective, in light of its tendency toward dehumanization and unequal wealth distribution. This universal care is a notion that is inspired by indigenous culture – in particular Native Americans’ – and their kinship-like relation with the environment. Lastly, the concept draws on the current development of world-sized caring relationships which can overcome differences and national borders. This stresses the importance of inter- and supra-national bodies and organisations that aim at facilitating the flourishing of such long-distanced sense of belonging with the distant and the different.
About the authors
To articulate a vision for an alternative, Care Manifesto involves authors with diverse backgrounds including Professor Andreas Chatzidakis (economist, Royal Holloway University of London), Dr Jamie Hakim (media study scholar, University of East Anglia), Professor Jo Littler (cultural study scholar, City University of London), Dr Catherine Rottenberg (literature scholar, University of Nottingham) and Professor Lynne Segal (gender study scholar, Birkbeck, University of London). While they share the same goals and critical perspectives on the ongoing neoliberal discourse on caring, the diversity of authors’ disciplines enrich the discussion on the manifesto. For instance, in the seminar, Professor Chatzidakis illustrated how the concept of the free market and economic mindsets reinforce and reproduce the exploitive condition surrounding care workers.
We are pleased to announce that Dr Ricarda Vidal (CMCI, KCL) and Dr Madeleine Campbell (Edinburgh University) have been awarded an AHRC Network grant.
The network comprises academics, artists and translators from the UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hong Kong, Hungary and Poland and explores translation between languages (interlingual) and between media (intersemiotic) as a method of creation and communication, as a method for learning and teaching, collaboration and participation within multilingual, multicultural and multimodal settings. This includes understanding the many modes and modalities that contribute to meaning-making in cross-cultural communication (online & offline), language education and translation, and embracing the role of individual imagination and artistic creation in education and arts institutions (e.g. libraries, galleries, museums). We will employ arts-based and collaborative research methods including creative public workshops at libraries, museums, galleries, schools and universities.
The Network will commence in March 2021 and run until September 2022 – watch this space for announcements of workshops and a final exhibition and international conference in June 2022.
There will also be a dedicated website – link to be published here soon.
Dr Karen Bennett, Nova University Lisbon; Dr Heather Connelly, University of Lincoln; Harriet Carter, Birmingham City University; Dr Gaia Del Negro, University of Milan; Cinzia Delorenzi, independent; Dr Tomasz Dobrogoszcz, University of Lodz; Dr Noèlia Díaz Vicedo, Queen Mary University of London; Anna Dot, independent; Dobrochna Futro, University of Glasgow; Birthe Jørgensen, independent; Dr Karl Katschthaler, Debrecen University; Dr Tong King Lee, University of Hong-Kong; Dr Joanna Kosmalska, University of Lodz; Prof John London, Queen Mary University of London; Dr Silvia Luraschi, University of Milan; Dr Rosario Martín Ruano, University of Salamanca; Dr Manuela Perteghella, Open University; Dr Anikó Sohár, Pázmány Péter Catholic University Budapest; Prof África Vidal Claramonte, University of Salamanca; Tomasz Wochna, independent
People are often surprised to discover that behind the scenes in museum storerooms across the globe, there are millions of objects that will never go on public display. Many of these objects are duplicates, ‘bulk’ collections, such as archaeological finds, or objects which could be described as “uncharismatic”. There are also objects that have become disconnected from their stories and narratives for various reasons, and so appear unable to ‘speak’.
Why keep these objects? What purpose do they serve if most museum visitors will never see them? These questions require a re-examination of why some stored collections exist, how they came (and continue) to be established and how their relevance can be enhanced in times of severely restricted budgets.
I was recently part of an AHRC research project called “Who Cares” interventions in “unloved” museum collections, conducted with co-researchers, Dr Alison Hess from the Science Museum Group and Dr Rhianedd Smith from the Museum of English Rural Life (University of Reading). We focused on three case studies of so-called “unloved” collections: The National Slag Collection at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, the Locks and Fastenings collection at the Science Museum, London and the Museum of English Rural Life’s Hand Tools collection. Throughout our project, we were mindful that ‘display’ in an exhibition is not the only meaningful mechanism through which relationships between people and objects can be established, as this is often (wrongly) assumed to be the only ‘purpose’ a museum object has. For example, a significant number of objects collected by museums are for research or reference purposes, and the display is not the core reason for the acquisition. A proportion of collections will also be too fragile or hazardous to display, but they may still have value and significance. Part of our re-examination of stored collections was to encourage greater understanding of the multiplicity of reasons why objects may be collected in the first place and their historical trajectories.
We used the term “unloved” throughout our project and we knew that this would be a controversial choice! The majority of these objects are certainly not uncared for or neglected by their custodians, and, as we discovered, there are groups of people who had a great deal of knowledge about and passion for such collections. For us “unloved” communicated something about the ‘lack’ of personal meanings that were connected to many of these objects, making them harder for some audiences (and museums staff) to engage with. This ‘lack’ put these objects at risk of becoming even less visible and therefore potentially irrelevant. Our project sought to identify and work with specific communities outside of the museum – enthusiast groups – for whom these collections held significant meaning. We wanted to understand their enthusiasm and the forms of ‘care’ they offered to these objects with the aim of harnessing this enthusiasm to help reinvigorate the collection. Our participants also helped us to critically explore museum practices around ‘collections care,’ foregrounding museum storerooms as ontological spaces in their own right.
Universities all over the world are scrapping face-to-face lectures and pivoting toward audiovisual delivery of events and conferences. What tools and skills are required to create video content that transcends the Zoom aesthetic we have grown so accustomed to? In this essay, I want to share five practical tips I have picked up after producing my first academic video for this year’s Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) conference. Fingers crossed I will remember them myself next time.
The task: Condense your paper into three minutes
Presenting at AoIR2020 involves submitting a paper extended abstract and/or a video presentation of one to three minutes. The conference committee grants presenters maximum creative freedom:
‘You can create a video in any way you want e.g. direct record yourself presenting content, voice record over a PowerPoint video, Zoom recording of several presenters discussing the paper, edited curation of images that represent your presentation, animation, a ventriloquist performance. We highly encourage creative submissions!’
As much as I wanted to opt for that ventriloquist performance, I went for the simpler video approach. At first, I gasped in disbelief at the thought of radically trimming down the traditional 15-minute presentation. Three minutes! I can barely say my full name and the words hiding behind the CMCI abbreviation within that time. However, producing the video turned out to be more than just a painful ‘kill your darlings’ exercise. In fact, the process has served as a powerful analytical tool that has helped me explore my PhD in a new way. Here is what I have learned along the way.
Lesson 1: Get to the point
Three minutes leave no time for fluff or lengthy descriptions. Clarity is key. You can only share a couple of ideas, and you want to get to the main argument quickly. Viewers rarely stay until the end. On average, people have watched 71 pct. of my video (according to Vimeo’s detailed statistics). Hook the viewer with a compelling first image and try to keep it short and snappy throughout the entire video. Treat your points like oysters – they should be swallowed whole without chewing or savouring. I found this challenging, as I have no overview of my data whatsoever. Detecting patterns at this stage of the PhD has proven useful, though.
Lesson 2: Think with sound and images
Film is a powerful medium, not least due to its three inherent components: image, story, and sound. Transferring academic papers to video means tapping into a more visual and sonic approach to your work. A good way to kick-start a creative spark is by browsing through your recent YouTube history: What kind of content do you like to consume yourself and why? For my video, I mimicked the style of Harper’s Bazaar’s ‘Food Diaries’. Yes, beware: Browsing through your YouTube history is a soul-searching endeavour that might reveal a fascination with what celebrities eat throughout the day.
Brainstorm with others early on and bounce your crazy ideas off them. They might even chip in with brilliant input or agree to perform as actors (thanks, Dad). When the basic story and visual components are in place, write a script and/or create a storyboard with drawings or photos. Combine it all into a game plan you can follow on the day of shooting. This document will also help you at the editing stage, as you essentially have a recipe for the video structure.
Lesson 3: Get some guidance and some gear
I am by no means a videomaking pro, so I rely on tips from videographers like Peter McKinnon and audio producers like Mike Russell. They offer accessible tutorials on how to acquire high-quality image and sound. You do not have to purchase expensive equipment, but you need to adhere to basic rules surrounding composition, lighting, and recording sound. I want to strike a blow for audio here: Audio quality is paramount, and it really is worth getting your hands on a decent microphone. Even a small directional microphone designed for mobile devices, such as RØDE’s VideoMic Me, will significantly improve your sound. In terms of lighting, I used some artificial lights, but you get a long way with simply utilising that big lamp we call the Sun.
Lesson 4: Bring your talking-head video to life with B-roll
Spice up the classic ‘talking-head’ video (i.e. when someone looks and speaks to the camera) with diverse types of footage and camera angles. By using two cameras in the presenting situation, it will be easier to achieve a visually dynamic result. Place the cameras around 30 degrees apart to avoid ‘jump-cuts’ (cutting between two sequential shots without changing the camera angle much) – unless you’re Jean-Luc Godard or just a fan of that jittery style.
Most importantly, shoot or find lots of B-roll, i.e. footage that supplements the primary/A-roll footage, which in this case is the shots of me speaking to the camera. Create a library that contains all the stuff you can potentially use, both in video and photo form. For still images, I recommend Unsplash, which provides a library of high-resolution photos that can be used for free.
Lesson 5: Leave sufficient time for editing
Slicing and dicing the clips is the most time-consuming part of the entire process. Spoiler alert: You will grow very tired of listening to your own voice. Acquire whatever software you need to edit the footage properly. I prefer Adobe Premiere Pro, because it allows you to integrate work done in other Adobe Creative Cloud apps, all of which students and teachers can purchase at a 65 pct. discounted rate.
In short, I highly recommend producing videos alongside doing the actual research, instead of seeing it as a communication task at the end of the research. It has forced me to reflect on my discoveries two years into the PhD, what I still need to figure out – and how this can be communicated visually and sonically.
In the face of the pandemic, there is no need to overexplain that as a PhD student, I needed to find the right mechanisms to cope with anxiety, uncertainty and a severe case of writer’s block after the lockdown started in the UK, while my home country, Paraguay, took a much strict path that involved closing the borders and banning commercial flights. While some of my friends and colleagues found some relieve on baking, binge-watching shows on Netflix, exercising at home, or even working more hours than usual, in my case none of these strategies functioned. I was having a hard time connecting with academic work. Even the idea of reading a paper seemed too much at the moment. So it was in that context when I got an invitation from a dear friend and amazing artist that I could not refuse: To collaborate with her in an artistic project from scratch for an online exhibition. This is how Ut[app]ías del deseo (Desire ut[app]ias) was conceived, and it could not have happened – ironically – at a better time.
Ut[app]ías del deseo is a collaborative art project that explores the future of desire, pleasure and dating apps. As a work in progress, what you can see now is the result of two months of research, mentoring and creative explorations with the Paraguayan artist Adriana Peralta. The first stage of this project was presented as part of The Web Museum of the Cyborgfeminista: Expo Pop-Up Tech, an online exhibition aimed at showing interactive artwork that reflects on the relationship between gender, technology, feminism and digital rights. In May of this year, we were selected with other nine artists from Latin America to be part of an art clinic that included a series of webinars and mentorship running for the months of June and July, and which concluded in the opening of an online exhibition on the 14 of August.
Dating apps as the non-place for encounters was the initial theme that we proposed, which followed with one research question: When technology becomes the medium that shapes sexual affective encounters, what type of desire is produced? Both Adriana and I considered that the subject could not be more relevant. Particularly, we were interested in exploring the theme using our experiences as the point for departure, both cisgender Paraguayan women based in very different socio-cultural contexts: One in Asunción, and the other one, in London. From there on, we wanted to open these questions to the audience/participants, in order to try to imagine, collectively, utopias of desire.
Navigating love, pleasure and relationships nowadays implies necessarily to consider the role of technology to facilitate this type of encounters (or not). For us, it initiated an exercise of thinking in the cyborg-dimensions of desire, in the sense that required breaking the binaries between the digital and the physical world, what is considered as human and what as technology… what is just online and what is real.
Of course, technologies such as the ones behind the design of dating apps are not neutral, and therefore, they keep reproducing social and cultural biases. However, it is undeniable that they have contributed to new ways of being, thinking, and interacting with others. Factors such as race, gender, sexuality, class and habitus, will shape and constraint the ways in which encounters mediated by dating apps happen, and also, who are the ones that are able to take part of them, and who are the ones excluded. “Everything and nothing has changed” in terms of the dominance of patriarchal, racist, heteronormative ways of desire in the kingdom of online dating.
This is where our interest in the concept of utopia was born. We wanted to think in this non-place of desire as a project for radical imaginations. We were inspired by authors such as the Argentinian Luciana Peker, who speaks about ‘feminism of the pleasure’ as something that is against ‘violence and abuse, that rejects uniform bodies or the vision of sex and food as a sin’, while celebrates ‘trying, eating, writing, kissing, listening, dancing and marching as forms of rebellion and enjoyment’. As Peker claims: ‘Intimacy is political’. We were also inspired by the notion of queer utopias proposed by José Esteban Muñoz when he says that:
Queerness is a structuring and educated mode of desiring that allows us to see and feel beyond the quagmire of the present. […] Some will say that all we have are the pleasures of this moment, but we must never settle for that minimal transport; we must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds. […] Queerness is essentially about the rejection of a here and now and an insistence on potentiality or concrete possibility for another world.
At this stage, the site of Ut[app]ías del deseo compiles illustrations, texts and quotes that were part of the creative explorations and research done over the two months when the art clinic took place. It also presents an open document (in Spanish) where the audience is invited to participate in sharing their own imaginations of desire. In a second stage, this project aims to build a deviant catalogue with the diverse utopias of desire collected.
If you would like to collaborate, please, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let´s imagine, juntes!
We’re pleased to announce that CMCI lecturer Dr Anna Woodham’s new edited book has just been published: Exploring Emotion, Care and Enthusiasm in “Unloved” Museum Collections. Edited with Dr Rianedd Smith and Dr Alison Hess, the book focuses on the millions of items that are held in museum collections around the world but which are not currently or never will be put on display. These stored objects are certainly not neglected by their professional custodians, and they are loved with a great intensity by some curators and enthusiasts. However, for all but a tiny proportion of the population they have little or no personal meaning. The book goes beyond strategic discussions of access to museum stores, information enhancement, or collections rationalization and focuses on the emotional potential of these objects. The authors explore how “care” for objects has varied over time and consider who cares for objects that are generally considered to be unsuitable for display and why they care. The authors also consider how inter-generational and inter-disciplinary dialogue can enhance or engender engagement with “unloved” collections and offer strategies and reflection on interpreting stored collections.
This book will be essential reading for scholars, students, and professionals in museums, especially those concerned with curation and collections. The volume contains contributions from both academics and museum practitioners including Dr Sheila Watson, Dr Alexandra Woodall and Mark Carnall (Oxford University Museum of Natural History) among others.
Like many in the CMCI academic community, my research has adapted and responded to the unfolding social environment brought about by Covid-19. In fact, entering lockdown in the UK on the 23rd March 2020 was the midway point for me in my fieldwork interviews. My PhD looks at how memory is entangled in how sharing occurs on social media platforms and why these connective spaces are valued by young women. Along with interviewing young women, I also engaged in ethnographic observations of their social media activities for a period of six months. As such, I have had the opportunity to reflect on the way that some of the young women have chosen to document and share about living through times of pandemic and lockdown. In particular, it has been insightful to trace continuities and change in the practices, posts and stories of the eight young women who I interviewed prior to lockdown. In this blog post, I offer some early thoughts on how my participants are sharing ‘memories’ from pre-Covid-19.
Previously shared stories and posts resurface algorithmically through the memory product, On This Day, on Facebook and Instagram. The platform seeks to determine and then select meaningful “memories” for the user to reflect on and (hopefully) share. Although there is a tendency in digital memory studies literature for this feature to be accepted somewhat at face value (Brandtzaeg & Lüders, 2018; Drakopoulou, 2017; Holloway & Green, 2017; Hoskins, 2016; Schoenebeck et al., 2016), it has been critiqued for asserting on behalf of users what their ‘memories’ are (Smit & Prey, 2019). The lack of control over seeing these prompts, especially when associated with painful experiences, has also seen On This Day receiving negative publicity. I would counter it problematically also assuming that digital traces are memories when following Pickering and Keightley’s (2015) work on other media memory texts they function as vehicles for remembering. Of course, individuals can also choose to scroll back through their own profiles and archives to view old digital traces and may then decide to share these further either broadly to all their friends or followers, or to specific individuals or groups.
Prior to lockdown and social restrictions, the practice of sharing throwbacks (posts that are shared with the intention to look back and remember an event, moment or time period that took place in the past) was often framed as a way to express and re-experience joy and happiness or be a contemporary celebratory ‘gift’ with birthday posts. I want to suggest that there has been an increase in the sharing of throwbacks and re-engagement with digital traces in the past during this time. This is exemplified by Ellen who in a follow-up interview comments “I probably would be more likely whilst in lockdown to share or reshare things on On This Day than I would normally, because there’s no alternative. There’s not like a- I’m not doing anything here now. So it’s quite nice to be reflective and sort of like, it feels like it’s a reminder that things might be, things have been happen in different. So that’s quite nice to see. That’s what’s happening a year ago and in a year’s time that could be happening again.” The contrast painted between now and then is echoed by other participants. Ellen considers sharing what happened On This Day a year ago is due to the relative lack of activity in the present that could be posted about. However, she also suggests recalling these memories is an act of hope for the future, which differs from other responses to viewing these traces of the past.
Participants often use throwbacks and memory product function as well as uploading photos pre-pandemic to express a sense of loss. Sharing may be tinged with sadness and longing for what was: the normality of the past and in particular, spending time with friends. Chloe describes looking at On This Day as “it’s been horrible. It’s been nice to have memories and a bit of an escapism and like remember good times, but it’s also been like oh my gosh like I haven’t seen that person in so long. Don’t know when I’m going to see them again.”
Similarly, this entanglement of happiness of memories and sadness over the loss of future memories connected to an algorithmic resurfacing of the past is alluded to by Ava: “I was this time last year in Switzerland with my family. And a On This Day came up. And I was meant to be there with my best friend this week last week and I was kind of like, oh, that sucks and so slightly when they come up you kind of remember- yeah, in a way you’re like all like I’m missing out on this and like, like I’m cooped up inside. But last year, I was out doing fun things.”
Sadly, during this time Chloe also experienced the loss of two loved ones including her nan. The day after she passed away, she shares six stories, which span temporally from a baby photo to “the last time I ever held her hand”, which is time-stamped. 12 days later she shares a post containing five images, which she explains during a follow up interview was the day of the virtual service. Again, throwbacks are part of how she chooses to share about this loss and remember her life. The selection of the images reinforce Abidin’s (2018) observations on digital eulogy photos in her ethnographic research on how young people experience grief and loss through networked technology. These posts showed the deceased “preferably looking their best, or encapsulating a particularly flattering or happy moment in their time together” (p. 169). They also all include the participant, often along with other family members, and so are centred on this relationship between her and her nan. Although her mourning is central, a sense of collective grief is communicated through the selection of image as well as use first-person plural pronouns, exemplified through part of her post caption “we said an official goodbye to one of the best today”. This official goodbye took place during the conditions of lockdown and tight restrictions around funerals including social distancing measures and only immediate family members allowed to attend. Gibbs et al. (2015) concluded that #funeral posts were used to mark the experience of the funeral in the moment, extending the social ritual from those who were present to those who were not. Despite a lack of physical gathering, Chloe extends the experience of mourning virtually through participation in new social rituals related to funerals.
Coleman (2018) argues that the present temporality of social media is “concerned with ‘the now’, and that is stretched and condensed in various ways”. This is developed further in her examination of how individuals manage, experience and produce ‘the now’ (Coleman, 2020). ‘The now’ as its happening or as the immediate, ongoing or unfolding of the present. For these young women ‘the now’ is marked by absence, which is communicated, publicly seen rather than privately expressed. Of course, all digital memory work is performed in the present and so the present circumstances and understanding of the self will always influence the process of remembering. It is from the vantage point of lockdown and social restrictions that past digital traces are viewed from and so any memories sparked by them will be shaped by this ‘new normal’.
2020 was supposed to be a big year for the network I co-founded with Dr Gabriel Menotti, Besides the Screen. To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the network, we had events planned in Brazil, China, Portugal, Italy, Germany and the UK throughout the year. We were also looking forward to the publication of the fourth edited collection to be born out of network activities, and the launch of a new multi-lingual open access online journal. Needless to say, things did not go entirely as planned.
The network has always had an international focus, starting out as an explicit attempt to build research connections between the UK and Brazil, hosting conferences alternately in both countries and producing edited collections in both English and Portuguese. Indeed, the co-founder and I have often noted our amazement that we have managed to co-ordinate the network from different sides of the world for such a long time whilst also remarking that such an endeavour would have been considerably harder even a decade before. Thus, in some ways we thought we were well-equipped to continue with some network activities online even though everything we had planned had to be radically rethought. Indeed, on the one hand, we had always heavily relied upon online technologies to facilitate the running of the network, but on the other, we needed to also enable meaningful academic interactions across time zones, differing levels of internet access, and the many extra commitments and concerns our participants might have during these difficult times.
Some things were just delayed a little, the edited collection, Practices of Projection: Histories and Technologies, was finally published in June and it contains many fantastic contributions from network colleagues from around the world. In a way, we were lucky because the collection was all set to be published in March and so there has only really been a small delay in publication. I am only sad that we have not been able to talk about the book at various events over the summer to celebrate the work of all of the chapter authors. Having said that, had there been much more work to do to get the book ready for publication, the delay would have undoubtedly been much longer. The journal too, is still happening, but those working on this project have (like so many others right now) found their lives dominated by increasing workload and stress levels (amongst many other things) meaning that all non-priority tasks are taking a back seat at the moment. Without going into too much detail on this important issue at the moment, as has been mentioned in UK publications such as the Times Higher and The Guardian, this has disproportionately affected female academics.
Indeed, the experience of lockdown is being seen to increase inequality in multiple ways. Even as a white academic working on a full-time permanent contract at an elite UK institution I am feeling these burdens acutely whilst being strongly aware that my own experiences are at the very tip of a very large iceberg.
Nonetheless, thanks to the tireless work of my network colleagues (I can personally take very little credit for all of this), the series of events we had planned became, in part, the Besides the Screen 2020 Online Festival. There was an amazing online conference from 22 – 24 July organised by my network colleagues Ana Carvalho, Inês Guerra and Célia Vieira at ISMAI, Portugal and the screening programme curated by Gabriel Menotti and intended to be hosted in Brazil in the Spring has been re-curated and organised by Menotti and is now hosted on the network’s Youtube channel.
I volunteered to write this post some time ago and many thanks to the microsite editors for being so incredibly patient with me over the last few months. The reason I have persevered with this when so many other things have had to be de-prioritised right now, is that I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate my network colleagues and the incredible work they have done in making the Besides the Screen 2020 Festival happen. If you check out the conference programme you can link through to the pre-recorded papers and see their respective abstracts or you can go straight to be YouTube Playlist. Similarly, you can see the festival screening programme on YouTube direct and/or see full details on the website. The online version of the conference exhibition was also reconfigured into a series of artists talks and links to their work.
I want to wholeheartedly thank the organisers, panellists, artists and other contributors who all played their part in bringing this year’s anniversary events online. There are some wonderful talks and artworks still available to view as part of the festival so do please check them out if you can!
Richard Howells, CMCI’s Professor of Cultural Sociology has a new research article published on Roger Fry, Bloomsbury, and transfer lithography. Here, he has filled a gap in the existing literature, locating Fry’s use of the medium within the context of Bloomsbury innovation before the Second World War.
Special attention is then paid to the 13 Fry lithographs in the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa collection, donated by Rex Nan Kivell and Pamela Diamand, the artist’s daughter. He shows why these items by a very English artist were donated to a museum in New Zealand, especially by his only daughter in the UK. It concludes by considering the importance of these lithographs, arguing ultimately that they should be understood within the context of Roger Fry rather than simply by viewing the artist within the context of Bloomsbury.
Richard’s students will already be aware of his interest in Fry and Bloomsbury, and one of his recent MA Visual Culture students, Lina Fradin, is acknowledged for her help in identifying one of the scenes depicted in Paris.
The full citation is: Richard Howells, “Roger Fry, Bloomsbury and Transfer Lithography” in Tuhinga: Records of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 31, 2020, pp 5-18. ISSN: 1173-4337.
On January 11th, 2020, on a final wrap-up fieldwork visit, I was approached by a hip-hop dancer, who had seemingly heard of my research on salsa:
“Brayan: They told me you are doing a research to find out why the best dancers always come from the ghetto Camilo: You could say… that’s exactly what I do Brayan: Why is it then?”
In a few words, Brayan “Dancer LP” sent me back to the initial motivation of my doctoral research: why is that the most skilled and popular dancers of popular rhythms come from the most deprived or marginal environments and, furthermore, how can their embodied knowledge and skills be used to overcome such marginality?
The first part of the question, as explained to Brayan, could be presented by three factors: precarity, cross-fertilisation, and simmered learning. By examining my two case studies, namely the south of Bogota and the boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth in London, I was able to identify that by the time salsa dancing became an established practice in the decades of the 70s and 80s, these areas were largely inhabited by populations of immigrants: African-descendants in the case of Bogota and Latin-Americans in the case of London. These populations often counted on a very limited economic or social capital; hence their only option of investment was on forms of embodied capital, of which salsa dancing was one of them. However, in addition to their disposition to embodied practice, there was also the possibility of sharing and transmitting knowledge within these marginal, yet extremely diverse, communities of immigrants in both Bogota and London. Sharing knowledge, and an overall sense of community, in social events involving dance was crucial for the cross-fertilisation of salsa dance as capital in these areas, which I denominated cauldrons. Finally, the shared, collective and informal conditions that fostered this transmission of embodied knowledge allowed many people, who could not afford large investments of money or time, to develop their skill in a slow and community based mannered, to which I refer to as simmered learning. Ultimately, this modality of diversified and simmered learning in precarious environments is what allowed the creation of an embodied capital that would become increasingly valuable with the expansion of the global market of salsa.
Precisely, the second part of the question that motivated my doctoral research explores the possibility of integrating that local knowledge to global markets to foster economic and social development. Less than a month after my chat with Brayan, on the 2nd of February, I celebrated my birthday by writing the conclusions of my thesis. Simultaneously, the Latin-pop singer Shakira celebrated her own birthday by performing – next to the other big Latina, Jennifer Lopez – at the Super Bowl half-time show in Miami, which reportedly reached 103 million live viewers on TV and has over 175 million views on Youtube. Interestingly enough, these two singers had commissioned dancers that I personally know from both the salsa scene in Colombia and the commercial dance scene in London, in both cases coming from the marginal cauldrons of these cities. The reasons for dancers of popular rhythms from marginal areas performing next to Shakira and JLo can be many, particularly considering that the performance makes strong statements on Latin identity, immigration, and women empowerment vis-à-vis the political climate in the US. However, from my research, I am able to propose that beyond the mesmerizingly fast footwork and impressive acrobatics of Colombian salsa, there are common elements between the local/embodied knowledge and the global markets that are linked to the colonial and post-colonial history of Afro-diasporic dances. First, it is not gratuitous that most of the dances used in this performance (from the extremely local champeta to the hyper-transnational commercial), as well as most popular dances around the world (from hip-hop to kizomba), are the product of the development of dances of African heritage in different parts of the world, predominantly the Americas. This particularly due to the marketisation of, but also empowerment through, human bodies and their movement that has been taking place since the slave trade and plantation systems in the Americas, which in turn has led to complex processes of transmission and identity of embodied knowledge (e.g salsa has been seen as either Afro-Antillean, the Caribbean, Nuyorican, New Yorker, Cuban or Latin at different times and places and by different communities). To understand these complex processes of negotiation, I developed the crucial concept of alegropolitics in tandem with Professor Ananya Jahanara Kabir. This refers to the efficaciousness of these dances to communicate and transmit an affect related to joy, but specific to Latin dance, hence its Hispano/lusophone etymology. This alegria operates as a pleasant and positive affect that often attracts transnational audiences into many of the currently popular dances, thus granting them – and their original practitioners – a place in global markets. What is interesting of this specific type of joy – and which I believe contributes to the understanding of its use by Jlo and Shakira to perform immigration, gender equality and racial politics – is that it does not operate as a denial of suffering, discrimination or any other painful affect, but it is a rather powerful social instrument to reconcile pain and joy, and to process post-colonial traumas beyond barriers of intersectional class, gender and race identities.
Fast-forwarding another month to my Viva, on the 17th of March, I was delighted to see that both examiners were enthralled by this nuanced, multidirectional and intersectional approach to what I ultimately called the export of the embodied capital of Colombian salsa, and that it was decided I would receive a pass without corrections. Similarly, I am happy that my conceptual tools have helped other scholars in the development of their own analysis of social dance. Lockdown took place in many cities (including Bogota and London) within a few days, which has made the popular dance scene more precarious, yet even more resilient. This has made my analysis increasingly more relevant and, therefore, I am currently looking forward to further utilise the conceptual tools of my PhD in developing specific interventions in the dance industry to foster economic, social and emotional development.
Dr Hye-Kyung Lee (CMCI), Karin Chau (CMCI), and I (Takao Terui, CMCI) launched a new seminar series titled Asian Cultural Policy Research Seminar Series (ACPRSS). This series aims to broaden our understandings about the cultural and creative industries /cultural policy and to contribute to de-Westernising this field and de-colonising our curriculum, by sharing voices of cultural practitioners and researchers from Asia. As a first season of the series, we welcomed two early-career researchers who specialise in Asian cultural policy.
The first seminar took place online on Thu, 25 June 2020 and was titled ‘The Creative City: a sugar-coated policy in the South East Asian second-tier cities? During this first session, Dr Phitchan Chuangchai from Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand presented her findings of creative city discourse in South East Asia. Her lecture highlighted the adoption of the creative city projects in ASEAN and critically investigated its discourse and reality by elaborating case study of Chang Mai City.
In the second seminar titled ‘Cultural Policy and the Performing Arts in Taiwan’, Dr Meng-Yu Lai from Birkbeck, University of London, UK presented findings from his doctoral thesis that examined the long-term trend of theatre performance and cultural policy in Taiwan. He explained the evolution of Taiwanese identity and government policy with a particular focus on the works of the National Theatre and Concert Hall.
Abstract of presentation: Taiwan has a vibrant cultural life in which the performing arts play a significant role. Central to that role is the National Performing Arts Centre which today consists of three government-supported venues across the country: the National Theatre and Concert Hall in Taipei, the National Taichung Theatre and the Kaohsiung Centre for the Arts. Over the last 70 years, there have been striking developments in the performing arts in Taiwan. After the Nationalist government arrived on the island, there was an exclusive focus on traditional Chinese art forms, but since democracy in 1987 many other influences have been encouraged. Both local and international ideas and artists have been welcomed by successive governments whose policies have supported the performing arts at arm’s-length. Taiwan now has its own distinctive cultural identity which has Chinese origins but embraces much else besides. This talk will look at the evolution of Taiwanese identity and government policy between 1949 and 2017 with a special focus on the work of the National Theatre and Concert Hall from its opening in 1987 to 2017 to explore changes reflected in the Centre’s programmes.
Dr Phitchan Chuangchai and Dr Meng-Yu Lai’s presentations illuminated and illustrated significant but relatively overlooked cases in Asian regions. Remarkably, the online events attracted more than 100 audiences from diverse regions including Australia, China, South Korea, Japan, Bangladesh, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Africa and the UK. We had vibrant discussions covering several topics including cultural democracy, cultural identity, minority and marginalised communities, the roles of academics, cultural regeneration, and social inclusion through the CCI policy.
Following the success of these events, we are planning to organise further seminars and conferences as well as develop networks of students, researchers and practitioners interested in cultural policy in Asia. With this seminar series, we are keen to reconsider the (in)visibility of Asia in the research and teaching in cultural policy, and explore ways to make creative interventions into them from Asian perspectives.
The exam board of Britain’s royal schools of music is being urged to address the legacy of its colonial origins after research found 99% of pieces on its syllabuses were by white composers” writes the Guardian in a recent article discussing the decolonization of classical music. The articles also draws on the work by CMCI researcher and PhD student Scott Craizley who argues that “the exclusion of black composers amounted to systemic racism, and the ABRSM [Associated Board of the Royal Schoolsof Music]should make its syllabuses less white if it was “committed to seeing a more racially diverse intake of students entering conservatoires”.
Dr Tamsyn Dent and Dr Kate McMillan both presented research as part of the Creative Economy Research Frontiers Seminar Series, organised and hosted by CMCI and DISCE.EU in partnership with the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC), Nesta. The event, Creative Work and Gender: Barriers and Activism was the third in a series of four research seminars developed by Dr Roberta Comunian of the Cultural, Media and Creative Industries Department at King’s College London with the PEC which invited research that addressed emerging challenges relating to the creative economy. This seminar included papers that explored new forms of big data that identify gender barriers in the creative sector and collaborations between HE and grassroots organisations to develop such research. Dr Dent presented her work developed in partnership with the organisation Raising Films that addressed the experiences of ‘carers’ working in the UK screen sector and Dr McMillan presented a number of research projects into the lack of equality for female artists in the visual arts includes the annual report ‘representation for Female Artists in Britain’ developed through her ongoing collaboration with the visual arts organisation, the Freelands Foundation.
Dr Dent’s paper, ‘Gender, Sexuality and Care in the UK Screen Industry’ presented findings from a research survey that targeted carers working in the screen sector. Carers are defined anyone, (including children) who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of an illness, frailty, disability, mental health problem or an addiction. Raising Films is a community and campaigning organisation for parents and carers employed within the UK screen sector and it was following consultations with members that the absence of data specifically on barriers to screen labour faced by carers, as opposed to parents was identified. The full findings from the carers survey can be read in the report. This paper concentrated on a relationship that emerged from the data between sexuality and care, looking at the experiences of stigma and rejection from colleagues and employers faced by men in same-sex relationships when combining caring responsibilities and screen labour. The research complicates notions of caregiving as a gendered activity and expands the case for more in-depth intersectional research into barriers relating to caregiving and creative labour.
Dr McMillan’s paper on the representation of female artists within the UK’s commercial gallery was based on quantitative data on the representation of female visual artists taken in 2016 and 2019 and a series of qualitative interviews with gallery directors. Dr McMillan’s work explores the significance of representation within the UK’s commercial sector as related to value and recognition at the institutional level. This has a particularly problematic consequence for female artists who are significantly under-represented at the commercial level. The detailed level of analysis illustrates patterns of inequality linked to the size of the gallery, the gender of the director and unconscious bias relating to concepts of motherhood and value. Dr McMillan also presented findings from the Freelands Foundation report which analyses the visual arts sector more widely and its uneven opportunities for female artists. The findings can be accessed through the report available online. The most recent report will be launched in Autumn 2020.
In the article, Dr Comunian and Dr England review the existing literature on the precarious nature of creative and cultural work. They point out that as soon as the spread of Covid-19 started impacting local and national economies, many industry and policy bodies rushed into researching the impact of Covid-19 on the creative and cultural industries (CCIs) and the workers in the sector through a series of surveys. The paper reviews the content – reflecting on what is being asked and what is not being asked – of these surveys. The results highlight common concerns in relation to visible and invisible issues that need addressing in the sector. The paper concludes by questioning if Covid-19 represents a moment of crisis for the sector or has simply exposed the unsustainable price of creative and cultural work.
The precarious nature of creative and cultural work is widely acknowledged in academic literature. However, it has often been invisible in the eyes of policy and policymaking. As soon as the spread of Covid-19 started impacting local and national economies across the globe, many industry and policy bodies rushed into researching the impact of Covid-19 on the creative and cultural industries (CCIs) and the workers in the sector. The paper offers an insight into the key concerns of these organizations through the meta-analysis of the survey and research projects that are currently being undertaken in the context of the UK. The results highlight common concerns in relation to visible and invisible issues that need addressing in the sector. The paper concludes by questioning if Covid-19 represents a moment of crisis for the sector or has simply exposed the unsustainable price of creative and cultural work.
Are you a current or former museum and gallery professional working in the UK or internationally? Dr Serena Iervolino (CMCI) and Dr Stuart Dunn (DDH) are inviting colleagues in the sector to complete a survey that aims to explore the perspectives and experiences of current and former museum and gallery professionals in relation to graduate employability in the sector.
The survey can be accessed at here(closing date: 18th of June).
Please take the time to complete the survey and circulate it amongst your colleagues.
Serena and Stuart are particularly keen to hear from those interested in contributing, in one form or another, to the delivery of a future London-based but globally focusednew Museum Studies teaching provision at King’s. They are interested in collaborating with London-based institutions / professionals, but would be delighted to also hear from colleagues across the UK and internationally.
Whilst they appreciate this is a time of uncertainty for the sector, they believe it is a critical moment to reflect on how we can train future generations of resilient museum professionals.
One definition of ‘emotionally demanding research’ is ‘research that demands a tremendous amount of mental, emotional, or physical energy and potentially affects or depletes the researcher’s health or well-being’ (Kumar and Cavallaro, 2017, p.648). There is an ever-growing literature on how to protect the mental wellbeing of a researcher or research team when working on emotionally demanding projects, but how may we take this knowledge and apply it in the lockdown conditions that many of us now find ourselves in? From speaking to colleagues, the isolation and general disruption of recent months has added a fresh layer of difficulty to already tough projects. By being upfront and honest about my own experiences I hope to encourage more public conversation(s) about how to work through what can sometimes be debilitating emotions and feelings. I also want to highlight a seemingly common gap in Arts & Humanities graduate/researcher training that no amount of resilience workshops can hope to fill.
After over a year of reading and listening to women remember sexual violence during the Holocaust, by March 2020 I thought I had figured out (on the whole) how to manage my own emotions in relation to my material. Then a global pandemic happened, and you know the rest. I write this from a privileged position; neither myself, my partner, or any family members have (knowingly) had the virus. The one friend who did catch it early on has fully recovered and is back at work. While I am facing a level of financial precarity in the long-term, many of my part-time jobs were already done remotely. I have no dependents (human or animal), but I do have access to a shared garden – as a Zone 3 Londoner in a one-bed flat I have never appreciated this outdoor space more.
The blurring of my home and my research project has always been something I worked hard to avoid; I worked from spaces on campus or treated myself to a few hours in a coffee shop. Now – my desk in the living room, no door to shut it behind – my project has spilled into domestic space, on many occasions dominating the home I share with my partner. Previously, keeping some form of separation enabled me to switch-off from thinking about research, but the lockdown has made it inescapable, relentless even in the space that is supposed to be where I rest.
With the closure of campus buildings also came the removal of the day-to-day support of my fellow CMCI PGR cohort. While we have somewhat migrated onto digital platforms (WhatsApp voice notes, Zoom/Skype/Teams video chats, and department efforts like CMC-Hi) it is not the same. It sounds ungrateful, but digital media does not, for me, allow for the spontaneity or intimacy of an in-person conversation. Recently I undertook some oral history training, during which the instructor discussed the importance of being able to pass on what you have heard after listening to traumatic memories (the idea being that the pain associated with the original story should be lessened with sharing). Coffees, meeting for lunch, agreeing to write in the company for a few hours have always been a vital outlet for talking about my research and listening to colleagues’ work in return. Without these opportunities at present, this has put pressure on my partner who, while never-endingly patient, supportive and a kind human being, is not equipped to take on what would normally be several peoples’ worth of offloading.
Lockdown was established at an unfortunate time for my project, colliding with my realisation that about 40% of the women who form my data were sexually assaulted underage. I (naively) did not anticipate this aspect to my project when setting out and am finding the literature relating to child sex abuse the most draining and upsetting thing to work through while isolated away from my normal support systems. With one newly arrived book, I can only manage 3-4 pages at a time, and in the days that follow I have experienced disturbed sleep, loss of focus, and a lack of motivation to re-engage with the material, which ultimately makes me feel like I am not being productive enough.
Luckily, I am supported by a supervisory team who fully appreciate the emotionally demanding nature of my research project and that the current pandemic conditions have only added to this. Maintaining a healthy mental wellbeing specific to working with memories of sexual violence and associated themes has been a priority from the earliest days of my project, but as I have noted above, these unforeseen conditions of lockdown have brought new challenges. Writing this blog has been an opportunity to re-examine the literature around safeguarding the emotional wellbeing of the researcher during emotionally demanding research. Not all the advice translates in our current world, but I was heartened to see parallels with my own organic attempts at self-care.
I try to avoid programmes that depict sexual violence (Williamson et al., 2020), a lesson learnt from watching three episodes of Mindhunter and becoming a sobbing wreck on the sofa. One day I will watch Unbelievable but now is not that time. Fresh air and exercise (Kumar and Cavallaro, 2017; Rager, 2005; Sikic Micanovic et al., 2020; Williamson et al., 2020), as well as spacing interviews apart to avoid an intense working period (Coddington, 2017; Sikic Micanovic et al., 2020), are also common coping strategies. With encouragement from my supervisors, I am trying to harness my emotions to power my research and analysis work. I am not always successful (I find anger and frustration much more galvanising than fear) but it is an interesting way to navigate the personal emotions heightened by the lockdown. Kumar (2017) describes something similar, in that her advisor encouraged her to value her emotional responses as part of the research process.
At an institutional level there is little (at KCL) specific to emotionally demanding research in lockdown, however generic guidance on ‘looking after yourself’, procrastination, and worry, rumination and insomnia may provide some support. The Doctoral College have put together an online mental health ‘toolkit’ available via KEATS, but it too is a generic offer for PGRs across the college. As there was a gap for training around emotionally demanding research for Arts & Humanities Faculty PGRs prior to lockdown it is little surprise that a gap remains today. Fellow CMCI PhD researcher Linda Clayworth and I have designed a workshop series to try and begin the conversation at KCL. Other groups at Sheffield, Edinburgh and Exeter are also working to raise awareness around the need for more training and support.
Navigating emotionally demanding research in lockdown is not easy, but it is less difficult if faced with others. I am not the first to say (write) this, but from my own experiences of feeling isolated and from talking to other people in similar positions I think it needs repeating – louder and louder until we are heard by our institutions, the friends and family who want to support and help us, and each other, researcher to researcher.
Together with Cardiff University, CMCI administered the UK component of a worldwide survey of 4,322 children aged between 9 and 13 in 42 countries. 289 UK children took part in the survey over a period of 10 days from 16-26 April, the second-highest number after Belgium, also a country that has experienced high levels of Covid-19 infections. Although based on a convenience sample administered during the lockdown, the survey showed that if children have some basic knowledge about the virus and how to protect themselves and others from it, they are less worried. If children believe fake news such as “Eating garlic can prevent you from catching the coronavirus”, they are more likely to be “very worried”.
Initiated by the International Central Institute for Youth and Educational Television at the Bavarian Broadcasting Cooperation, and the PRIX JEUNESSE Foundation, the study “Children, Media, and COVID-19” asked questions about children’s emotions and knowledge regarding the coronavirus, their media use, and their strategies for reducing stress and regulating their own media consumption. The samples cannot claim to be representative of the countries or on a global level. Nevertheless, they offer some interesting findings and tendencies regarding how children perceive Covid-19.
For nearly all the children surveyed worldwide, life has changed radically. Most at this point were no longer going to school, often their parents are working from home, sport and leisure activities are no longer possible. Worldwide, one in two children felt worried because of coronavirus. The percentage of children being “very worried” differs from country to country. While the proportion of “very worried” children in Austria (2 %) and Germany (3 %) is low, it was around three quarters in e.g. Tanzania “very worried.
The greatest fear among all children was that a family member will fall ill, that they won’t be able to visit their grandparents and other relatives for a long time.
What this study makes very clear, however, is the connection between being worried and knowledge. The fewer facts the children know about the virus and how to protect themselves from it, the higher the proportion who are “very worried”.
Children are especially likely to be “very worried” if they are taken in by fake news stories, e.g. that “coronavirus has been used as a weapon by a foreign government”, or that “garlic stops you from catching the coronavirus”. The conclusion drawn from this is that knowledge is linked with a reduction in uncertainty and thus in a reduction of worries.
This suggests that children need reliable age-appropriate information and media that are made for them explaining the situation without scaring them away or fostering anxiety.
The creative economy is dead – long live the creative-social economies
CMCI staff are involved in the launch of a new special issue of the Social Enterprise Journal on the creative-social economies. Dr Roberta Comunian and PhD Denderah Rickermers have curated the special issue and written the editorial (with Dr Andrea Nanetti). CMCI staff Dr Lauren England has also contributed with an article. The special issue was developed after a workshop took place in Singapore in November 2018, funded through King’s College London (UK) and Nanyang Technological University Singapore international global partnership funds. The focus of the event was “Social enterprise, social innovation & the creative economy: current knowledge and shared research”, the aim of the convening was to explore the intersection of the creative economy and social innovation by bringing together academics and practitioners from different disciplines and fields working in varied geographic and socio-economic settings. The event details and a list of all panellists, presenters, and papers are available HERE.
Building on the discussions and papers that were presented during the event we are now pleased to share the publication of a special issue on the creative-social economies in the Social Enterprise Journal.
In their editorial “The creative economy is dead – long live the creative-social economies”, guest editors Dr Roberta Comunian, Denderah Rickmers and Dr Andrea Nanetti present and discuss a systemic literature review (SLR) that investigates the creative-social research field by connecting the two respective areas of literature. The findings highlight developing trends of literary convergence and point towards a need to consider the creative-social economies as an emerging independent area of research.
The special issue then comprises of five articles. In the first article, McQuilten et al. (2020) explore the literature on social enterprises and their specific policy context in Australia. She specifically considers Arts-Based Social Enterprises working with disadvantaged youth. In the second article, Carter and Carter (2020) discuss the Creative Business Model Canvas, a reinterpretation of Osterwalder and Pigneur’s Business Model Canvas and reimagines it for visual artists and Art-based Social Enterprise organisations. In the third article, England (2020) considers how Creative Social Enterprises manage to balance creative, social and economic goals. In the fourth paper Toscher et al. (2020) present an empirical comparative study of the motivations for engaging in business by focusing on three diverse cohorts of entrepreneurs active in three fields technology, youth and arts. In the final paper, Cockshut et al. (2020) articulate the role higher education institutions can play in supporting and engaging creative MSME (micro, small and medium-sized enterprises) towards a social innovation agenda.
In essence, each of the five articles emphasizes one common denominator, that there inevitably are socio-cultural as well as socio-economic dimensions to any and every activity in the realm of the creative industries. The question moving forward, therefore, needs to be, how do we capture and channel the social value of the sector beyond its economic contribution?
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, most higher education institutions (HEIs) in the UK and abroad have moved their teaching and work online and academics are now providing teaching support from home. However, while this is feasible for subjects where teaching tends to be lecture-base, the impact might be different for degrees where physical and material practice, equipment and spaces play a very important role in learning development and the acquisition of skills. The project will address the following questions:
What has been the impact of Covid-19 on your teaching practices?
What are the limitations/differences of online work in relation specifically to creative subjects?
What aspects of your teaching are not possible in the current social isolation/ home-learning context?
What new modes of engagement and opportunities have this crisis promoted?
The project calls for the involvement of academics and technical staff, that can participate in online discussions or undertake online interviews to feedback on the recent changes and challenges faced by the sector. To get involved, potential participants are asked to complete a brief online form and register.
The research is only just started but it is hoped that project will collect important reflections on challenges and best practices within the sector that could potentially – with the input of colleagues across creative HE departments – develop into a special issue.
Faced with the impossibility of conducting research in person due to the current pandemic, many researchers find themselves looking for alternative online methods. This often poses new practical and ethical considerations, with some academics trying out online research they might not have encountered yet. Since my PhD project has been designed as an online study, I believe it might be helpful for fellow researchers to share some of my insights.
In my doctoral project, I examine articulations of “intersectionality” in digital feminist activism in Germany. In addition to a discourse analysis of the websites/blogs and social media of two activist case studies and online interviews with self-identified feminists/activists, I also plan to conduct online focus groups with my interview participants. Designing the latter has posed the biggest practical and ethical challenges and is hence what I will focus on in the following discussion.
Online focus groups offer a series of advantages: they make it possible to reach participants not only in other locations, but simultaneously in different geographical areas, which has the benefit of eliminating travel time and costs. Considering that my participants will be located in Germany, this would make these concerns obsolete. Moreover, online focus groups can be conducted both as synchronous (all participants are online the same time) and asynchronous (participants contribute in their own time; potentially over a longer period of time) practices. They can also be conducted via video group chat (e.g. Skype), simulating a face-to-face focus group, or in written form, like in a chat or forum. Written online focus groups also have the benefit that they automatically produce a transcript. Some may worry though that written focus groups won’t produce similar rich data compared to in-person focus groups, but as Underhill and Olmsted (2003) have shown, the quality of computer-meditated focus groups and groups conducted in person does not vary significantly. While the latter may have produced more words in total, both generated about the same amount of new ideas.
Another worry might be that using online focus groups requires a lot of technical know-how and funding for software. While this may be true in some cases, researchers should ask themselves if these platforms are really the best choice for the project in question. In my doctoral research, I am looking at online discourses on three different social media platforms. It is therefore sensible to conduct my focus group research using one of the examined platforms. Facebook, with the option to set up private discussion groups, appears to be a great fit.
Of course, there’s a number of ethical issues in using Facebook for data generating purposes. For instance, Facebook’s data policy means that the platform will save all data conducted throughout the research. However, since participants have already signed up to Facebook, they should be familiar with this policy. Another issue is that Facebook is a commercial platform that operates for profit. According to Fuchs (2014), the more time a user spends on Facebook, the more data, and thus economic value, they generate. Consequently, asking my focus group participants to spend more time on the platform by taking part in a discussion group would mean asking them to generate more data, producing an economic gain for Facebook, and essentially asking my participants to perform free labour. While this dilemma must not be underestimated, I also recognise that – as with most ethical questions – there is no perfect solution.
Ultimately, the benefits of using Facebook in my study outweigh the disadvantages. Ease of use is one of the benefits of using the platform. As mentioned above, since participants have already signed up to Facebook, I won’t have to ask them to sign up and can be sure they are aware of how Facebook works (Dinhopl 2017). Facebook also allows users to express their opinions, thoughts, and feelings by implementing emojis, gifs, pictures, or videos. Similarly, the focus group moderator can use videos or newspaper articles as well as polls to alternate between discussion topics. Furthermore, the layout of Facebook groups can both work as a forum and chat at the same time, giving participants more flexibility in when and how they are going to engage with the discussion topic. The reply function (@username) allows participants as well as the moderator to respond to individual messages.
However, there is still one potential problem in using online focus groups that I haven’t discussed yet – conducting focus groups online means both participants or third parties (besides Facebook itself) could make copies of the discussions. To minimise the risk of confidentiality breaches by participants, I have designed the following measurements: first, by signing the consent sheet, participants agree to keep everything posted in the Facebook group confidential. Second, since I will set the privacy settings of the groups to “closed” and “hidden”, the groups will not come up in any searches (neither Facebook nor Google or other search engines) and participants will only be able to enter by invitation. Moreover, when joining the group, participants have to read the rules/code of conduct and they have to select that they agree to them. By clicking on the ‘about’ section, group members can find the rules and re-read them at any time. In addition, the groups are kept relatively small with only 4 to 5 participants per group. Participants will, therefore, become familiar with their fellow group members quickly, which will make it less likely for them to break confidentiality. Finally, participants will be given the opportunity to set up an anonymous Facebook account solely for the purpose of the study, in case they are not comfortable using their private account. That said, full confidentiality can still not be guaranteed, however, this is never the case, whether the focus group is conducted on- or offline.
Surprisingly, culture and media researchers have not been at the forefront of online focus group research – a field pioneered by social health and medical scientists. And despite a growing number of online focus group research, I have only come across a small number of studies using Facebook as group discussion tool (Lijadi & van Schalkwyk 2015; MacLeod et al. 2016; Buelo et al. 2020). Hopefully, the current situation will lead to more culture and media scholars catching up on digital methods and online focus groups in particular.
As a fashion sociologist, I have always been fascinated by everyday sartorial behaviours as a mechanism that allows to ‘articulate the relationship between a particular body and its lived milieu, the space occupied by bodies and constituted by bodily actions’, as fashion theorist Jennifer Craik put it. But what happens to dress in a world where the ‘lived milieu’ is drastically altered and where ‘bodily actions’ are no longer the familiar, repetitive rituals they had always been? In other words, what happens to our sartorial practices during quarantine? And what can it tell us about emerging forms of sociality in an era of social distancing; about how we negotiate the boundaries between private and public when they are no longer explicitly configured in space? To find out, my friend Lorraine (Lori) Smith and I started a project called Lockdown Fashion (which is probably a misnomer – more on it below) where we ask people to reflect on how the quarantine has affected the way they dress.
The project has only been running for two weeks. We did not intend for it to be an academic study for now, so I haven’t really been analysing the data. However, even without ‘proper’ coding, I cannot help spotting patterns and fascinating clusters of topics emerge from the responses we have received so far.
As our, usually expansive, life-spaces have contracted to the perimeters of our homes (and, if we are lucky, gardens), clothes, it would appear, have been taking up their roles and becoming life-spaces themselves. They separate work time from leisure time and delineate the public from the private: leaving home to go to the office, leaving work to go to a bar with friends, and leaving the bar now happen through changes of outfits. ‘I have to be dressed with a coffee to begin my day’; ‘Putting on make-up… helps keep the mental separation between work and home time’; ‘I make a point to dress in my work outfits for work hours even if nobody else sees them (most of the calls with colleagues are with cameras off)’ were common reflections. This, along with a proximity to the wardrobe that is never more than a couple of rooms away, prompts some of our respondents to change multiple times a day: one participant, Hannah, cited changing her outfits three times during one Zoom call with friends!
Another theme that emerges from responses is the agentic quality of dress. Clothes, our participants appear to suggest, can do things to us, altering our ways of being in the world.
‘If I were to wear more relaxed clothing, my feeling (worry) is that I might, over time, become less inclined to focus’, confessed Benjamin from Manchester Metropolitan University who wears smart outfits around the house. Other people cited clothes giving them ‘a sense of carry on’, a feeling of being ‘put together’, and a comforting ‘structure and neatness’.
Clothes can mold us, and they can also remind us who we are. Our interviews suggest that one of the most important roles clothing plays in quarantine is what CMCI’s Dr Paul Sweetman has called, in his eponymous article, ‘anchoring the self’; articulating personal narratives and enabling a certain ontological security. As Rosie from London College of Fashion put it poignantly, ‘[one day] I put on my pearl ring and a silver bangle I always wear (both gifts from people I love) and I suddenly realised I felt like myself, like the clothes located me and returned me to myself somehow. It was simple and immediate and restorative’.
What is particularly interesting about responses is that they rarely frame clothing as a tool for ‘presentation of the self’, in sociologist Erving Goffman’s terms; instead, what is foregrounded is wearers’ affective ties with their garments. Although the lockdown ‘is like a prolonged period of being “backstage”’, as per Alanna’s reflections, clothes carry a great deal of significance even when no one can see the wearer except perhaps their cat. And for some of our interviewees, lowered visibility during lockdown offers a chance to try out items that they would not wear in everyday life because they are too revealing, too small, too ‘loud’ or too uncomfortable, such as high heels, tight-fitting dresses or clothes that no longer fit; in other words, items that give them pleasure but are at odds with their desired public selves.
Ultimately, these strengthened affective ties with clothing might, hopefully, promote a more meaningful and slower consumption pattern once the quarantine is over, enhancing the emotional durability of our relationships with clothes. ‘It has made me appreciate the “worth” of garments more, in terms of them being of good quality and well-made’, noted Benjamin, while Elizabeth from Central Saint Martins cites a newly found focus on re-wear and re-use of garments she already owns and loves, ‘rather than casting a flighty gaze on new curiosities’, and Jenna from Regent’s University pointed out that ‘the significance of making and taking care of clothes has been heightened’ for her in lockdown.
So far, our selection of respondents has been heavily skewed towards academics studying fashion, simply because these were the people in our immediate networks who were willing to respond. We are, however, looking for more participants from all walks of life as we want to capture a whole range of experiences and clothing behaviours. The title of our project, on reflection, is not entirely successful: what we are interested in is dress, not fashion. Whether you are dressing up or down, we want to know: all clothes stories are good stories. Anyone can take part, under their own name or anonymously; please select five questions from the list, and email us your answers along with a brief bio if you want us to include one, or anonymously if you don’t.
In times of public emergency, social truths are revealed. The coronavirus crisis is one such emergency, and it reveals that the lives of the elderly appear to matter less and, in some cases, are even deemed disposable”, writes CMCI PhD-student Shir Shimoni. Her chilling article “How coronavirus exposes the way we regard ageing and old people” draws on her PhD research and was recently published in The Conversation. Read the full piece here.
At a time like this, our first thoughts are for everyone’s health and wellbeing. We are a community of students, staff and alumni drawn from many parts of the world, and our experiences of the current crisis will take many forms depending on our own circumstances and current conditions of ’social distancing’ and ‘isolation’. Nevertheless, we are brought together by the interests and commitments that we have in common – not least those that come under the label of ‘Culture, Media and Creative Industries’ – CMCI. It is in light of these shared interests that we are writing to you now to introduce ‘Gigabitesback’.
At its simplest – Gigabitesback is an online forum dedicated to the CMCI community for saying ‘hello’, connecting with each other, and sharing ideas. We’d like it ‘to make a difference’.
The name ‘Gigabitesback’ references a) the gig economy – where so many in arts and culture work and are facing great uncertainty in their futures; b) the online space we are now working (requiring gigabytes of memory); and c) the opportunity, or perhaps requirement we feel to use our collective skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to do something to help – to be resilient – to ‘bite back’!
So – how can YOU get involved. Join one of our initial meetings to find out. The plan is to hold these every Wednesday over the coming weeks at 10.00 and then repeated at 16.00 GMT (to accommodate different time zones).
Between us we have an extraordinary wealth of knowledge, experience and creativity to bring to the current situation. We’d like to support people working across the arts, cultural, media and creative sectors (including many of our alumni). Share both your challenges and your solutions – your great ideas – with others across the CMCI community. You can do this by posting a short note on our Gigabitesback note-wall here (alumni will have ‘guest’ access so posts will be anonymous – but you can add your professional contact details in your note – if you’re happy for this to be shared across the CMCI community).
At a time like this, our first thoughts are for everyone’s health and wellbeing. We are a community of students, staff and alumni drawn from many parts of the world, and our experiences of the current crisis will take many forms depending on our own circumstances and current conditions of ’social distancing’ and ‘isolation’. Nevertheless, we are brought together by the interests and commitments that we have in common – not least those that come under the label of ‘Culture, Media and Creative Industries’ – CMCI. It is in light of these shared interests that we are writing to you now to introduce ‘Gigabitesback’.
At its simplest – Gigabitesback is an online forum dedicated to the CMCI community for saying ‘hello’, connecting with each other, and sharing ideas. We’d like it ‘to make a difference’.
The name ‘Gigabitesback’ references a) the gig economy – where so many in arts and culture work and are facing great uncertainty in their futures; b) the online space we are now working (requiring gigabytes of memory); and c) the opportunity, or perhaps requirement we feel to use our collective skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to do something to help – to be resilient – to ‘bite back’!
So – how can YOU get involved. Join one of our initial meetings to find out. The plan is to hold these every Wednesday over the coming weeks at 10.00 and then repeated at 16.00 GMT (to accommodate different time zones).
Between us we have an extraordinary wealth of knowledge, experience and creativity to bring to the current situation. We’d like to support people working across the arts, cultural, media and creative sectors (including many of our alumni). Share both your challenges and your solutions – your great ideas – with others across the CMCI community. You can do this by posting a short note on our Gigabitesback note-wall here (alumni will have ‘guest’ access so posts will be anonymous – but you can add your professional contact details in your note – if you’re happy for this to be shared across the CMCI community).
CMCI began life in 2002 as an MA in Cultural & Creative Industries. This led in 2007 to the launch of the Centre for Culture, Media & Creative Industries, becoming a ‘Department’ in 2010. We now welcome students from all over the world to our three MA programmes (and soon to our new BA), many of whom plan to develop a career in the creative industries.
Given the ubiquity of the ‘creative industries’, some of our students may be surprised to learn that the phrase is only slightly older than CMCI itself. Where the idea of the creative industries comes from, and how it gained such rapid significance, is a story I tell in a new report, The Birth of the Creative Industries Revisited.
Soon after winning the 1997 general election, Tony Blair’s Labour government set up a Creative Industries Task Force. This brought together ministers and civil servants with senior figures from film, music, fashion, publishing and advertising. The following year they produced a document that defined the creative industries for the first time, and estimated their contribution to the UK economy in terms of GDP and jobs. This was the 1998 Creative Industries Mapping Document.
Few pieces of cultural policy have achieved the visibility of the Mapping Document. It has been widely influential and the subject of heated debate. However, the story has not been fully told of why and how the document was created. To help tell this story, I undertook a piece of oral history, speaking with those directly involved.
This research had two phases. The first was interviews with members of the Task Force who commissioned and produced the document. The second was a ‘witness seminar’, in which some of these interviewees then took part in a public discussion. Witness seminars have been employed since the late 1980s by academics researching contemporary British history. It was only in 2016, however, that the format was first used within cultural policy studies, with a session to mark the 70th anniversary of the Arts Council of Great Britain. Our witness seminar was held at Somerset House on 11th December 2018, almost exactly twenty years since the publication of the Mapping Document. (The transcript can be accessed here.)
Taking the interviews and the witness seminar together, the research demonstrates that whilst the Mapping Document is often understood as the archetypal piece of New Labour policy – exemplary of Blair’s Third Way politics – the story is more complicated than this, and more instructive. The repositioning of the Labour party within conditions of late 20th century economic transformation produced circumstances conducive to the creation of the Mapping Document and its promotion of the ‘creative industries’. However, caution should be exercised in reading the mapping work as central to the New Labour project. It was primarily driven by Chris Smith (the first Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport) and a small team of advisors; and was undertaken with extremely limited resources.
One of my report’s headlines is that, to understand the specific characteristics of the Mapping Document, including its contentious definition and statistics, we need to understand its genesis at different scales of causal explanation. This means recognising not only the alignments between different factors that brought it about – the global emergence of the ‘knowledge economy’, the repositioning of the Labour party after 18 years in opposition, the specific machinery of UK government, and the ideas of a small group of people – but also the disconnections and tensions between them.
In the report I show that it is the tensions between these different factors, as much as their alignments, that help us to understand how the Mapping Document became extremely influential, highly contentious, and, for many of those involved in the Task Force, both a huge success and a disappointment. Offering this kind of analysis, across multiple ‘scales’ of explanation, I hope the report not only helps to tell a specific story – of where the ‘creative industries’ comes from, and how it first came to be defined and measured – but also encourages further research (via oral history and ethnography) into the processes by which cultural policy develops.
Contestations over definitions and measurements continue to be consequential, shaping cultural policy and practice in many ways. I am currently involved in Developing Inclusive & Sustainable Creative Economies, a €2.9 million project funded by the European Commission via Horizon 2020, working with colleagues in CMCI – Roberta Comunian, Bridget Conor, Tamsyn Dent, Nick Wilson – and researchers in Finland, Latvia and Italy. Our central question is, ‘What are inclusive and sustainable creative economies, and how can they be developed?’. Amongst a range of concerns, this research pays attention to the relationships between definitions (of creative economy), practices of measurement (indexing and mapping), and policymaking.
The Birth of the Creative Industries Revisited is a story of a definition and a set of measurements generated in medias res: in the middle of the action. They were produced by particular people, seeking to achieve particular aims, at a particular time. From the ‘creative industries’ to (more recently) the ‘creative economy’ and beyond, understanding the role and significance of creativity within economies is an ongoing process, with potentially far-reaching implications for policy and practice. Recognising how this has been attempted in the past has an important role to play informing future such attempts: not least, by throwing light on the multiple forces that can act upon policymakers and researchers as they undertake this kind of work, in the middle of the action.
As part of my PhD research, I am currently carrying out a year of ethnographic fieldwork in Berlin, focusing on the intersection between technology, culture, and the mythology of the city among dating app users. Professor Christoph Bareither graciously agreed to supervise me during this year as a visiting PhD researcher at Humboldt University’s Department of European Ethnology and invited me to attend the MeDiA Lab (Media & Digital Anthropology Lab) sessions regularly hosted there.
The MeDiA Lab is a space for researchers, ranging from BA to post-doc scholars and beyond, to exchange ideas around the theme of media practices in “everyday life”, the challenges of empirical fieldwork in digital contexts, and ethical approaches to digital anthropology.
It has been truly enlightening to be a part of this space of discussion with a focus dedicated to exactly the challenges and ideas shaping my own research. One issue which has been a recurring point of debate is the ethics of carrying out research on platforms where sometimes notions of public or private are distorted.
Spaces which officially signal a private sphere, may, in fact, be treated as public by their users and vice versa. A good example that came up in discussions in groups on Facebook. There are closed, private Facebook groups, often popular havens for meme-sharing, which have hundreds of thousands of members, and constitute a community which cannot truly be classed as private.
On the other end of the spectrum, aligning with my own research, dating apps are a good example of a digital community which is officially public, but has many characteristics of a private sphere. On Tinder, anyone who creates a profile in theory immediately has access to all the other profiles on the platform; however, content posted here may showcase far more intimate details than one may expect from a platform with many characteristics of a public space. Indeed, one of my informants told me of how she would use her profile for short periods, then deactivate it, because she had the uncomfortable feeling that she might run into someone who saw the profile, and the intimacy this represented, on the street.
This problematises notions of what can be ethically incorporated as research data. Of course, the easiest course of action remains to gain explicit consent from anyone whose online profile is featured or discussed in research, but sometimes this is simply not viable, for example when filtering through hundreds of Facebook comments on public posts or indeed dating app profiles. Anonymity, rather than explicit permission often remains the key consideration here, allowing the collation of research data without exposing individuals.
Indeed, questions of anonymity discussed at the lab, focused not solely on research informants, but also the researcher. The potential for anonymity that research on online platforms offers makes this a truly salient point. While engaging with research participants on certain platforms via anonymous online profiles is usually not ideal, sometimes it is the only valid approach. For example, one of the MeDiA lab members is carrying out research on women in alt-right communities on Instagram. Disclosing her true identity to informants could potentially put her at risk of online trolling, among other safety concerns.
My own research has seen me grapple with similar questions of anonymity, albeit for different reasons. I have used both anonymous and non-anonymous profiles to study users on dating app platforms. However, I have found that, for example, as a male seeking to interview men searching for women on dating apps, this endeavour is far more successful when my identity and indeed gender is not featured in my research profile.
Since most popular dating apps, such as Tinder, allow you to label your gender freely but sort you into either the category of man or woman looking for man or woman or both, my research participants may assume they are talking to a woman if their profile is set to searching for women and they are engaging with me, even if my anonymous profile does not disclose my gender.
Being listed in the category of women searching for men has been highly informative, for I have had certain men aggressively asking whether I am a woman and only agreeing to an interview if this were the case, or even instances of “mansplaining” my research to me. My interactions with women searching for women, men searching for men and women searching for men have been far more pleasant both in cases where I use anonymous and non-anonymous profiles. Indeed, my profiles have only ever been banned on dating apps when I was looking to establish contact with men searching for women and in my fieldwork thus far, men seem to be the most likely to report profiles.
The MeDiA lab has offered me the opportunity to probe these facets of digital ethnography. For researchers who find themselves in Berlin and are interested in digital methodologies and theoretical approaches I highly recommend joining a session or giving a presentation.
Finally, I would like to extend a word of gratitude to the Study Abroad office at KCL. Their generous grant facilitated this academic exchange and has allowed me to hopefully continue to strengthen the flow of ideas between these two great institutions.
The East Asian Popular Culture as a Disruptor Symposium was successfully held at King’s College London on 6th March 2020 attended by 15 PhD students and early career researchers across the UK. As the initiator and organiser of this symposium, I would like to, first of all, express my sincere thanks to all of the attendees, and the support from CMCI and Queer@King’s. Recently, it has been a hard time for nations and countries in our world following the COVID-2019 virus outbreak. At the same time, East Asians and South-East Asians are also facing the danger of racism as the virus has been weaponised as an excuse for hate crimes. Consequently, I hope this symposium can also serve to fight against the vicious racist virus and the accompanying hidden colonial discourse.
Rationale: Disrupting the matrix of Colonial Power The symposium was framed as a response to the work of Rey Chow’s “Where Have All the Natives Gone” (1994) and Gayatri Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak” (1988), approaching studies in East Asian popular culture as the disruptor of the matrix of colonial power, and as a reflexive voice from the Global South.
Chow’s work has encouraged me to reflect on my positionality on the topic, and think about how and to what extent the natives, the subaltern, the marginalised communities question colonial discourse, challenge social norms, and dismantle the master’s houses while not using the master’s tool. Chow (1994, 145) wrote that “where the coloniser undresses her, the native’s nakedness stares back at him both as the defiled image of his creation and as the indifferent gaze that says, there was nothing—no secret—to be unveiled underneath my clothes. That secret is your fantasm.” The agency of the native is found not in resistance to the image, but rather in the act of bearing witness to the image’s demolition: a gaze. However, despite the native’s gaze back, the third world woman, the marginalised communities in the Global South remain unspoken (in silence). This symposium, therefore, was designed to provide a voice for the native from East Asia especially given there are more and more East Asian PhD students and researchers, and increasing scholars are paying attention to the East Asia’s context. As such, I believed it was the right time and of considerable significance to organise such a research event in which ideas could be shared and intensive discussion could be simulated.
Highlights of The Day This symposium took the typical form of an academic conference with speakers sharing their research projects and discussants offering feedback as well as engaging in wider conversations and reflections on each of our own research projects.
In the first panel Theorising from East Asia: Dilemmas, centring on the memory, nation and transnationality, Andong Li (CMCI PhD student) interrogated the intricate methodological nationalism. Later, Li and Carolin Becke (University of Sheffield PhD students) further discussed how to critically draw on Western theories when doing research in East Asia and the difficulty of developing theories from East Asia.
Following this, Dr Chenjia Xu (Anthropology Department, SOAS Fellow) spoke about her ethnography on a fancy Bagel shop in Beijing. She highlighted firstly, how transnational food and food-ways flow in multivariate directions and take various forms, and secondly, how they are mobilised and crafted into myriad ‘technologies of the self’ to fulfil personal aspirations, to take care of one’s own body and mind, and to form distinctive subjectivities. In the subsequent discussion, Dr Xu and Amira Rahmat (University of Edinburgh) talked about how the dispersal of transnational flows away from the west-China axis, and forms multidirectional identities in the transnational food scene in Beijing.
The third panel, Gender, Sexuality and Identity in Popular Media, spurred a lively discussion on visual desire, body and embodiment, and the changing connotations of masculinities and femininities. Qi Li (KCL PhD student) explored the fetish of visuality existing in the Web 2.0 sexual culture, arguing that visual culture, structured by the camera and mediated by the visual sexuality, might have potential to lead contemporary sexual cultures to be structured around lookism: a form of discrimination based on appearance. Fang Wan (SOAS PhD student) then introduced her research on women’s writing in the Chinese internet literature, where a group of Chinese female writers work to form a reverse female gaze and establish a matriarchal world.
The negotiation between the mainstream and popular culture in East Asia was the final topic of the symposium. Veronica Wang (University of Cambridge) presented a case study on the Chinese folk-rock singer Li Zhi and elaborated on how the party-state has been renegotiating its cultural legitimacy through co-opting grassroots art and absorbing potentially subversive cultural elements into its own political ‘spectacle’. Valentina Peluso (University of Jean Moulin Lyon III), through the lens of Mikhail Bakhtin’s polyphony and a trans-textual perspective, examined the narrative devices in the Chinese Tibetan writer Alai’s novel. This lead to a discussion on the dynamics between the mainstream and marginalised culture.
Overall, this symposium sought to offer a situated and reflexive response to the challenge of the colonial matrix and stimulated insights relevant not only for researchers from East Asia or those conducting research on East Asia, but also for anyone who is part of the ongoing decolonisation project.
In a recent public lecture, the well-known curator and art critic Nicolas Bourriaud declared that when he has questions, he makes an exhibition, and when he has answers he writes a book. This statement really resonated for me, as both an artist and a writer on art. During the course of my current exhibition, The Lost Girl, at Arcade in Bush House, I have given much thought to the role of arts-based research in the academy. This is my first creative work at King’s. The absence of an art school, or even an art history department has created particular challenges. In CMCI I am the only arts-based researcher. Yet I work amongst people who value and teach on the essential role of cultural production. This tension provides unique challenges to ensure value is attributed to research that arises through artistic practice. I also co-convene the Arts-Based Research route for MA dissertations and each year a dozen or more of our 200 students select to undertake this riskier and more challenging research route.
For twenty-five years I have worked as a research-led artist. In this way I might distinguish myself from an artist who is interested primarily in the material expansion and vocabulary of their practice, an approach often embodied by artists who chose a singular medium, such as painting. Rather, I find myself drawn to concepts and ideas, and work within an expanded practice of making that incorporates a wide variety of materials and approaches. In my PhD I argued that contemporary art enables an un-forgetting of colonial histories in distinct and empathic ways – that it enables the audience to embody what has been forgotten. As such, I often create environments that use film, as well as sound – I want the audience to ‘be in’ the work. I also believe that the freedom of researching through practice brings the advantages of interdisciplinary collaboration – working with other creative practitioners and knowledge makers, as well as drawing from other disciplines such as history, science and literature.
The Lost Girl exhibition epitomizes many of these things. The ideas for the project began eighteen months ago when I was increasingly despondent about producing more ‘stuff’ in the midst of the climate emergency. I had already begun deliberately producing less work in the years previous, as well as carefully selecting less toxic materials and processes. In my recent publication, I talk about the idea of ‘listening with your feet’ – a way to describe a gentle, de-colonial method of engaging with ideas, landscapes and people. Using this approach, I spent a year collecting debris from the Kent coast, as well as the Mediterranean Sea.
Researching through practice often involves allowing for an un-knowing, a vulnerability and a constant questioning and re-questioning of choices and directions. It can often feel like a brutally reflexive process. Sometimes it involves expanding ideas out, and then also a contraction of thoughts. It is a method that often feels deeply uncomfortable, and even after 25 years, and a sense that things ‘will work out eventually’, the journey involves many unknowns. Often it is through making, playing and experimenting that ideas unravel and re-form.
For some time, I had an old copy of DH Lawrence’s book, The Lost Girl, sitting on my shelf. I had also been accumulating various images of Plato’s Cave which were plastered over my studio wall. I was drawn to both references, probably due to my own experience of growing up next to a caved landscape on the coast of Western Australia. I was also, as most of us were and are, thinking about the climate crisis, refugees crossing over into Europe and the sense of doom that Brexit was generating. It was the compilation of all these things that led to the final research framework for The Lost Girl.
The Lost Girl developed into an immersive film-based installation centred around the fictional character of a cave-dwelling girl on the coast of England. Using DH Lawrence’s book of the same name as a starting point, the film narrates the experiences of a young woman seemingly alone in a dystopian future, with only the debris washed up from the ocean to form meaning and language. It is set within a future-time which suggests the decimation of civilisation as we now know it, bereft of other people. The character is without language and prior knowledge and must make sense of her existence only through detritus.
The work was filmed on Botany Bay along the Kent coast in November 2019. I selected this site as it is the namesake for Botany Bay in Australia where British convicts were first transported to. This colonial practice of banishing citizens from the island of England helped me to develop the character in the film. She too had been abandoned, a victim of the fortunes of failures of men, just like DH Lawrence’s lost girl.
In the months prior to the filming I began to curate the objects I had collected, so they could become props in the film. The plastic bags were sewn together to form the costume and the other items would be arranged in the cave I had selected on a site visit. These objects would also become percussive objects for the score. I commissioned James Green, a King’s 3rd year music student to work with me on the soundscape. For two weeks we ‘sounded’ these objects in my studio with the aim of creating a haunting soundscape that would travel through the viewer and frame the ‘feel’ of the work.
Other elements include a re-fashioned fire-truck horn and a navigational device used to teach sailors the rules of sailing. Both objects had been hand crafted to participate in what might be considered some of the high points in European culture. However, in the presence of the lost girl they are rendered mute – simply toys with no rules. Hanging in the adjacent room is a blanket laced with hagstones, which we also witness in the film. The hagstones, that I have been collecting for many years, are used in pre-Christian mythology to enable wise women to look through the naturally formed holes and into the future. They often feature in my work.
I had originally conceived the film to be projected onto a flat surface. But in the weeks leading up to the exhibition, I decided to apply a technique from a previous work, where I had projected onto a cardboard sculpture. This enabled an additional material and conceptual connection in the work. The screen was transformed into a sculpture.
Finally, the props in the film, which were also percussion objects for the score, were carefully placed as sculptures within the exhibition itself onto beds of beach sand. The objects became repurposed, creating a sense of slipperiness in the reading of the work. I also photographed a number of the objects that became a set of seven prints, which ultimately will be one of the only things that remain of the work when it closes on February 28th.
Just three days after the UK left the European Union I travelled to Nijmegen in the eastern Netherlands. I was there to visit the HAN University of Applied Sciences, which holds an annual International Week. This is the opportunity for students to attend workshops offered by academics from across Europe and beyond. I had been asked to provide a session that would appeal particularly to students preparing for a career in social work. This may seem a strange request given that I am based within a department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries, and my work addresses questions of cultural policy, politics and participation.
The invitation came from Erik Jansen, an academic based at HAN, whose interests include both social work and art. Erik and I got to know each other via the Human Development and Capability Association (HDCA), including the major conference I helped organise in London in September 2019 – the first time the HDCA has met in the UK.
The capability approach is a set of ideas developed by Indian economist Amartya Sen. It began as an intervention within development economics, but the approach has subsequently become influential across a wide range of disciplines. Offering a framework with which to understand ‘prosperity’ beyond GDP, it challenges the assumptions of mainstream economics, asking: what are the lives that people can actually live? These ideas have proven attractive and useful to a wide range of researchers, policymakers and practitioners.
One of the things that makes the HDCA so exciting – and sometimes challenging – is the interdisciplinarity its conferences make possible. People working in areas including economics, philosophy, political theory, human rights, indigenous rights, international development, urbanism, childhood studies and disability studies, to name a few, gather around these ideas.
One strand of my recent research has been to apply the capability approach to cultural policy, to develop new ways of conceptualising what governments are ultimately seeking to achieve when they get involved in culture. Building on these ideas, at the London conference I presented a paper I had shared in various stages of development over the previous year. It addressed the politics ofhope, and it was this research that Erik was keen for me to share with his students in Nijmegen.
The starting point for the piece is to ask: what is the role of cultural policy at a time of climate emergency and right-wing populism? The paper argues that – notwithstanding its historically junior role within government – cultural policy may have a specific and important part to play during our troubled times. Namely: to create conditions conducive to people narrating their place in the world (individually and collectively), and knowing that their actions matter. In other words, to deliberately promote conditions for hope.
The paper has now been published in the International Journal of Cultural Policy as ‘Practices of hope: care, narrative and cultural democracy’. It includes discussion of a wide range of literature on the nature of hope, and links these ideas to the challenges of responding to our populist moment.
The paper is concerned with practices of hope across several scales – from the micro to the macro – beginning with a case study of one organisation in west London that works with young people on the periphery of the education system. Drawing on this example, I suggest that practices of ‘care’ are crucial to hope. It is when we experience care that we can trust our environments – and it is trust in our environments that enables us to know that our actions matter.
It was a challenge and a pleasure to take these ideas to Nijmegen and design a workshop for students who I had been told would be primarily interested in practical applications. My colleague Nick Wilson has written about creativity as a ‘boundary phenomenon’ – taking place particularly at locations where different identities, disciplines and ways of doing things meet. Being invited to speak with social work students felt like a creative process of that kind: the opportunity to extend my thinking by bringing it into relation with a new set of practices and concerns.
Alongside the workshops, Erik organised a symposium on the theme of hope. This also provided the opportunity for exchanging ideas across disciplinary boundaries. At a time at which borders and boundaries are being ever more strongly enforced, it may seem trite to draw attention to the value of boundary-crossing. Nonetheless, perhaps insights of this kind can bear being repeated a little too often.
Hope is about how we relate to the future and imaginatively project ourselves into it. But in its concern with the future, hope mediates between what’s been and what’s to come. In June 2019 Jessica Rapson and I organised a symposium at CMCI on these themes, Politics of Doom, Politics of Hope, during which we heard contributions from disciplines including cultural studies, psychosocial studies, memory studies and utopian studies. One of the aims of that event was, precisely, to start a conversation on these ideas that is both interdisciplinary and connects with activities beyond academia. As I write further on the politics of hope in the coming months, I would be very pleased to hear from others interested in these themes.
During the week in which the UK formerly broke away from the European Union, my trip to Nijmegen confirmed for me – as if I needed the reminder – the role that border-crossing can play in generating new possibilities. In telling new stories of ourselves during uncertain times, opening new futures, the first step may often be to create the conditions of trust in which to safely bridge some boundaries together.
Scholarship of nationalism studies has been trying hard to respond to the paradox that nationalist sentiment sharply surges in many countries while the world is becoming more digitalised and globalised. It seems to be increasingly obvious that the cosmopolitan promise of globalisation and digitisation has failed, and cross-Strait (Chinese mainland-Taiwan) relations might be a ‘great’ case to exemplify this argument. However, an abstract definition of the ‘Chinese nationalism’ as top-down, arbitrary brainwash would be nothing but an oversimplified moral judgement that prevents observers from nuancedly understanding people’s everyday experience of the Chinese nation. Therefore, my PhD research takes the perspective of national identity formation on the individual level to investigate how individuals nationalise themselves in socio-cultural contexts. From this point of view, there is no singular ‘Chinese nationalism’ but heterogenous ‘Chinese nationalisms’ dependent upon the national identity-making of individuals.
The Chinese mainland and Taiwan have long been separated after World War II, with barely any channel for people-to-people exchanges until recent years. The internet, especially social media, provides platforms for people from both sides to directly communicate with each other. Social media also give voice to individuals, enabling them to make public their own narrative about Taiwan. The growing amount of user-generated content may indicate a ‘decentralization of history’ which challenges the official historical narrative. On the other hand, China and Taiwan agreed on group travel permits to Taiwan in 2008 and individual travel permits in 2011. Although the number declined from 2016 when the independence-leaning politician Tsai Ing-wen became the president, the Chinese mainland has always been the top source of tourists to Taiwan since 2010. Unprecedently since 1949, permission to travel to Taiwan brings sharply increasing opportunities for Chinese people to set foot on Taiwanese soil, providing them with embodied experiences of the island that one could rarely have in the past.
Considering these increasing opportunities, my research sets out to investigate how university students in the Chinese mainland make sense of their national identity by remembering and imagining Taiwan through two interrelated foci: everyday uses of social media (as mediated memory) and travel to Taiwan (as embodied memory). As mentioned above, these two aspects become salient ways of encountering Taiwan in the global-digital age.
In July 2019, I conducted my pilot research in Beijing where I did eight in-depth interviews and two focus groups with eight university students (four are undergraduate, the other graduate). Four of them have been to Taiwan. The pilot research looks at how they remember and imagine Taiwan through social media and tours, what is the relationship between these two forms of encounter, and how they make sense of their national identity by remembering and imagining these encounters. Interview questions are regarding the ways they get to know Taiwan, their memories relevant to Taiwan, their impressions on Taiwan and Taiwanese people, and their opinions on cross-Strait relations. Preliminary findings of the pilot research may be helpful to explain the paradox I described at the beginning – the tension between globalisation, digitisation, and the rise of nationalism.
Whereas social media and transnational tourism do provide mainland Chinese university students with more possibilities to interact with Taiwan, frequent interactions do not necessarily lead to mutual understanding. Instead, these interactions could also be chances to discover conflicts and reproduce nationalist sentiment. In terms of social media, more university students tend to critique highly militant and nationalist comments online while they also stand for unification between the mainland and Taiwan. All the informants find the discussions on social media about Taiwan quite political and aggressive. Seven of them express negative feelings to the ‘little pinks’ (nationalist young people who defend the government and actively engage in online communities of popular culture) on social media, but they also think that Taiwanese people and government have been increasingly unfriendly than before.
In terms of travel, more university students are inclined to remember their tours to Taiwan politically, regardless of whether their experiences are politicised or not. This reveals that experiencing and remembering the experienced are two separate steps. The latter is not time travel to the exact past but the reconstruction of the past at present. For example, most informants in group discussions claimed that Taiwanese people were ‘too easy to be satisfied with little happiness (小确幸)’ and lacked ‘entrepreneurial spirit’. These critiques are framed into a hierarchy that celebrates and reconfirms ‘the modern Mainland’, as one of the informants put it, ‘after going to Taiwan, I feel like Taiwanese people are really nice, but Taiwan is under-developed and inconvenient, not as modern as my expectation… the pace of life there is so slow. It is not suitable for young people to live in such an atmosphere. In the mainland, things are much better.’
Globalisation and digitisation should be understood not as cosmopolitan forces against nationalism, but as socio-cultural contexts that cultivate a certain kind of nationalism. These contexts influence individuals’ national identity formation along with other non-negligible contexts in China, which I am not able to demonstrate further in just one article. For instance, the party-state-leading patriotic education launched in 1994, the introduction and generational re-interpretations of the western concept ‘nation’ in the modern history of China, and more recently the trade war between China and the United States – all of them are significant elements in the shaping of Chinese national identities.
Drawing on Taiwan as a lens for examining contemporary Chinese nationalism, I provisionally propose a term ‘empathetic nationalists’ to conceptualise the paradoxical mindset of nationalised individuals in global-digital China. Being open-minded thanks to globalisation and digitisation, some well-educated, middle-class young people now have more chances to encounter Taiwan and the world – either digitally or bodily – but are still nationalist. Those ‘empathetic nationalists’ adopt a comparatively mild version of nationalism, sticking to ‘One China principle’ (the principle insists that the People’s Republic of China is the only sovereign state under the name of China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China) while empathising but not accepting Taiwanese people’s national identification.
There has recently been much interest and attention within King’s College London to the field of museum studies. This is hardly surprising: the university sits within one of the richest and most diverse cultural cities in the world, surrounded by gems such as the British Museum, the National Gallery, the V&A, the Soane Museum and many, many more, large and small, famous and niche. Together with the Faculty of Arts and Humanities’ cutting-edge interdisciplinary research agenda, and there is massive scope for interdisciplinary dialogue about what museums are, and should be, in 2020. However, that interest, and the expertise which drives it, is dispersed across various departments at King’s, and exists way beyond Arts and Humanities. Some, such as that found in CMCI, concerns the social and political effects of museums and how they are shaped by and shape contemporary social, economic and political imperatives. Others, such as DDH, are interested in digital methods for exploring, explaining and present collections. Others still are interested in the managerial aspects of museums. And, others bring specialist technical skills currently applied in other areas, such as imaging, and 3D.
There is, in general, limited knowledge of how this interdisciplinary area might fit together more coherently at King’s. As Museum and Gallery Studies is a strongly interdisciplinary field, with an increasingly important digital component, academics working in this area are effectively dispersed across King’s various departments. As a result, they are often unaware of colleagues within King’s who share similar interests. This situation sharply diminishes the opportunity of internal—research and teaching—collaborations, and significantly weakens the external profile of King’s as a leader in this field.
The project Curating expertise: Towards an Interdisciplinary Museums Studies Research Agenda at KCL will enable us to establish close collaborations between our sister departments, CMCI and DDH, whilst facilitating the establishment of connections with relevant colleagues across King’s. This is an essential step, we believe, to facilitate future research and teaching collaborations between our departments and within King’s, whilst raising the profile of King’s expertise within this field outside the organisation. It will accomplish this by establishing the foundations of a “Museum Forum/Centre” at King’s through exploring, and capitalizing upon, CMCI and DDH’s overlapping interests in museums, digital heritage and galleries.
We will organise a series of internal activities aiming to
bring together CCMI and DDH colleagues whose work addresses museums, heritage and galleries to explore their interest in contributing to future teaching and research collaborations;
identify relevant colleagues across KCL whose work focuses significantly on museums, digital heritage and galleries through a process of primary desk research undertaken by a student;
explore existing overlapping interests in this area of research and teaching during structured activities, via a speed-networking/sharing event; followed by a workshop aiming to define the scope of future collaborations.
We will thus facilitate a public debate around the future of museum/gallery university-based interdisciplinary research and teaching at KCL and draw up a concrete plan to facilitate internal collaborations and raise the profile of King’s.
If you are interested in our project and wish to contribute to shaping the future of an interdisciplinary Museum Studies research agenda at King’s, please get in touch with Stuart Dunn and Serena Iervolino. We would be delighted to hear from you, whether you are a member of the King’s community or a stakeholder from the museum and gallery sector.
The Great Hall, King’s College London, 12 February, 18.30-21.30
If you’re wondering what we mean by ‘this thing called art’, then join us in the Great Hall on 12th February and listen to the inaugural lecture by CMCI Professor Nick Wilson. Prof. Wilson suggests there is much more at stake than the creation and enjoyment of artworks, the specialised work of professional artists, or, indeed, the sector we call the arts. In a wide-ranging and personal talk, he argues for a radical new account of art that acknowledges its central role in experiencing, valuing and connecting with self, with each-other, and with the world. How we respond to the major challenges of our time, including the persecutory nature of contemporary global society and climate emergency, depends upon our coming to recognise the value of this aesthetic knowing for ourselves.
This event is part of the British Academy’s season on Sustainable Futures
Environmental racism is on the rise in the United States, with minority and impoverished communities much more likely to live near polluters and breathe polluted air. In this event, CMCI Senior Lecturer Jessica Rapson (CMCI) and co-researcher Lucy Bond and will draw on their recent research to highlight how the tourist and heritage industry in the American Gulf States (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas) is helping to conceal environmental racism as well as being complicit in the air and water pollution crisis that is blighting predominantly African American neighbourhoods.
My PhD research project aims at investigating the phenomena of human mobility (migration) and mediated mobility (mediation) across national borders through a study of migrant transnational lives in Italy. In particular, placing the research within the context of the ‘migration crisis’ – and the conflicts over cultural diversity it triggered – has led me to deepen the reasons, nature, and consequences of labelling a social phenomenon as an emergency. In this short contribution, I’m going to propose a reading of the ‘migration crisis’ in Italy as a crisis of identity.
Italy has had a key role in the so-called Crisis in the Mediterranean due to the centrality acquired by the Sicilian island of Lampedusa and the south-Italian coasts as points of landing of flows from North Africa. The first symptoms of the crisis emerged in 2011 when, as a consequence of the Arab Spring and the Libyan Civil war, it was registered a sharp rise in departures towards Europe. Since the beginning of the crisis, political and media discourses have been overall dominated by narratives that constructed the new arrivals as a threat to Italian culture, a security menace, and an economic burden. Disembarkations, framed as an invasion, of African or Arab migrants, with different social values and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, have destabilised the cohesion of the country. Specific foreign communities have been politically categorised as the main reason behind all the country’s ills, creating fertile ground for xenophobic populist reactions. The political and social response demonstrates how the crisis was not so much linked to the number of arrivals but conversely to their origin, and therefore it is within broader conflicts around ethno-cultural differences that it needs to be analysed. Indeed, even though after the peak registered in 2016 sea arrivals progressively decreased, immigration still represents a predominant theme in Italian political, media and public debates.
What we are witnessing – in Italy and elsewhere – is a return of the politics of fear, mainly promoted by nationalist fair-right parties that base their strengths on the exclusion of the Other to redefine an imaginary definition of the nation as a homogeneous cultural community. While resurgent forms of ethno-nationalism may be seen as a reactionary response to phenomena of globalisation, dislocation, and fragmentation; in Italy, it can also be related to the history of nation-making and the complex process of national identity construction.
Italy has always struggled with conflicting visions of its identity due to regional particularities. Since its unification (1861), the country had to deal with the need to homogenise all the areas and populations that were aggregated from an administrative point of view, despite historical, geographical, and cultural differences. The fragmented structure of the country, and the deep rift between the north and the south in particular, represented the major obstacle to the formation of an Italian collective identity. The famous expression of the nationalist Massimo D’Azeglioin the aftermath of the unification “We have made Italy, now we must make Italians” well represents the constructed ideal of Italian-ness. Beyond failed attempts to nationalise Italians through the erasure of minority languages and cultures (i.e. Fascism), the Northern League is the political party founded in 1991 in a specific attempt to shape an imagined community of northern Italy – Padania – as an alternative to the south. For more than twenty years, the party promoted the northern regions’ secession through discriminatory campaigns against the south and its populations. Only the national and international developments that marked the beginning of the new millennium have gradually modified the Northern League’s ideology and opened up a new way to pursue the national unity taking advantage of the ‘migration crisis’.
Within the development of the crisis, indeed, the new League far-right party, and its leader Matteo Salvini, has gained a key role in defining the terms of the debate under populist slogans such as Italians First, Stop Invasion, Closed Harbours etc. By identifying an external enemy – migration – and no longer an internal one – the south – the League has been able to stand as defender of Italy and Italians and, in so doing, achieve resounding consensus among the electorate. The presence of newcomers in the Italian landscape has therefore represented a significant development for the contemporary imaginary (Bouchard, 2010). The xenophobic discourses and practices that nowadays rekindled the mythology of Italian-ness have been used to redefine the boundaries between the inside and the outside, the native and the foreign, contributing to strengthening the previously weak ideal of national cohesion and pride.
What is missing, within the current debate and future perspective, is that the movement of people and the cultural heterogeneity of the country have historically been, and increasingly are, integral features of the Italian social structure. The concept of “Italian-ness”, as Gramsci reminds us, cannot be separated from phenomena of colonisation, internal and transnational migration that marked the history of the country and its formation (Gramsci, The Southern Question 1966). It seems, however, that national and transnational contexts, connections, and references – and the memory of the Italian diaspora in particular – have not been elaborated by the collective culture. This could help to explain why Italy is considered as a mono-cultural and mono-religious (Caucasian and Catholic) country and why a model of cultural pluralism has not yet been developed. It is only by recognising the past and looking at the future that Italy could find its identity in its transnational character.
Due to significant changes in children’s viewing habits, the BBC requested that Ofcom change its operating licence to implement changes to its children’s news bulletin Newsround, and the Corporation’s quota of original productions for children. In November 2019, Ofcom opened a consultation on the BBC’s plans inviting other interested parties to comment.
This piece is an extract from the response to the Ofcom Consultation submitted by Professor Jeanette Steemers, Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries, King’s College London, Dr Cynthia Carter, School of Journalism, Media and Culture, Cardiff University and Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, and Professor Máire Messenger Davies, Emerita Professor of Media Policy, Ulster University.
Sometimes the BBC doesn’t do the right thing and this seems the case with Newsround, its news service for children. Last December two colleagues, Dr Cindy Carter, Professor Maire Messenger Davies and I submitted a response to the BBC’s request to Ofcom to change its Operating Licence. The BBC is looking to reduce first-run children’s news hours for Newsround from 85 hours to 35 hours a year and reduce the frequency of broadcast news bulletins. As academics, our response is based on our academic research interest in children’s media, and on the BBC’s contribution in particular. We know that children are watching less linear TV, but we argue that the proposed changes are hasty and under-researched. There is no guarantee that they will work or provide a viable online news alternative for children because the BBC has not outlined a clear distribution strategy, for Newsround in an online world. The BBC argues that it wants to reallocate its resources, but there is no detail, and crucially there appears to have been no consultation of children. Ofcom’s own comments throughout its consultation document suggest that they are not convinced either that children will use or find Newsround online, which begs the question, why accept the proposals and not seek to push for better ones that can be properly tested with the core audience
Our recommendation is that the BBC and Ofcom should take a more considered approach to test and analyse options for online news content and distribution and also crucially to consult children for a period of time over a year before making any final decisions. The lack of consultation with children is very disappointing. We do not agree either with an overall reduction in first-run children’s hours from the current 400 hours until the BBC has clearly demonstrated how and where the hours will be made up either as news content online or as other forms of public service content. Otherwise, this could set a precedent for further reductions in children’s hours. We propose that there should be quantitative quotas on online provision of news as a guarantee that the BBC will fulfil its remit.
The hype is real: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is truly having a moment. The broad term refers to devices designed to act intelligently by mimicking the cognitive functions of the human brain. Advances in AI are disrupting major industries, including the creative sector. News headlines chronicle how AI and machine learning are aiding the production of songs, stories, and screenplays. In 2018, the first AI-generated painting sold for $432,500. These developments force the creative industries to rethink what that crucial word ‘creativity’ actually means, and whether or not it can be distilled into math. Sure, AI systems have the ability to crunch through staggering amounts of data and detect patterns invisible to humans. But can these technologies help us transcend artistic barriers, or will their creations only ever be derivative? Will AI fully master the creative process without humans in the loop – and even if this is technically feasible, should it be the goal?
On 20-21 November 2019, the second annual Beyond Conference in Edinburgh offered a glimpse of what AI-powered creativity can look, sound, and feel like. The conference was produced by the Creative Economy Programme (AHRC), and it brought together academics, businesses, journalists, and artists under one roof in Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms. Over the course of two days, delegates explored how AI, machine learning, and big data analytics impact the creative industries – and the other way around. As the conference host, Gemma Milne, asked: ‘Can AI really do something creative and award-worthy, or do the creative industries present the biggest challenge for AI?’ Beyond 2019 tackled this and other big issues, including questions of authorship and intellectual property rights. Speakers also engaged with the darker sides of AI such as implicit bias, which was brilliantly demonstrated by the artist Karen Palmer in her presentation of her immersive film ‘RIOT.’ Along with other creative professionals, she shed light on both the limitations and opportunities of these technologies.
The musician Reeps One uses AI and machine learning to push himself further. Or as he says: ‘To push the voice is to push the mind.’
Working with AI as a Creative Partner
One highlight was the talk by beatboxer and artist Reeps One (Harry Yeff), who has been reaping the benefits of machine learning to push his voice further. Back in 2018, the renowned musician debuted the first ever beatboxing battle between him and his AI twin. For Reeps One, working in tandem with these technologies have opened the floodgates for a new wave of innovation: ‘We’re able to observe ourselves, understand ourselves, quantify ourselves in a way that we cannot without this technology,’ he said. That is a human thing, he assured the conference delegates and continued: ‘We can use these technologies to become more human and grow in the spaces that we want. There is no AI. It is humans using tools.’
The musician Reeps One uses AI and machine learning to push himself further. Or as he says: ‘To push the voice is to push the mind.’
This point was echoed by several speakers throughout the two days in Edinburgh. Michiel Ruelens, CTO at ScriptBook, explained how AI can offer a helping hand in deciding which film projects should be greenlit for production. ‘Hard Science. Better Content,’ ScriptBook’s tagline goes. When you upload a PDF file of a screenplay, ScriptBook’s AI system will compare your work to the thousands of other films in their database. Five minutes later, the system has predicted the MPAA rating, box office results, and target audience. It will also analyse the characters, identify the protagonists and antagonists, evaluate their emotions, and determine whether your screenplay passes the Bechdel Test (i.e. at least two female characters have a conversation about something other than a man). A full replica of the script analysis platform is available here: ScriptBook demo.
Recently, ScriptBook also moved into automated story generation, which the company sees as a way of overcoming writer’s block. DeepStory, as the AI system is called, is not meant to put screenwriters out of work, though: ‘We don’t really intend to create a story generator that creates full feature films all on its own from start to finish. We sort of see it as a co-creator or an inspiration tool,’ Michiel Ruelens said.
Chanuki Seresinhe, who works at the Alan Turing Institute and tech company Popsa, agreed that AI can foster creativity. It can combine things in a novel way, which might inspire an artist. ‘But at this moment, the algorithm doesn’t actually know when it has created something new, or whether it’s actually any good. It’s just done it. It’s still up to us to do the final tick box,’ she concluded. In other words, AI remains relegated to the role of an assistant in the creative process rather than an author – at least for now.
Just two months ago, Chilean president Sebastian Piñera stated in a televised interview that Chile was “an oasis in Latin America”, referring to its stable democracy and growing economy. On October 18th, it became evident that Chile was more likely to be a mirage when mass protests kicked off in Santiago due to a rise in the subway ticket fare. This rapidly escalated and led to an ongoing social movement and mass protests in the whole country, including a historical demonstration with over 1.2 million participants on October 25th. The Chilean protests now demand social justice in a broader sense, questioning the severe inequality in the country. These protests have been followed by brutal police repression, resulting in over 700 allegations of human rights violations since mid-October. This piece of writing is a reflection about how this situation has challenged and influenced my research, as a Chilean PhD student at King’s; but also, and more importantly, it thinks over the social responsibilities of academic research.
The Chilean protests found me at the end of my first year as a PhD student in the CMCI department. Throughout this year, I’ve been researching about cultural diversity representation in Chilean art museums, especially in the area of collections. That said, one of the key elements in my research was to explore the responsibility of cultural institutions in promoting cultural democracy, especially in the post-dictatorship period (onwards 1990). Cultural participation in Chile has been historically low, and this was one of my core arguments to highlight the social role of museums in promoting spaces for citizens’ participation.
Then, suddenly, Chile woke up. Protests in Chile increasingly adopted a participative approach, questioning the political elite and claiming for the need of more democratized institutions. An example of this is a widespread demand for a change of constitution (as the current one was created during the dictatorship) through a constitutive process that allows citizens to vote for direct representatives, whose only purpose would be drafting a new constitution. As a result of these protests, a referendum has been approved to take place in April 2020, for Chileans to vote if they want a new constitution and what mechanism will be used for that purpose. At the same time, different sectors and neighbourhoods have been organizing Citizen Open Forums (called Cabildos) to discuss the situation in the country and developing proposals for a new Chile.
Like every other public institution in the country, cultural institutions have been directly challenged by social protests. Outside the National Library, protesters hanged a canvas that reads as “Poetry is in the street”, and in the front of the Fine Arts Museum there are several graffiti questioning elitism in cultural institutions. Facing this situation, many cultural workers have organized different spaces for social action. The most successful so far has been the Citizens’ Cultural Open Forum (Cabildo Cultural Cuidadano), organized by workers from various cultural institutions. This event, which was summoned through social media, ended up with over 2000 attendees, which surprised not only the organizers but the sector as a whole.
All that I’ve mentioned above has had different impacts on my research. Not only because it has challenged presumptions that were deeply embedded in my approach, but also because of the distress it causes me on a personal level. This has kept me thinking of ways I can make my research meaningful for the situation the country is facing now; while dealing with the contradictions of sitting in my desk in London, funded by the same government that now is being accomplice of over 20 deaths, hundreds of severe eye injuries and several allegations of sexual violence by agents of the state.
While I’ve found frustrating to realize that I just can’t address all these issues in my research, I’ve been thinking of ways to connect it with the contingency. Firstly, the way the protests have directly challenged cultural institutions in Chile has given me a strong argument to highlight the urgency of reforming museums in the country. At the same time, this has supported the idea that the democratization of the museums’ spaces should be crucial in my discussion. Based on this, while my former approach was strongly focused on institutional perspectives and professional practice, now I consider fundamental to look at museums’ communities and their demands with more attention.
This also demand changes in my methodology, which originally focused on interviews with museums’ professionals and analysis of museums’ permanent collections. My current methodology aims to include testimonies related to the cultural open forums, through participant observation of these events and posterior interviews with the forums’ attendees and organizers. This has meant to develop modifications in my ethics clearance (in terms of sampling of participants), which was first granted before the social protests in Chile started. Besides this, I’ve also included questions regarding the current Chilean scenario and the role of discussion spaces –such as the open forums– as part of the interviews I’ll be conducting with museums’ professionals.
Lastly, I consider this rethinking of my research in relation to the political contingency as one of the most meaningful learnings of my first year as a PhD student. This has pushed me to address what I think is the social responsibility of academic research. This has meant to change plans and understand research as an organic process that must acknowledge current and ongoing events. It has also placed me not as an observer, but as an active participant of social change, what has made me reflect more strictly on the resources and tools I have on hand to take action. The protests in Chile have become a wake-up call for me as a researcher. I’m sure the Chilean social movement will keep on challenging my research in the upcoming years, and for that, I’m deeply grateful.
I have recently had the opportunity of presenting my book chapter The Female Gaze in Times of Selfies as a member of the Feminist & Gender Research Reading Group at King’s/Queen Mary (Liss DTP). This chapter — part of the book Amalgama: Women, Identity & Diaspora— represents the culmination of what started as an arts-based research (ABR) project for my master’s dissertation. Having the chance of discussing my work with other feminist researchers and colleagues from the CMCI Department was a wonderful way of closing my first year of PhD. Moreover, the reading was just an excuse to start an exciting dialogue with all the members of the group around a diversity of topics such as female gaze, digital culture and the possibilities for feminist arts-based research. In the hope of moving forward this debate, I want to share some of the main ideas developed in the book chapter and in the project behind it: Kuña Jesareko.
It all started with an Instagram challenge
As a social network, Instagram is a digital space for communication, but, at the same time, it is a place for representation. The project Kuña Jesarekobegan with the intention of using this platform in its two extensions -participatory and representational-, establishing through it a discussion around the concept of the female gaze.
Kuña Jesarekomeans ‘female gaze’ in Guarani, one of the two official languages in Paraguay, along with the Spanish. As the title may suggest, it aims to create a narrative about the Paraguayan female gaze, recognising the artistic value of the images shared by women from this country on social media. Understanding that the relations of looking are relations of power, the project was born as an attempt to empower Paraguayan women as creators of images. Then, relations of power are subverted by making them ‘not only the bearers of meaning but its makers too’, as Laura Mulvey (1989) said. And when they become the main topic, they inscribe diverse femininities, with different bodies, lifestyles, ages.
A central influence behind the original idea of the project was Paraguayan artist Regina Rivas. Her work on illustration reflects a fresh perspective of the female gaze, which found on Instagram the perfect platform to connect with a young audience craving this type of content. Scenes of sex, women in diverse roles and the female body itself are some of the themes that are continuously depicted by this illustrator.
After a discussion with Rivas about the best way to find creative work in Paraguay that fitted into the notion of the female gaze, we agreed that Instagram was the best space to establish a discussion around the subject with other practitioners. Then, we decided to launch a challenge for the 8thof March, the International Women’s Day (IWD), in 2018. To this purpose, we created a hashtag that summarised the intention of the project. The feedback was beyond our expectations: we found more than one hundred posts following #KuñaJesareko after the 8thof March. But this did not stop there, the project being an ongoing process: as I wrote these lines, the number of posts has reached three hundred.
The second part of the project involved gathering the pictures -or ´reposting’ them- on an Instagram account specially created: @kunajesareko. The third and final part was launch in the form of a blog (www.kunajesareko.org), with an online exhibition, and a series of essays about the female gaze. They examined what it means, how can be constructed, how it does challenge notions of femininity linked with national identity, and what is the role of self-representation and other ways of expression within the framework of digital culture.
For this purpose, I chose — as the curator of the exhibition — twenty-five images displayed in five thematic sections: ‘Through the looking glass’, about self-representation in a digital context; ´Kaleidoscopic identities’, regarding topics such as belonging, national identity and race; ‘The body as a manifesto’, gathering images that depict the body in a political sense; ‘Materialising female desire’, which is dedicated to images erotically charged; and finally, ‘Women looking at women’, where women’s portrays as the main topic were displayed.
The afterlife of Kuña Jesareko
Almost two years after the first challenge was posted, a lot of things have happened. While the Instagram account became a digital community — still active — for gathering and promoting the work of Paraguayan artists, the project itself reached other spaces. In April, the slow fashion Paraguayan store Oh! Sí reunited Kuña Jesareko’s artwork for the one-night event Mujeres Mirando Mujeres(Women looking at women). In June, I could present the project in the University of Oxford, as part of the first Latin American Art and Cultural Research Symposium in the UK: Art + Identity. While in August was the launch of the book Amalgama: Women, Identity and Diaspora.
However, there are still numerous gaps to fill with further research. First of all, in terms of ABR as an innovative approach for contributing to academic knowledge while having a social impact. Secondly, Instagram, as a key modern site for the exhibition/discussion/contestation of images of femininity and the body, is an excellent medium to explore ideas through ABRP. I am excited to see how this dialogue between female gaze, digital platforms and ABR continues.
Here is a view from The New Yorker on “Gogglebox” and how this has become “a chronicle of Brexit fatigue” as Brits watch other Brits watching their country self-destruct in the long drawn-out drama of Brexit. CMCI professor Richard Howells was interviewed by The New Yorker’s Anna Russell for this article.
On 30 January 2020, the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries at King’s College London will present a symposium organised by CMCI lecturer and artist Kate McMillan. They are currently taking submissions for the symposium from across disciplines, within and outside of academia, that explore the interconnections between concepts such as the Anthropocene, climate change, memory, feminism and art. For the full CFP see here
The symposium accompanies Kate McMillan’s film-based installation The Lost Girl,which will be on show at the Arcade at Bush House from 13th January to 28th February.
On the 14thof November CMCI department hosted Understanding and Supporting Creative Economies In Africa, a one day international conference, which served as a closing event of the AHRC funded research network Understanding And Supporting Creative Economies In Africa: Education, Networks And Policyled by Dr Roberta Comunian (King’s College London) and Brian Hracs (University of Southampton). The purpose of the event was twofold. First, it intended to give collaborators and partners of the research network an opportunity to disseminate their research findings. Second, it aimed to bring together UK and African academics, but also creative economy practitioners to discuss the current state of knowledge in relation to the development of creative economy in Africa from both perspectives – academic research and practitioners’ experience.
The conference comprised of four sessions with each session narrowing the discussion to a specific topic in relation to the creative economy in Africa. The first session focused specifically on the matters of education relevant to the creative economy in Africa. Via case studies from Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda, speakers were able to identify various gaps in the creative education provision and shortages of certain skills among local creative practitioners. One of the speakers – Joan Mosomi (University of Nairobi) – found that in case of fashion design, higher education institutions in Nairobi tend to concentrate on theoretical aspects of the discipline, often overlooking its practical aspects, which has led to the shortage of entrepreneurially and technically savvy creatives in the field.
During the second session, speakers explored the role of arts and creativity beyond the economy. Prof. Burton (Newcastle University) and Dr Nabulime (Makerere University) opened the session by sharing amazing stories of young artists in East Africa, whom they personally met and interviewed. The speakers highlighted some of the common challenges these artists face ranging from the absence of government support to the overall weakness of the local creative ecology. After an enlightening review of the cultural policy evolution in Nigeria delivered by Prof. Duro Oni (University of Lagos), Creative Economy Programme Manager – Genevieve Pace – shared how on-going projects by the Creative Economy division of the British Council are actively trying to fill these gaps through various workshops, training and direct funding opportunities.
The next session looked at creative intermediaries. Wakiuru Njuguna shared a brilliant mission of the HEVA Fund, which supports a lot of artists and creative industries in Africa, taking up a vital responsibility – often absent – of a financing stakeholder of the creative ecosystem. Lauren England (King’s College London) then proceeded with an investigation of creative intermediaries and their roles in the African contexts. Dr Lilac Adhiambo Osanjo (University of Nairobi) then shifted the focus of the session to the issues around the growth of the fashion design industry in Kenya.
The final session paid attention to creative markets, networks and mobilities with contributions from the conference co-organisers. Dr Brian Hracsopened the session with the discussion on various forms of mobility (temporary, mediated and virtual) available to the creative entrepreneurs today. Then, using a case study of craft intermediaries in Cape Town, Dr Roberta Comunian reflected on the vital role that creative intermediaries and creative ecologies play in African creative economies that often lack in public support.
While the network activities have officially closed with the conference there are many academic outputs in the pipeline, including two edited books and a policy report. If you would like to keep updated about future outputs, please visit the project blog in 2020.
My research interest in children’s media grew out of my time studying for a master’s degree in journalism. I came across an online forum called ‘Left-behind Children Bar’, the members of which were mainly left-behind children in China. Many of them posted about their hatred towards their parents and their feelings of abandonment. Some even expressed that they felt suicidal. The stories of these left-behind children drew my attention (of course the posts weren’t ‘fact-checked’). I became really curious about why these children were left behind in their hometowns and how did the parents fulfil their parenting roles from a distance. That’s the starting point of my PhD journey. My research project focuses on the role of social media within the Chinese separated families. It explores how family relationships and social media mutually shape each other.
Speaking of the left-behind children, I cannot avoid mentioning internal migration in China.
Since the 1980s, the contemporary Chinese society has been marked by immense rural-urban migration. The majority of the migrant workers have left their children behind in the children’s birthplaces. It was estimated that in 2010 there were 61 million “left-behind children” in China, of which 47% had both parents as migrants, 36% had a migrant father, and 17% had a migrant mother (ACWF, 2013).
In July 2019, I conducted a pilot study in China (Shenyang and Beijing). I interviewed eight migrant workers who have left-behind children. Their stories have left an imprint on my memory and gave me a lot of insights in terms of communication via social media.
It is interesting to find out that, based on the interviews, the communication between the migrant workers and their left-behind children centres around schoolwork. Very often, according to my informants, their online conversations began with homework or exam results. Not only one but three informants mentioned that they had to assist their children to finish their homework during video calls. They would even ask their neighbours, through social media apps, to help their children when it is necessary.
On the other hand, according to my informants, in reality, there was always a huge gap between their ‘commands’ online and the actual behaviour of the left-behind children offline. The role of carers should be taken into consideration here. There were conflicts of opinion regarding parenting between the parents and the carers, especially among those informants whose children were taken care of by the grandparents. This reminds me that one important aspect of parenting from a distance, to quote Madianou and Miller (2012, p. 72) is ‘that of discipline and control which, as in offline parenting, can often require negotiation and be resisted’.
Although generally welcomed by parents, new communication technologies do not necessarily solve the problems caused by family separation. On the contrary, they may actually amplify the awkwardness in communication. Three out of four male informants told me that they did not know how to deal with the dead air time during the video calls with their children. They just found the online conversations embarrassing. As Bao (pseudonym), a lathe operator working in Beijing, put it: ‘I taught my son how to play basketball and swim. We are good buddies. But during a video call, after five minutes, I simply didn’t know what to say, neither did my son’.
The pilot study also helps me better understand the different life trajectories of the migrant workers. What emerged from the pilot research is one relatively neglected dimension of migration: the sense of desperation of being the main household breadwinner. The informants have the feeling that they have no alternative but to endure long periods of separation from their family members including from their children.
Lili (pseudonym), one of my female informants aged 35, lost her husband in 2018. After her husband died suddenly, Lili was expected to be the breadwinner for her children. With the hope of earning more money, she decided to work in Beijing in order to help her two daughters to finish their higher education and pursue their dreams. This put her in a difficult financial situation. The interview I did with Lili took place in the 15-square-meter room she rented in a suburb located on the outskirt of Beijing. The living condition was poor, but that’s all what she could afford.
With a huge contrast, the interview I did with Xiaopeng (pseudonym), a male air conditioning engineer aged 34, took place in his spacious office located in the centre of Beijing. Xiaopeng’s eldest son had been sent to different private kindergartens in Beijing. The 7-year-old boy is now left behind in his birthplace in the Liaoning Province and taken care of by his paternal grandmother due to the fact that he was unable to attend public primary school in Beijing without the Beijing hukou (户口). In the Chinese context, the hukou status, which designates one’s place of origin, determines one’s access to social benefits and education resources. Xiaopeng installed a smart camera at home so that he could ‘monitor’ his son’s daily life from Beijing. His son meanwhile could also talk to his parents whenever he wanted after school. As Xiaopeng put it: ‘I have tried my best to make it up to my son. I visited him as frequently as I could.’
‘I had no choice’ was the phrase that I often heard from my informants during the pilot research. Their left-behind children have to bear the consequence of family separation, a result of parents’ decisions. Although media technology seems to play a role in facilitating parenting from a distance, the nature of the long-distance family relationships is yet to be unveiled. I am really looking forward to conducting my fieldwork in the near future to solve the puzzle.
To fully understand the culture, media and creative industries, the public policy for them is a fundamentally essential issue. That’s why I have been exploring cultural policy as my doctoral research theme.
I began to be particularly intrigued by the practices and history of UK cultural policy since I moved to Coventry and started my MA at the University of Warwick. What impressed me most is the collaborative relationship between the public and private sectors, which can be identified as an institutional tradition in the UK. In ideal policy cases, we can point out that, whereas the private business contributes to realising public interests, the government provides private actors with the infrastructure and freedom as a coordinator. My academic interest is to investigate the model of the public-private partnership in cultural policy and elucidate how the successful collaboration between the public institutions and private business can be realised.
To study the public-private collaboration in cultural policy, I have been researching the history of UK film policy as a central theme of my PhD. As it has been identified as both cultural symbol and economic commodity, the film has attracted the interests of both the governments and private companies from the very beginning of the twentieth century. As a result, film policy provides valuable cases of the public-private negotiations. But why do I have to research history instead of the contemporary topics related to our cultural landscape?
For me, the historical imagination is critically important in the present context because the criticism on the business and market is so dominant that makes difficult to consider alternative understanding about this issue. The group of critical researchers claim that the series of reforms characterised as deregulation, privatisation, and marketisation have undermined both the public sector and civil society since the 1980s. This tendency, they argue, is problematic, especially in the cultural policy, because it prevents us from appreciating the non-commercial value of culture and protecting its autonomy. In this context, critical research tends to focus on delineating the destructive impact on cultural policy and cultural sector caused by the introduction of the ethos of the private business.
While these researchers problematise the destructive consequences in the present, I have been examining the roles of the private enterprise in the film policy before these contemporary trends. The history of the British film policy teaches us that the private business contributed to realising educational and cultural policy to achieve public welfare in a unique way. How should we understand these non-commercial commitments by the trade? Did the private sector cause damage to public culture as it is denounced now? What was the relationship between the public and private sectors in these cases? My doctoral thesis aims to explore these questions and demonstrate the alternative model of the collaboration between the public authority and private business in UK film policy.
I am currently carrying out multi-archival research about the early history of the British Film Institute (BFI) as my PhD pilot study. Since its establishment in 1933, the BFI has played a significant role in supporting educational and cultural activities related to the film. As the BFI is commonly understood as an institute for the non-commercial aspects of the film, its relationship with the private business is relatively overshadowed. The existing research has described the BFI-trade relationship by using negative vocabularies such as “fear” “tension” “hostility” “pressure”. It implies that preceding scholarship tends to understand the relationship between the BFI and private sector as polarised or confrontational. However, the investigation of historical materials shows a more nuanced relationship between the Institute and film business. To unpack this issue, I have traced the process of negotiation between the interest groups of the film industry and non-commercial stakeholders including educationalists, film critics and policymakers.
The preliminary archival research demonstrates that, although film trade primarily concerned about their economic interests, their activities were not necessarily driven by fear or hostility toward the public sector. In contrast, they attempted to realise the public benefits by providing their resources and knowledge about the film industry. These supports from the film business was invaluable for the BFI to realise its cultural and educational goals including the construction of its film library and film archive. More importantly, the commitment of the film trade enabled the BFI to achieve its independence from the central government. In this sense, the case of the BFI exemplifies the collaborative relationship between the business and public sector. For my PhD project, I will continue exploring the critical moments of the British film policy and examine how the business and public sector attempted to realise the mutual benefits in establishing national film policy.
I am going to make more detailed presentations about this research project at the MECCSA (Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association) Conference (2020, January) and ICCPR (International Conference on Cultural Policy Research) Conference (2020, September).
We’re pleased to announce that CMCI Prof Jeanette Steemers’s new book has just been published: Screen Media for Arab and European Children: Policy and Production Encounters in a Multiplatform Eraaddresses gaps in our understanding of processes that underpin the making and circulation of children’s screen contents across the Arab region and Europe. Taking account of recent disruptive shifts in geopolitics that call for new thinking about how children’s media policy and production should proceed after large-scale forced migration in both regions, the book asks to what extent children in Europe and the Arab World are engaging with the same content. Who is funding new content and who is making it, according to whose criteria? Whose voices are loudest when it comes to pressures for regulation of children’s screen content, and what exactly do they want? The answers to these questions matter for anyone seeking insights into diverse cross-cultural collaborations and content innovations that are shaping new investment and production relationships.
The book is linked to our AHRC-funded project Children’s Screen Content in an Era of Forced Migration: Facilitating Arab-European Dialogue (www.euroarabchildrensmedia.org).
King’s is partnering with Future of Film Summit 2019 on a one-day conference designed to shape and create the future of film and storytelling.
Taking place at BFI Southbank in London on 26 November, the event will feature world-class speakers behind works such as Ad Astra, Blade Runner 2049 and Black Mirroras well as hands-on sessions on the latest tech/strategies including virtual production, worldbuilding, interactive storytelling and brand-funding.
CMCI’s Professor Sarah Atkinson will be hosting the inaugural Future of Film Think Tank with speakers from the event and collaborating with them on a report on the future of film set to be published in early 2020.
The summit will also see the launch of Professor Sarah Atkinson’s film‘Live Cinema – Walking the tightrope between stage and screen’ which examines the growing prominence of live cinema phenomena in the global film experience economy. The film features interviews with pioneers at the vanguard of live cinema, including Oscar-nominated actor Woody Harrelson, and contributions from the National Theatre Live, Royal Opera House Live, The Light Surgeons, Live Cinema UK and Blast Theory.
Raphael Sieraczek (PhD student at CMCI) together with his colleague Uwe Derksen have successfully established a radical educational project in the vibrant town of Margate (Kent) described by journalists as ‘Shoreditch-on-Sea’. The Margate School (TMS) is an independent liberal art school with post-graduate provision and community outreach offering a wide range of short courses as well as the innovative MA in Fine Art programme ‘Art, Society, Nature’ that started in October this year. The school is based in the former Woolworths building on the Margate High Street and has been described as the ‘soul of Margate’ being open to the local community and frequently visited by internationally renowned artists, philosophers as well as academic researchers who already compare The Margate School to revolutionary educational initiatives, such as, the Black Mountain College. If interested in visiting the school please get in touch directly with Raphael at email@example.com.
For more information about TMS please visit the school’s website and the facebook page;
The book is the result of Ricarda and Manuela’s multilingual touring project Talking Transformations: Home on the Move, which employed poetry,community workshops, film art, translation and a travelling exhibition to get people talking about home and migration in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum.
The creative responses collected in the book were created on a journey undertaken by two poems about ‘home’: Deryn Rees-Jones’ poem travelled from the UK via France to Spain and back whilst Polish poet Rafał Gawin’s travelled to the UK via Romania and back to Poland. During each journey, the poems were translated by a literary translator and a local film artist. The original English poem was translated by CMCI’s Kate McMillan.
The poems and their literary and artistic translations toured England in summer 2018 and were translated into new poetry in English and other languages in a series of workshops. A selection of these retranslations is included in Home on the Move.
The book also contains film stills and QR codes for the artist videos.
‘One of the most inventive and necessary poetry projects of recent years, a reminder of Ted Hughes’s assertion that poetry “is a universal language in which we can all hope to meet”’ – Chris McCabe
On November 4, CMCI Senior Lecturer DrHarvey G Cohen will be hosting two events at the British Film Institute Southbank venue, as part of their 2-month “Musicals” film series during October and November.
At one event, at 6:20PM, Cohen will sum up his new book Who’s In the Money: The Great Depression Musicals and Hollywood’s New Deal, with a 60-minute lecture adorned with film clips and graphics concerning the Warner brothers, President Franklin Roosevelt and the dawn of master choreographer Busby Berkeley’s most famous films and why they’re historically important and a lot of fun to watch.
Following this event, Cohen will provide a 10-minute intro to the most profitable of the Great Depression Musicals Warner Bros made and released in 1933: “Gold Diggers of 1933,” and how its themes mirrored many of the historical and political events of 1933 and the Great Depression. As was true in these famous films, dancing and singing eased the pain many were experiencing at the time.
And for our new MA students under the age of 25, please be aware, for this screening and others that the BFI Southbank (across the river from us!) has a very cool £3 discount price for people under 25, including poor grad students. Have fun…
CMCI’s Dr Joanne Entwistle has just returned from Porto Alegre, Brazil, where she gave the opening keynote speech to the 15th Fashion Colloquium at UNISINOS. Joanne spoke about her research on Instagram style mums to a packed auditorium of more than 500 academics, students, journalists and members of the public.
Just back from Sweden is CMCI’s Professor Richard Howells, who was invited to give a lecture, workshop and a research seminar at Lund University, which was founded in 1666.
His lecture and workshop were about defining and researching visual culture, while his research seminar was on his current work in progress on a famous literary spat between English novelists Arnold Bennett and Virginia Woolf.
The research seminar was part of Lund University’s KOM Public Seminars series (our picture shows the brochure cover), run by their Department of Communication and Media.
In Lund, Professor Howells was hosted by Professor Annette Hill, who is also a visiting Professor here at CMCI. Richard Howells, who is our Professor of Cultural Sociology, also met with some of Professor Hill’s PhD students and discussed their own research projects over what we understand was a very agreeable lunch.
Whilst researching his next book at Indiana University, Harvey Cohen, cultural historian and senior lecturer at CMCI, was interviewed by the National Public Radio station WFIU for their weekly ‘Profiles’ programme. Click the image below to find out about Dr Cohen’s books, his work on music and the music industry, his research and teaching philosophy, his thoughts on academia today… etc.
Protest has become a popular topic of interest in the national arts and heritage sector. In the past year alone, The British Museum hosted I object, an exhibition dedicated to protest objects running from graffiti on a Babylonian brick to a recent anti-Trump Pussyhat. The Imperial War Museum celebrated peace activism in People Power, and the People’s History Museum commemorated the Peterloo Massacre with a Protest Lab encouraging visitors to design collective actions.
Some have called this a ‘social turn’. Here the myth of political neutrality is exploded, and heritage and arts practitioners embrace the challenges of a new ‘activist museum’ agenda. In this blog post, we talk to CMCI’s Dr Red Chidgey, Lecturer in Gender and Media, about their new book Feminist Afterlives (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018) and why there is an activist turn in cultural institutions.
Representations of protest are often considered negatively in the mainstream media, and have been conspicuously absent from galleries and museums. Why this resurgence in interest?
A cultural shift is currently happening: social movements have erupted across the globe tackling institutional racism, climate change and sexual violence, as well as a rise in populist movements. What is striking is how this activism takes place. Everyday citizens are getting socially involved, who do not necessarily identify as activists. Social media has facilitated this, of course. There is also an interest in ‘doing the right thing’, which has been picked up by brands in the creative industries. Within the arts and heritage sector, the focus rests on community collaboration and the need to represent broader demographics. Not only are we seeing more events around protest and activism, but cultural institutions are now offering exciting new ways for visitors and communities to act as agents and provocateurs within the museum space.
In your recent book Feminist Afterlives, you talk about the ‘restlessness’ of social movement memories. Can you tell us more?
Rather than being disavowed, feminist activist histories – and their circulation in photographs, artefacts, and slogans – have been achieving a magnificent afterlife across public and digital spheres. A good example being the Edwardian militant Votes for Women campaign, which, as I was researching and writing the book, was experiencing a veritable popular memory boom.
I tracked these cultural memories across films, exhibitions, magazine articles, commodities, political speeches and contemporary acts of protest. By ‘restlessness’, I evoke the idea that history does not stay put: different actors draw on memory resources and put them to use in the here-and-now in unwieldy ways. Historically, suffragettes were seen as terrorists; today these campaigners have become exemplars of democratic struggle. Such histories are restless because they are endlessly undone and re-imagined. This is how collective memory works: its key emblems and narratives must be picked up, re-energised, and put into conversation with the urgencies and demands of the present. All the time telling partial, interested stories.
The protest momentum within the arts and cultural sector doesn’t seem to be winding down. What can galleries and museums do to strengthen their commitment to activism and social justice?
A few years ago, Sharon Heal, the Director of the Museum Association, suggested bravery, passion, empathy and activism as core values the museum sector should embrace. Last spring, I organised an event at King’s around ‘Curating Protest Memory’, which brought together activists, curators and archivists from Tate, Platform, Bishopsgate Institute, Queerseum, and other institutions. We discussed these challenges and came up with some recommendations. Most importantly, it is not enough for museums and galleries to curate temporary exhibitions around activism. There is a demand, coming from activists and workers most strongly, for cultural organisations to demonstrate a social mission throughout their operation – whether this means relinquishing corporate sponsorship from major oil companies, or ensuring cleaners and front of house staff are paid a living wage. There is also an appetite for cultural institutions to engage with current activism rather than presenting an archival and aesthetic version of settled movement pasts.
I am co-investigator of an AHRC-funded network called the Afterlives of Protest, which is holding its final conference in September 2019. Students and researchers can tune into live tweets at @protestmemory as we document debates and discuss actions. The key point is that memories of protest cultures are not just mementoes of a distant or fleeting past. These cultural reminders can, ideally, provide a tool-kit in creativity and strategy for actively labouring for a just society. And through institutional and public recognition of protest past and present, we affirm the kinds of cultural values required for more equitable futures.
The third edition of the CMCI research microsite is now up: eight new blog posts which explore research and thinking from staff and researchstudents working here in the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries.
In our third edition, many of the contributions outline research projects that are concerned with media representation and subjectivities in particular cultural, socioeconomic contexts and the extent to which media forms and practices can be considered participatory.
We have pieces from Professor David Buckingham, Stella Toonen, Dr Ricarda Vidal, Addiel Dzinoreva, Dr Eva Cheuk-Yin Li, Miruna Mirica-Damian, Jessica Davis, and Camilo Sol Inti Soler Caicedo.
Readers of this site would probably agree that all of us need to study and learn about contemporary media – and that includes children. Teaching about media in schools is by no means a new development: in the UK, it can be traced back to the 1930s, both as part of English teaching and (since the 1970s) as a specialist subject in its own right, Media Studies. However, media education has often remained on the margins of the education system: it is frequently derided as a ‘soft option’ or a ‘Mickey Mouse’ subject, and it is now increasingly under threat from backward-looking educational policies. In the last few years, Media Studies has been struggling to survive; and elements of media have been almost completely eradicated from the curriculum for English. Yet in the modern world, learning about media should surely be a basic entitlement for all children.
This month, Polity Press are publishing my Media Education Manifesto. It’s a short, inexpensive book that’s designed to reach a wide readership of students and teachers, and might even (I wish) be read by policy-makers. I make a succinct and passionate case for media education, based on several decades of research and practice in schools. However, this isn’t just a ‘call to arms’: the book also outlines the key principles of media education pedagogy, makes practical proposals for teaching, and explains where media education should fit into the curriculum.
At the same time, the Manifesto also seeks to reformulate the argument for a digital world, and to look forward to the future. I believe we’re now at a tipping point in the public debate about digital media. In the past few years, the utopian ideas that inspired the pioneers of networked technology – and fuelled countless marketing campaigns – have given way to a widespread disillusionment. Technology is increasingly being seen as a threat, not just to democracy but also to our individual well-being. Headlines are dominated by stories about fake news, invasions of privacy, online radicalization, hate speech, pornography and social media addiction.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”785″ img_size=”medium”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]One solution that’s often proposed in this context is ‘digital literacy’. If governments seem largely incapable of dealing with such problems, people (it is argued) need to take responsibility for their own use of media and technology. Both in the UK and internationally, policy-makers imagine that ‘empowered consumers’ will learn to cope with this flood of digital data. But digital literacy – or media literacy more broadly – is often poorly defined, and frequently amounts to little more than a set of rhetorical good intentions. If media literacy is going to become a reality, it requires a systematic and comprehensive programme of media education in schools.
However, it’s important to be clear about what media education is, and is not. Media education should not be confused with educational technology: it is not a matter of learning instrumental skills in operating hardware or software, or learning how to write computer code. Nor is it a defensive or protectionist enterprise, that seeks to rescue children from the harm that the media are often assumed to inflict upon them. It is not a quick fix for the problem of ‘fake news’, an instant antidote to online radicalization, or a means of weaning children off their ‘addiction’ to social media.
On the contrary, media education is about critical thinking. It invites children to analyse how media communicate, how and why they are produced and used, and how they represent the world. And it has well-established ways of doing this that promote children’s creativity, and encourage them to reflect on their own cultural enthusiasms. This can prove engaging and motivating, but it’s also very far from being a soft option, either for students or their teachers.
Digital media present new opportunities and new objects of study for media educators; but they also present new and demanding challenges. Even so, I don’t believe we need to reinvent the wheel. The Manifesto demonstrates how the existing conceptual framework of media education, developed in relation to ‘old’ media like film, television and the press, can be extended and adapted to new phenomena like social media; and it offers some practical suggestions for teaching, which go well beyond current proposals for ‘spotting fake news’ or warning children about internet safety.
Nevertheless, this isn’t just an argument for a particular school subject. We need to rethink how and why we teach about culture and communication much more broadly. In the process, educators need to take account of the bigger picture. We need to address an environment of ‘total mediation’, in which media have comprehensively pervaded the economy, the political process, the arts and culture, as well as our social and intimate relationships. We need to understand and confront what might be called ‘digital capitalism’ or ‘surveillance capitalism’. Ultimately, media literacy education is not a substitute for regulation: the aim is not just to understand and cope with the media world, but also to imagine and demand change.
When visiting museums as a child I was always fascinated by the exotic stories from far away countries or the extraordinary ideas coming from the creative minds of the featured artists. When I grew up, that fascination transformed into wanting to find out where those stories and ideas came from, and especially who had decided that they should be in a museum and why. As a result, I studied museums as part of my MA in Cultural and Creative Industries in King’s CMCI Department, and am currently continuing to look at them in my PhD too. My focus is on an approach that seems to be gaining increasing support across the museum sector, a new focus that would change how we view museums quite radically.
The classic ‘universal survey museum’ model, in which colonial trophy objects are often presented as neutral and objective displays of history, does not seem to survive the scrutiny of today’s museum audiences anymore. Instead we require museums to acknowledge that they are not neutral – that they are influenced by the views of its curators and the backgrounds they come from, by the pushes and pulls of funders and policy-makers, by the visions of directors, and by the stories that audiences themselves connect to the objects.
What is in a museum says a lot about what that museum (and the people running it) find important. Having few women artists in your collections is a political statement, whether intentional or not, and so is displaying objects that were looted from former colonies, or letting a white, British curator curate a show about indigenous art. In an era characterised by huge progress in conversations around feminism, decolonisation and diversity, museums do have to look at the statements they make and choose what they want to stand for.
The move towards daring to be more political doesn’t stop with issues of representation only. Over the last few years, museums in the UK have stepped forward as activists around lots of other important matters too. The Happy Museum Project promotes sustainability, and so does the more recent Culture Declares Emergency partnership, which a host of major museums support. The Manchester Museum is aiming to become a ‘caring’ museum, in which health and wellbeing projects are given much priority. The Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art has recently taken on the Fine Arts courses of Teesside University, to reimagine what art education might look like, and King’s My Primary School is at the Museum project did the same to incorporate art in education at primary schools. Finally, the Calouste Gulbenkian research project called The Civic Role of Arts Organisations looks at how museums and other cultural organisations take a stronger political role in society, and I have even argued in a recent magazine article that museums are taking up responsibilities where democracy leaves gaps.
It seems to me that many museums are playing with how they might find new relevance in society and how they can serve its audiences and local communities best. Nina Simon’s ‘participatory museum’ model, which challenges museums to take on some of the tasks of community centres, might have been an early influence for many organisations, and almost ten years after her book appeared a move towards putting audiences more at the centre of what museums do is definitely visible in the sector.
One way to acknowledge museums’ subjectivity, find new relevance and also put audiences at the heart can be through ‘co-creation’. This is a form of working where museums and audiences curate, programme, design, produce, and generally create projects together. It is a collaborative approach in which both groups equally lead and own projects and share the authority to make decisions. While co-creation currently is a buzzword concept that many museums are looking to engage with, it is also very hard to do it well. It can be quite a challenge to avoid letting a plan for a collaborative project become a tokenistic partnership that does not actually share any real power, especially for museums that are new at this kind of work.
However, some museums in the UK are doing co-creation really well. Derby Museums are co-producing their entire new Museum of Making with the local community, taking the time to build elaborate and genuine relationships with their community. The Manchester Museum will be opening a co-created South Asia Gallery soon, following the National Maritime Museum’s recently opened and co-curated Endeavour Galleries. Tate Modern and Tate Liverpool are going into their fourth year of Tate Exchange projects, through which they open up the floor to over 60 community associates annually to put up their own stories and installations in the gallery space.
I think there lies a future for museums in this move towards more open and socially-engaged programming, but I am equally concerned that many of these co-creation projects could end up being one-off projects without much of a legacy or the power to create real change. That is why my research looks at how co-creation might challenge some of the traditional working practices within museums. In other words, how might giving away some of the museum’s power and authority to community groups lead to new ideas and new strategies that could help museums to be most relevant?
Stella’s PhD project is part of a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership between King’s College London and Tate. Her fieldwork will include observations at three case study museums in the UK and abroad. Before starting her PhD in October 2018, Stella worked for the British Museum, V&A, Imperial War Museum and the Cultural Institute at King’s College London.
Can we translate between poetry and dance, between painting and music, between scent and performance in the same way as we translate between French and English in literary translation? How would such a translation differ from response, adaptation or illustration? And what might we find out about communication if we tried to answer these questions?
In 2013, I set up the practice-based project Translation Games, together with Jenny Chamarette from Queen Mary University of London and with funding from Culture at King’s. We commissioned a single source text, a flash fiction story by American writer Colleen Becker, and worked with student translators from King’s College and Queen Mary and with five professional artists and three textile designers. Using chain translation, multiple translation and intersemiotic translation, we produced 25 versions of the source text, which were drawn together in an exhibition in the Old Anatomy Museum: it was translated into nine languages, textile and fashion design, dance, installation, performance, film, sound art and silk painting.
Since then, I have worked with a variety of practitioners, with poets, artists and translators, putting on different events in art galleries, schools, libraries and other public venues.
In 2016, I joined Madeleine Campbell as co-leader of the Special Interest Group on Intersemiotic Translation, which she had founded within the framework of the Cultural Literacy in Europe forum. We launched the group with a symposium at King’s in July 2016 and began work on an edited collection for which we pulled together the research and experience of translators, artists and scholars who had employed intersemiotic translation in their practice. Translating across Sensory and Linguistic Borders: Intersemiotic Journeys between Media (Palgrave) was published earlier this year. For me, the book offered a way to analyse and explain what had been happening in Translation Games, to compare my own experience with that of others and to find ways of theorising, abstracting, and thus universalising the insights gained from practice.
In our book we argue that what makes intersemiotic translation translation is not so much the end result but the process. This entails an explicit focus on the translator’s gaze, whereby the translator makes her/himself visible to the reader in the target artefact. Gaze here refers to the intense looking and the full immersion in the text, with eyes, ears, skin, nose, limbs and heart. After all, even in literary translation, the translator must always employ more than just the visual sense: a poem can be read, spoken, heard, performed as well as acted out, smelled (by association) or felt. And, of course, the same goes for a painting, a film or dance, etc.
While in literary translation the translator needs “to convey the sense of the source artefact, intersemiotic translation involves a creative step in which the translator (artist or performer) offers its embodiment in a different medium.” (Campbell & Vidal, 2019, p.xxvi ). Intersemiotic translation is then not so much focused on the translation of sense or meaning, but rather on the experience of the text or artefact. The translator, we propose, then slips into “the role of mediator in an experiential process that allows the recipients (viewer, listener, reader or participant) to re-create the sense of the source artefact for themselves.” (Ibid.)
Hence, intersemiotic translation opens up multiple opportunities for facilitating intercultural communication across language barriers. As such, it became a central element of another project I initiated in 2016: Talking Transformations: Home on the Move, which I co-lead with translation activist Manuela Perteghella, investigates the effect of migration on notions of home in Europe via workshops, exhibitions and events which employ literary and intersemiotic translation.
In 2017, we commissioned British poet Deryn Rees-Jones and Polish poet Rafał Gawin to lead creative writing workshops with communities in Britain and Poland on the theme of home and to subsequently compose a poem. Deryn’s poem “Home” was then translated into French and Spanish and back into English and Rafał’s “Dom. Konstrukcja w procesie sądowym” into Romanian and English and back into Polish. At each stage of their translational journey the poems were also translated into video art (see Fig. 3). In summer 2018, the literary and filmic translations were shown in an Arts-Council-funded travelling exhibition with stops at the Whitstable Biennale, the Ledbury Poetry Festival and the National Poetry Library in London. The exhibition was accompanied by translation workshops during which we invited participants to access the poems through the art videos as well as through voice recordings of the poets and translators and to then produce their own translations. Intersemiotic translation enabled participants not only to access the poems through languages they did not know but it also enriched their reading of the languages they were familiar with, alerting them to layers of meaning and possibilities of interpretation they may not have been aware of previously.
The invitation to become translators themselves encouraged the deeply personal engagement of close reading inherent to translation and, at the same time, allowed participants to discuss the intimate topic of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ with the distance required by working with an original created by somebody else. A selection of poems composed by workshop participants will be published alongside the original poems and translations in our anthology Home on the Move: Two Poems Go on a Journey (Parthian Books: October 2019).
Together with Madeleine Campbell I am are now preparing a second symposium on intersemiotic translation for 2020. Further research will build on the insights from our edited volume. Here, we are particularly interested in how intersemiotic translation can be employed in formal education as well as in community settings with a view towards learning, conviviality and social cohesion.
In 1994 South Africa finally ended apartheid and a new country led by Nelson Mandela was born, carrying the hopes and dreams of previously disenfranchised black people. For black people in the media and creative industries, and hopeful storytellers like myself, there was great excitement about the opportunities the new dispensation provided for our voices and stories to be told, heard and shared. However, the reality was that most media companies the early 90s were not ready and had no immediate motivation to (meaningfully) cater for the more populous black audience merely because they were not as wealthy and lucrative as minority white audiences. Fast forward to 2019, thanks to more inclusive economic policies, there has been an emergence of a black middle class that is ’empowered’ technologically, politically and economically. However, its development also means some are left behind for various economic and social reasons, creating division and tension between this black middle class and the greater black working class. These tensions are manifesting in television content being produced in South Africa, particularly in the popular and highly-rated reality television shows. The reality shows include local versions of international formats such as The Bachelor, Survivor, The Real Housewives of Johannesburg and Idols. My research, however, is focused on local formats such as Date My Family and Our Perfect Wedding that drive extensive social media debates and discussions about the post-apartheid black South African narrative.
South African television companies are taking advantage of the growing black middle class by creating products and content aimed specifically at this population group. For example the recently launched pay television channel Moja Love on MultiChoice’s DStv satellite pay-tv service which television critic Thinus Ferreira described as a channel ‘with daring, boundary-pushing reality shows about topics previously discussed in “hushed tones”’. At the 2019 Content Showcase event Moja Love’s Head of Unscripted Content, Bokani Moyo, stated that “Our mission is to create content that is authentic, the lived experience of our communities. We want our viewers to see themselves in experiences-in-the-real.’
This claim of representation, authenticity and realism of the post-apartheid South African black experience through reality television needs to be interrogated through academic research. Indeed, there has been a growing outcry on social media platforms with some viewers accusing the producers of these shows of merely capitalising on negative stereotypes of black people for the sake of entertainment. For example, Moja Love’s reality show, Uyajola 9/9, which exposes infidelity, has been accused in the press and social media of using ‘black pain for ratings’. Unlike during apartheid when black people were not represented in media production, now, you have executives, commissioning editors, producers and participants who are black telling their stories. These stories are based on the premise of depicting and representing the real lives, stories and cultures of black people – designed to appeal to this emerging black middle-class market.
At the same time, South African societal transformation is being accelerated by increased access to the Internet and social media platforms, with an inherent promise to erode encrusted social barriers by affording audiences more agency and participation. My current research is about how the growth of social media and reality television in post-apartheid South Africa has created spaces in which television audiences can participate in the creation of meaning and how South African audiences interrogate or support how television content, and its ideologies, represent their classed reality. Theoretically, both platforms, reality television and social media, afford participants and viewers the opportunities for representation and participation. However, these ‘new spaces’ are not neutral; they have contested spaces where television producers, are looking for entertaining, high rating, profit-making shows and also looking to influence viewers on social media – platforms that give audiences the agency to participate in how reality is re-presented.
The theoretical concepts I’m interested in are participatory culture and media representation and use of class. Why class? In South Africa, recent political and economic policies have seen segments of previously marginalised black people become part of the middle class. Therefore, you have previously working-class people now in powerful positions as television producers and executives, creating highly-rated content based on ‘where they are from’ and ‘keeping it real’. The question is, are they ‘keeping it real’ or exploiting class ideologies and stereotypes for eyeballs? In what ways are viewers pushing back against how they are being portrayed using social media? Or are they? The South African class structure gives us insight into factors that govern the power relations between television and its audience as both adapt to new participatory media. Thus, it allows for a better understanding of this ‘new’ society and emerging social relations.
Broadly speaking, my academic and teaching interests focus on two inter-related areas. Firstly, East Asian media and culture. Secondly, gender and sexuality through the lens of the multi-directional flows of transnational and regional popular culture, audience participation (or non-participation), and everyday practices. I am interested in understanding the interplay between media texts, creative industries, and the process of consumption and appropriation. My research aims to investigate the ways in which power operates in everyday social interactions and through structural inequality by examining both on-screen representations and lived experiences. In spite of the increasingly diverse gender and sexual representations in East Asia, I am keen to study the ways in which these visual representations have (or have not) influenced or transformed gender and sexual practices at the individual and institutional levels. My methods are qualitative, ethnographic, and empirical.
The first strand of my research concerns fandom, participatory culture, and identities. For example, in a paper that I co-authored with Alistair Fraser (University of Glasgow), we explored the mediated cultural memories of Kowloon Walled City in colonial Hong Kong, often known as one of history’s greatest anomalies (Fraser and Li, 2017). In addition to examining a range of materials, such as government documents, media texts, interviews, video games, and Internet forum discussions, we interviewed fans who cosplayed characters in a local manga, which was a fictional story inspired by the history of the walled city. In this way, we traced the multi-directional cultural flows within Asia (such as Hong Kong and Japan) and beyond (such as the Anglophone cyberspace/gaming culture) and its relationship with the formation of local identity among Hong Kong young people who grew up in the postcolonial era. We concluded that the transmedia circulation and remediation of Kowloon Walled City has given rise to a second life for this historical site in which bodies, memories, meanings, objects, and identities are constantly dis-embedded and re-embedded.
The second strand of my research, which is often intertwined with the first, focuses on gender and sexuality and engages with the growing scholarship of queer Asian studies through an empirical lens of media and culture. For example, in order to understand the tantalising interplay between popular culture and gender and sexual cultures in Hong Kong, between 2009 and 2014, I conducted participant observation and 33 interviews with the fans of Denise Ho (a.k.a. HOCC), the first publicly out lesbian singer in the Chinese-speaking entertainment industry (Li, 2017). My analysis explores the shifting notion of ‘normal’ among her fans as they negotiated HOCC’s stardom before and after her coming out, as well as their own gender and identities, by drawing parallels with the illiberal political system, the resurgence of evangelical fundamentalism, and the development of the local tongzhi (literally ‘common will’ or ‘comrade’, shorthand for LGBTQ+ in the Sinophone world) movement.
Over the last year, I have greatly benefited from inspiring conversations with both students and faculty members at the department while further developing my academic and pedagogic interests. The vibrant, supportive, and interdisciplinary research environment is vital to the ongoing academic and social debates on the role that transnational/transcultural media and culture play in shaping identities and fostering social equality.
Currently, I am working on several papers on the inter-Asia circulation of queer media and social movements, the representation of queer families, and the affective construction of authenticity in androgynous Chinese celebrity bodies, in addition to completing a monograph on the everyday practice of ‘middle gender/neutral gender’ (zhongxing) among women in Hong Kong and urban China (see also Li and Halstead, 2018).
At the end of June, King’s College London hosted the Museums in Arabia conference, a thought-provoking event that united scholars and practitioners interested in the development of the cultural sector in the Arabic Peninsula. The interesting mix of ideas emerging either from academic research or from work experience created the feeling of an intercultural conversation which managed to abolish national borders for the time being. From pearls and silk trade to popular shopping centers and international art exhibitions, it took us only three days to visit most of the Middle Eastern countries.
Although many of the case studies were permeated by political rationales, some of them extremely foreign to the concept of museum autonomy, the presenters themselves offered us the key to interpretation. The speakers took us on an epistemological journey in the Middle East and made meaningful remarks about the cultural particularities that transformed our understanding of museums. This conference was a wonderful opportunity to discover a rich environment for a new wave of cultural institutions, as much as an eye-opening experience for me. Hereafter I present some of my takeaway points in terms of challenges and future progress for the art professionals working in the Gulf area.
Day one started with an interesting inquiry in the relationship between the university and the museum. The first panel, Evolving Museumscapes: Creating New Museums and Libraries, focused on how knowledge in museums is shaped by a diverse range of elements such as architecture (Dr Roberto Fabbri) or produced due to the establishment of in-house libraries (i.e. the Museum of Islamic Art Library or the National Museum of Qatar Library). The second panel discussed how the emergence of female leadership has benefited the museum sector in the Middle East, a region that is often stereotyped as non-inclusive. However, this new generation of professionals, who promote a collaborative management style, create new opportunities for women to get more involved in their society.
The first keynote lecture, Collecting the Future: Why Museums Must Be Spaces of Decolonization and Active Reflection in the Arab World, was delivered by Dr Nada Shabout, Professor of Art History and the Director of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Initiative (CAMCSI) at the University of North Texas. She talked about the need to question the rationales of the new museums that are build in the Arab Gulf region, especially considering the recent cultural and heritage destruction and continuous frictions.
The following two panels addressed professional practice in a transcultural environment, with focus on cooperation between cultural institutions, but also on the relationship with the audiences and new methods to engage them through a multisensory approach to interpretation (Claire Dobbin) or through a narrative created using augmented reality (John Bull).
The second day was about branding and transformative curating, as well as private initiatives of both collections and museums. The first panel, Managing the Gulf Museum: Marketing, Branding and Identity, opened an interesting discussion about the alternative stories a museum can tell using marketing strategies such as merchandising in order to transmit a certain idea about national identity (Dr Suzi Mirgani). Later on, the panelists disclosed a series of private cultural initiatives from Bahrain (Nevyne Zeineldin), Oman (Rizwad Ahmad), the UAE (Dr Sami L. De Giosa) and Qatar (Dr Joachim Gierlichs). The main challenges for this type of initiatives are clearly the negotiation between the identities of the two parties: the collectors and the audiences, as well as their integration within the broader spectrum of international cultural institutions.
The keynote lecturer on the second day was Dr Venetia Porter, Senior Curator for Islamic and Contemporary Middle East Art at the British Museum. She talked about the British Museum’s International Training Programme for museum professionals, focusing on participants and their institutions within the Arab region from Palestine to Tunisia and Yemen. Furthermore, she addressed the way in which this prolific programme let to the creation of the new Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World in the British Museum, which was also our final destination after the lecture.
The third day was dedicated to alternative approaches and a view towards the future. The first panel, The Expansive Museum: Urban Walks, Heritage Paths and Museum Malls, disclose a whole other dimension of the cultural institutions in the Gulf. By far, the most interesting discovery was made by Dr Jennifer Pruitt, who investigated the Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai, a shopping center designed for the local community, which takes the visitors on a journey following the footsteps of the famous explorer. This journey, however, is full of stereotypes and exaggerations, resulting in a real semiotic delight.
The following panels paid particular attention to the creation of national narratives. From a multi-modal analysis of the Iraqi National Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale (Anastasia Shanaah) to a discourse analysis of the First Exhibitions of Arab Art in the USSR in the 1950s (Dr Olga Neferova), the conference ended in a very political note which reinforced the idea that art and power are still very much interrelated when it comes to national representation.
Under the influence of neoliberaltendencies, knowledge generation within academia is increasingly focused on heightened productivity, metric performance, and enhanced competitiveness. Within this context, the universityhas been characterized by its recalibration through a new market logic (De Angelis and Harvie, 2009). Demonstrable in this regard is the reconfiguration of higher educationas an enterprise form and the re–articulation of academic priorities through a lexicon shaped by market values.Universities and academics are recast and reconstituted on a business model of “services” and “providers” to capture quantifiable forms of understanding in terms of investments and profits (Feldman and Sandoval, 2018).The commercialisation of knowledge, the marketisation of degree programs, and the intensification of systems of measurement have becomeroutine practicesfor neoliberal universities. At stakeis the conversion of knowledge as a public good into a private resource and means of individual profit (Brown, 2015). Accordingly, one no longer pursues knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but rather through a cost-benefit schema of accounting in order toassert one’s rightful place in academia and capitalist society at large.
If we understand the contemporary era of neoliberalismnot simply as an economic policy, but as agoverning rationality that generalizes the enterprise form to the full range of social life (Foucault, 2008) including the university, howcan we understand the place of the academicwithin this “market of knowledge”? This is not so much a research question, as it is the very backdrop thatinforms my experience as a PhD candidate who must engage in the formative process and produce a work of economic value. It is precisely within this context that knowledge production is made expressly acute. For academic activists who seek to transform existing power structures, how can we be certain that the type of research we do does not have the unintended consequence of reproducing the status quo? In other words, to what extent are our own agendas shaped –consciously or unconsciously– by neoliberal imperatives? More crucially, what are the modes of resistance that are available to us?
In Defense of Lost Causes (2008), SlavojŽižek claims that “the threat today is not passivity but pseudo-activity, the urge to be active, to participate, to mask the nothingness of what goes on”. Could we not transpose this consideration onto the demands of the neoliberal university?To counter the ever-renewed call to produce more knowledge, perhaps the most subversivegesturetoday is to think rather than act. Taking a step back to question dominant thought paradigms andthe appropriation of already existing knowledge may allow the academic to go on a strategic strike, by doing more with less.
As a student in the Department of Culture, Media, and Creative Industries, I find myself at an interesting intersection, one that thrusts a new subject area upon traditional academic rigour. Somewhat of a newcomer within the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, I represent an emerging field that draws its strength and vigour from a variety of disciplinesand approaches. Alongside a wealth of empirical studies taking place here,I’ve opted to proceed down an alternative pathby consideringthe extent to which our thinking of contemporary problems may be part of the problem. My aim is to create a critical dialogue between the humanities and knowledge production therein that orients itself towards the social sciences.
In precise terms, I focus on the social significance of cultural criticism and considerthe causes and conditions that render it possible. To make critique itselfsocially significantinvolves focusing onthe effects of culture on the subjects that consume it, such that our own lives and experiences are recognized and become part of what we analyse. For Mary Poovey (1990), a socially significant criticism “describes culture as the ensemble of categories and signifying systems that provide the terms through which humans understand the world, from which we derive our identity, and in which we formulate or express desire.” This means emphasizing the capacity of certain discourses, neoliberal or other, to shape the subjectivities of social beings andto impact upon the social order. In my own estimation,the social significance of cultural criticismrealizes itself,first and foremost,by passing through an account of the human subject.
For purposes of my research, I enlist Michel Foucault’s work on neoliberal governmentality as a critical framework for understanding the antithetical and parallel production of both capitalist and emancipatory forms of subjectivity. Through an original reading of Foucault’s “critical history of thought”, one that traces his lineage of post-Kantian critique, I lend credence to his retrospective claim that the subject, not power, constitutes the leitmotif of his intellectual work. By proposing a general principle by which to rethink popular articulations of the Foucauldian subject, I locate the project of critique within the process of subjectivation: the way subjects constitute and govern themselves in relation to what they take to betruth. My objective is to assert the theoretical plasticity of this process as a methodological priority for studies of governmentality.
Reclaiming the transformative gesture of critique through the problematization of the subject is especially timely under current neoliberal power dynamics. Indeed, recent studies demonstrate the extent to which the “psychic life of neoliberalism” reconstitutes our self-relation on the model of homo entrepreneur (Scharff, 2015). Despite being less corporeal and less restrictive, the exercise of power under neoliberalismoperates on aspirations, interests, and desires and therefore upon the conditions of possible actions of the subjects it helps to produce. At stake is the commodification of subjectivity rooted in neoliberal imperatives. Here, the array of market freedoms and individual choice that neoliberalism makes possible –creativity, mobility, and flexibility in labour– form the very instruments of capitalistdomination which are, in turn, maintained and reinforced by the entrepreneurial self.
Yet in tumultuous times, the possibility for transformation is great. My objective is to reinstate the role of cultural studies as an active player in the project of critique. Towards this end, I aim to make strategic use of the humanities and its tools, from feminist philosophy and post-war French thought to Lacanian psychoanalysis. By pursuing this path, I hope to create a critical space in which to reimagine the very coordinates of social life under neoliberalism.
When I mention that I do research on dance, I am always pleased to see faces of interest, curiosity and intrigue. What is even more enthralling for me, and seemingly for those who listen to my doctoral accounts until the end, is the diversity of approaches I used during fieldwork and the outcomes brought about by this. I had the opportunity to interview 19 Colombian Salsa dancers and promoters, in both Bogota and London, and discussed with them several subjects around the strategies that they use to make a living out of almost solely their bodies in an extremely informal and precarious industry. Many of these accounts were not only enriching but surprising as they challenged the assumptions I had as a professional dancer of the style and showed how differently the practitioners’ views are. While some focused on how to create performances that pay homage to their trans-national and post-colonial identities, others aimed to tackle the feelings of disconnection and isolation that are so recurrent in modern cities, and others even lured international audiences through the ambiguous attractiveness of the imagined illicitness and danger of Colombian cities like Bogota.
With several of them, I also had the opportunity to record their salsa classes to then carry out video-elicited interviews, in which we would sit down together and discuss fascinating, yet often concealed beyond conscious recalling, micro-situations happening on an average salsa class. By delving into these unconscious and fleeting interactions on the dancefloor, I was impressed by the intense emotional display, and the ability of dance instructors to acknowledge and effectively deal with all these emotions while being only barely conscious of it!
Because of the inter-disciplinary nature of my research in CMCI, my findings on the field have taken me in different directions. Even from the early stages, many dancers were able to connect through me, develop and cross-fertilise their business/teaching strategies just by communicating their diverse approaches. While analysing my data, I was also increasingly made aware that one of the biggest problems of the industry orbits around the absence of working standards and unionisation. Thanks to this I have got to know many inspiring and interesting people working on similar issues not uncommon in other dance styles like commercial. Additionally, and partially inspired by my teaching role at the Department of Digital Humanities, I developed an interesting practice-oriented idea of developing “An Uber for Dancers”, which was presented at CMCI Emerging Voices and is currently work in progress in academic, pragmatic, and ethical terms. Finally, beyond the PhD, my project might present a detailed and accurate landscape, and kinetoscape, of the practice of popular dance, which can be applied both in terms of formalisation of the practice and empowerment of its practitioners.
Professor Richard Howells is back from a conference in Tuscany, Italy, where he gave a refereed paper in which he inter-wove Harry Potter, the sorting hat, serpents, parceltongue and horcruxes, together with the “Fall”, Philip Pullman, the Republic of Heaven, Ernst Bloch, Utopia, Marxian Critical Theory, and atheistic Christianity.
The conference was the 20th International Conference of the Utopian Studies Society, held at the Monash University Study Centre in Prato.
Howells, who is our Professor of Cultural Sociology, argued that running human themes can be detected throughout both “high” and popular culture, provoking us to consider how things might be in the future as opposed to how they happen to be today. The disturbingly close relation between good and evil was running concern, culminating in the need for a human-centred universe.
More of his thinking on culture and Utopia can be found in his TEDx talkhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FHsKQZ_-r8 and his monographA Critical Theory of Creativity: Utopia, Aesthetics, Atheism and Design (2015; paperback 2017).
Drs Red Chidgey and Serena Iervolino have been hosting a workshop and a pop-up residency as part of their Queer Museology research project.
They want to explore what a queer museum would look (or feel) like and which practices would be needed to change, transform or ‘queer’ a museum space?
The residency incorporated three queer and trans artists, Joanna Lawn in collaboration with Colin Lievens, and Daniel Fountain, who were invited to transform an empty office in King’s Arts and Humanities Research Institute Reach space by creating a new artwork. The project was supported by two CMCI MA students, Viktoria Szanto and Jeroen van Dijk, employed as research assistants.
They also hosted a workshop with delegates from Tate, V&A, Pitt Rivers Museum, the Science Gallery London, activists from Queer Britain and academics from Royal Holloway university. If you want to follow the residency and discussion event, the twitter account is: @QueerMuseology
Dr Roberta Comunian and PhD student Lauren England have been presenting their research at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice as part of a symposium on craft, skills and making.
The event brought together international researchers to discuss the frontier of craft research, taking in both traditional and contemporary practices. Lauren presented her current doctoral research on UK crafts graduates and their strategies for new enterprise development, while Roberta shared their co-authored paper on creative clusters the evolution of glassmaking skills in post-industrial regions.
They were joined by Dr Paola Trevisan (Copenhagen Business School) and Dr Maria Lusiani (Universita’ Ca’ Foscari, Venezia) who presented their research on Venetian gondolas, and Prof. Michele Tamma (Universita’ Ca’ Foscari, Venezia) who gave a paper on the island of Murano as a culture-based business.
Dr Joanne Entwistle has returned from Getaria in the Spanish Basque Country where she has been speaking on a summer course at the Christobal Balenciaga Museum.
It was entitled: “Towards an ethics of fashion: challenges and advances” and investigated how fashion converges with society, culture and the economy. It questioned the relations between the whole chain: design, production, commercialisation, communication, and preservation.
Dr Ruth Adams is back from Bordeaux, France, where she was invited to give a conference paper on the punk music scene in London in the 1970s. The invitation came from the research group “European Capitals and Heritage since 1945: Berlin, London, Madrid, Paris”, which is based at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Ruth’s paper considered the ways in which London punk constructed an image and identity through a process of appropriation and bricolage. While it had an explicitly English identity and drew on tropes of domestic history and heritage, Ruth argued that it also incorporated some of the strategies of the European Modernist avant-garde into its (sub)cultural patchwork.
Ruth recently has also had a chapter published in a new book about London punk band The Clash. Entitled “‘Are you going backwards. Or are you going forwards?’ England Past and England Future in 1970s Punk”, it examines the ways in which the comparatively cosmopolitan and political approach of The Clash could be regarded as progressive and forward looking.
Dr Ricarda Vidal is celebrating the successful launchevent for her new book: Translating across Sensory and Linguistic Borders: Intersemiotic Journeys between Media (Palgrave 2019), co-edited with Madeleine Campbell. The well-attended event was held here at King’s.
The volume draws together theoretical and creative contributions from translators, artists, performers, academics and curators who have explored “intersemiotic translation” in their practice.
The contributions offer a practitioner’s perspective on this rapidly evolving, interdisciplinary field which spans semiotics, cognitive poetics, psychoanalysis and transformative learning theory.
Ricarda and Madeleine explained the theoretical framework that informed their research before presenting a simultaneous reading of the two prose poems which they wrote in lieu of a conclusion to their book. Literary translator, gender activist and poet Jen Calleja then performed her feminist intersemiotic translations of Christian Marclay’s The Clock into poetry.
Out now: the second edition of news on the CMCI Microsite.
This new edition includes five new blog posts which explore the research and thinking from staff and research students working in the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries, here at King’s College London.
There are contributions from Dr Bridget Conor, Dr Roberta Comunian and Lauren England, Dr Stephanie Janes, Lauren Cantillon, and Katrin Schindel:
Building on their previous work on creative labour, creative eco-systems and cultural policy, the KCL team – Roberta Comunian, Bridget Conor, Tamsyn Dent, Jonathan Gross and Nick Wilson – are collaborating with researchers at universities in Finland, Italy and Latvia.
All four research teams have now met in in Dresden, Germany, alongside two project partners: the cultural communications agency Cumediae, and Trans Europe Halles (TEH) – a network of 109 independent cultural organisations across the EU.
In Dresden, the DISCE team had the opportunity to discuss which ten European cities they will work with as case studies. Roberta Comunian took part in a panel discussion with cultural leaders and policy makers, addressing the future of creative economies in the EU, while CMCI’s new Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Tamsyn Dent, participated in TEH’s co-creation lab – hearing more about the priorities and concerns of this group of cultural workers.
You can keep an eye here on the CMCI blog – and on the DISCE website and twitter feed – for further updates over the next three years.
On 19th November 2017, a new Instagram post appeared on the official goop Instagram feed, a 30 second video announcing: ‘The wait is over. GOOPGLOW is here 👏. A power shot of 6 potent antioxidants in one tiny package. Simply mix the powder with water, stir and #bottomsup (it’s delicious p.s.).’ The video featured a slim blonde woman frolicking on a beach in the sun, stirring and then drinking a glass of glowy-orange ‘superpowder’ liquid. At the time, this launch was one of a flurry of new product releases for goop which included supplement protocols (March 2017), the first live goop conference #ingoophealth (June 2017), goop magazine (Autumn 2017) and goop bath soaks (January 2018). Goop, founded by Gwyneth Paltrow as a weekly email newsletter in 2008, self-describes as a ‘modern lifestyle brand’ offering ‘cutting-edge wellness advice from doctors, vetted travel recommendations and a curated shop of clean beauty, fashion and home’. It is now valued at over US$250 million and sells a range of wellness products as well as goop clothing, fragrances and cosmetics. It produces a podcast and a Netflix television show is in the works. The launch of goop glow signalled an extension of the company’s own-branded moves into the expanding ‘ingestibles’ market, a business projected to be worth US$220.3 billion by 2022. Ingestibles (supplements, vitamins, superpowders, dusts) and their contemporary popularity (senior director of goop Wellness Ashley Lewis has described ingestibles as the ‘next frontier’) represent a curious and potent (pun intended) example of a phenomenon I’m calling ‘cosmic wellness’. In the US, ingestibles are technically classed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as food and yet, in this new/expanding iteration, they are perhaps better described and understood as food- adjacent, offering much more than simple nutrition but in addition, many other intoxicating and ephemeral rewards: beauty, glow, health and ‘mighty cosmic flow’.
Cosmic wellness is a broad constellation of media, discourse, imagery and materials which speak primarily to, and are sold to white, wealthy women. On the one hand, cosmic wellness can be understood as offering healthy and potentially necessary responses to fiercely neoliberal modes of working and living; encouraging spiritual connections to the natural world and to the things people eat, drink and injest for example; or offering strategies and products for ‘digital detoxing’. But conversely, it is framed as the newest example of narcissistic self-absorption and more seriously, as unhealthy and dangerous. Goop (and Gwyneth Paltrow herself who is known simply as ‘GP’ in the wellness space) is a primary location for the production and dissemination of cosmic wellness. But this is not without controversy – goop and GP have been accused of false advertising, ‘deceptive’ health claims and of peddling new versions of snake oil or what one critic simply calls “goopshit”.
Cosmic wellness can be connected to histories that chart the incorporation of new-age health and wellbeing practices into ‘mainstream’ forms of lifestyle production and consumption and the simultaneous derision of these practices, especially when used and promoted by women. And there is also something new about cosmic wellness, especially as it is visible online on platforms such as Instagram. It is both of these trajectories of cosmic wellness (past and future) that I’ll be investigating in my new work on the topic.
I’m interested in what cosmic wellness is, who it appeals to and why it has such contemporary cultural purchase and to do this, I’m using theories of postfeminism, spiritual production and consumption, digital food cultures and critical whiteness studies. I argue that, whilst seemingly vague, unserious, even laughable, cosmic wellness and its various manifestations deserve serious scholarly attention. Not only is this an incredibly lucrative set of business practices (what Kathryn Lofton calls the ‘spiritual practice of capitalism’) but cosmic wellness also powerfully illuminates the contemporary and sometimes contradictory connections (political, cultural, spiritual, digital) between women, whiteness and wellness.
In line with the Highlight Notice and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to build collaborations across a range of countries which receive Official Development Assistance (ODA), the research network aims to connect and mobilise different communities, including academics, practitioners in the creative/cultural sector and cultural and creative policy bodies. It aims to develop a better understanding of creative economies in emerging African countries and to explore strategies to encourage and enable sustainable context-specific cultural, social and economic development. It also provides a platform for academics, creative practitioners, and policy and network bodies to reflect on their work and practice in relation to creative economies in Africa. The network will involve the fieldwork in Nigeria (Lagos) as well as Cape Town (South Africa) and Kenya (Nairobi).
Within the broader agenda of the research network, we specifically decided to focus our research and engagement on one key area of research: the work of creative intermediaries. We have developed a working definition of creative intermediaries which aims to distinguish the term from cultural intermediaries. Here we define creative intermediaries as being engaged with the business practices and sustainability of creative individuals, rather the content of their creative endeavour.
During the fieldwork in Lagos we concentrated our investigation in three contexts: co-working spaces in Lagos, the University of Lagos and a focus group/forum amongst creative intermediaries in collaboration with Hatch Africa and British Council Nigeria.
Co-working spaces in Lagos
We managed to interview directors or managers of 6 co-working spaces in Lagos during our stay. We previously mapped these spaces and found Lagos to be an emerging hot-spot for freelancing and creative work as well as for general spaces to support entrepreneurial start-ups. We found co-working space managers very involved in and informed about the creative economy – we were struck by the fact that many of them were moved to start in the sector from international experiences, having studied in the UK or USA and also motivated by the lack of space that they themselves experienced when starting to work in Lagos after their studies.
Creative economy and the university: a case study of the University of Lagos
We spent a day at the University of Lagos, Department of Creative Arts and organised a local workshop with academics there to discuss the work and practices in relation to the creative economy. We had the chance to hear from local policymakers and international organisations such as the British Council to understand how the policy sector could benefit from stronger connections with creative industries research. We also discussed connections with the university sector and the Department of Creative Arts’ involvement with local arts and creativity. We especially enjoyed a visit to the art gallery of the department – a new space specifically established to share the Department’s artistic practice with others. You can read more about the event here.
Creative intermediaries: Lagos forum
Finally, we organised a forum/focus groups specifically for creative intermediaries – across a range of fields from fashion, to music and dance. The attendees, around 20, discussed their work passionately and highlighted the DIY nature of creative industries and creative industries support in Nigeria. They highlighted a general distrust towards policy and any policy intervention, but also the importance of CCIs working together across the supply chain and more strategically. They presented the tendency of creatives in Lagos – due to policy and work isolation – to create unsustainable portfolio careers, where the designer is also the marketing person, the accountant and the producer. It was reflected that this limited space for real creativity to emerge locally, nationally and internationally. You can read the full report of the event here.
The fieldwork in Lagos was an exciting first opportunity to research the creative economy and its dynamics in African countries. We look forward to more fieldwork in Cape Town (June 2019) and Nairobi (September 2019). To keep up to date with the network and our activities, please visit the project website blog.
On Thursday 6th and Friday 7th June, the CMCI department was delighted to welcome over 100 speakers and delegates from around the world to our annual postgraduate conference, CMCI Emerging Voices. Held in Bush House, this year’s conference theme was ‘Beyond Disciplines’ – chosen by the organising committee to reflect the interdisciplinary nature of the majority of research work within the CMCI department.
The programme offered papers ranging across depictions of queer sexualities in women’s Holocaust writing (Roseanna Ramsden, Northumbria University), gender representation in bro-country music (Robyn Shooter, King’s College London), and mediating the fashion/tradition dichotomy in the case of kimono (Carolin Becke, University of Sheffield). A personal highlight was the session delivered by Dr J. Daniel Luther, who took the audience through the evolution of the ‘Queer’ Asia film festival . They described its initial beginnings in 2016 as a conference held at SOAS, through to the changed format today – for this year’s festival, free screenings are being held not only at SOAS but also at KCL, the British Museum and University of Warwick. It was a masterclass in self-evaluation and being confident in your understanding of your audience in order to grow an event that bridge both an academic and public space in a successful way.
Several CMCI PhD students utilised the conference as a platform present their current research and previous MA work to a fresh audience. We were delighted to hear from Stella Toonen with her paper ‘Co-creation, co-production, co-curation: a critical analysis of the definitions used around collaborative museum practice’; Catalina Urtubia and her paper ‘Online catalogues in art museums in Chile: A potential tool for audience engagement?’, and Camilo Sol Inti Soler Caicedo on ‘An Uber for Dancers: Can online platforms improve the conversion of embodied capitals?’
We were treated to two fascinating keynotes across the two days; firstly by Professor Hongwei Bao of the University of Nottingham, and to conclude with Suhair Khan, Google Arts & Culture’s UK partnerships and projects lead. Professor Bao’s lecture focussed on the work of Chinese artist Xiyadie, who uses traditional Chinese paper cutting techniques as a way to express his erotic fantasies, and media platforms used and run by the LGBTQIA+ community in South East Asia. Professor Bao also discussed some interesting methodologies – I am indebted to him for mentioning ‘scavenger theory’ (Halberstan, 1998). Our second keynote was a rollercoaster ride through the world of Google’s Arts & Culture arm. Suhair took us through the myriad of projects that Google Arts & Culture have developed, such as #OpenHeritage, #BigBanginAR, #ScientificSuperpowers and, of course, #ArtSelfie, stating that “there is no end purpose, [the projects are] meant to evoke serendipity, and be fun and engaging.” A fun fact shared with the audience was that Google allegedly does not store any photos uploaded on the #ArtSelfie app, removing the photos once there is an identified match.
Two big organising lessons were learnt by this year’s committee: namely that international Skype is always going to be a technical challenge, and that 30 minutes is the optimum time for a coffee break! I would like to thank my fellow organising committee members, Katrin Schindel, Elena Terranova, and Rebecca Young, for being such a brilliant team to work with over the past six months.
We wish to thank all speakers and delegates for taking the time to prepare such engaging papers and contribute to a very fruitful two days of discussion and debate – we hope to see you again next year!
I’m coming to the end of the first year of my British Academy Postdoctoral Research project on Immersive Promotional Media (IPM). This is a 3-year project which will use interviews, focus group and analysis of immersive marketing campaigns to paint a clearer picture of what immersive promotional media is, how it is being used within marketing strategies, and what value it provides to audiences and producers.
Marketers have been experimenting with these kinds of experiences for some time. With large budgets at their disposal and brands desperate to reach consumers through a haze of digital noise, Gilmore & Pine’s (1999) Experience Economy seems to be reaching its zenith with the emergence of the Immersive Economy. Films, games, TV series and consumer products as diverse as cider and electric cars have been promoted using immersive techniques and technologies. Yet very little research addresses how these experiences function in marketing contexts.
This project attempts to get a better understanding of IPM, how it works and who it benefits by looking at the following key research questions:
What is immersive promotional media? As more technologies and marketing strategies start to emerge, the terminology becomes increasingly vague. What does immersive marketing encompass and what does it exclude?
Do these strategies establish significantly new aesthetic, narrative and affective experiences and relationships between consumers, brands and marketers?
If so, what is the nature of these new relationships and how are they established?
What value does this hold for consumers and producers? Who benefits from these new configurations of texts and experiences, and in what way?
What is at stake when we invite audiences to become ‘immersed’ not only in a piece of storytelling or narrative world but in something which is (explicitly or otherwise) a piece of branded content? What are the textual, ethical, financial and regulatory implications of this mode of address?
This past year I have mostly been preoccupied with the initial question, which has proved more challenging than I anticipated! The term ‘immersive’ is significantly overused, to the point that many have bemoaned its lack of meaning as an analytical tool (Calleja 2011; White 2011). As a result, the quest to define ‘immersive’ promotional media, is necessary to this project but also a highly frustrating endeavour!
But this focus on tech tends to exclude non-digital immersive promotional experiences. High-profile immersive theatre producers Punchdrunk have been involved with several corporate projects for brands including Sony, Heineken and Stella Artois, providing in-depth branded storytelling experiences in physical spaces. However, in marketing-speak, this kind of campaign is more readily described as ‘experiential marketing’, whereby which enable personal, usually face to face interactions with or between consumers in real life settings. ‘Immersive marketing’ tends to describe campaigns which use immersive technologies like VR or AR. Yet the distinction between the two is blurry and both seem to work towards similar goals of consumer-centered, experience-focussed events and/or content. The two are not mutually exclusive and often combine in what some marketers describe as ‘phygital’ (physical + digital) approaches.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
This installation at London’s King’s Cross station encompassed a giant T-Rex statue, gyroscopes manned by ‘park rangers’ encouraging children to clamber inside for instagrammable photo ops, and theme music which played as travellers exited trains on selected platforms. Finally, an ominously branded shipping container appeared outside the station. Despite its appearance, it was not housing angry dinosaurs but a less threatening handful of plastic chairs and Oculus VR headsets. Curious commuters were treated to the short VR film Jurassic World: Blue, in which they were guided across the doomed Islar Nublar by beginnings of the volcanic eruption that is the focus of the start of the film.
Giggs Big Bad album launch (2019)
An AR mural in Shoreditch designed to promote the London rapper’s recent album launch. Prompted by a QR code on the wall, passers-by could activate an AR app on their phone which, when held up to the wall brought the mural to life.
Absolut Silverpoint (2016)
This collaboration between Punchdrunk, Absolut Vodka, Somethin Else and the Andy Warhol Foundation devised a mobile app game based on Warhol’s lesser-known Silverpoint sketches. Players who reached the latter levels of the game then became embroiled in a live performance that took place across streets, cafes and bars in London.
Immersion here is not about technology so much as the nature of the audience’s experience. Calleja’s 6 ‘dimensions of involvement’ (2011), might provide a more useful framework for conceptualising the ‘I’ in IPM as a spectrum of audience experiences connected by several shared characteristics.
These campaigns offer an idea of what ‘immersive’ marketing looks like beyond individual technologies. Whether they are really establishing radical new forms of brand storytelling and audience/brand relationships are yet to be seen. It is still unclear precisely what kind of value IPM holds for stakeholders as varied as brands, agencies, technology providers and audiences themselves. Future work on the project will investigate this further using interviews and focus groups with people who both make and consume immersive promotional media.
The Feminist Research Reading Group has emerged out of the LISS-facilitated “Feminist Methods” seminar that took place at King’s College in the summer of 2018. The group is run by three PhD students, Sarah Louise Marks (Business School, Queen Mary), Sally King (Global Health & Social Medicine, King’s), and Katrin Schindel (CMCI, King’s).
Our aim is to continue discussing the issues raised in the “Feminist Methods” seminar, especially in regards to our own research, as well as to connect feminist researchers among departments and universities in London. We are mostly PhD students from King’s College and Queen Mary University, but open to interested MA students and staff as well. At past meetings, we also had attendees from other universities as well as outside of academia.
We meet once a month on a Tuesday during lunchtime (lunch will be provided!) for a discussion of pre-circulated readings. Each session is usually led by a volunteer who has picked the session’s reading. We always welcome new volunteers - this is a great way to either discuss a feminist issue that relates to your dissertation or explore a new topic in more detail.
At our last meeting, we were able to welcome our first guest speaker. Dr Catherine Rottenberg from the University of Nottingham who spoke to us about her latest book, The Rise of Neoliberal Feminism, which explores the gendered discourses around work-life balance. The talk was followed by a vibrant discussion of feminist issues regarding working in academia. Due to the success of this meeting, we are planning to have more guest speakers in the future. For our next meeting September, we have invited CMCI’s own Dr Christina Scharff, who will speak to us about feminist methodology, in particular interviewing techniques – thus returning to the origins of this group.
CMCI’s Dr Roberta Comunian has been having her say on the recent debate about the future of creative arts education in the United Kingdom in response to the recent Augar Review.
She was invited, along with Scott Brook of RMIT University in Australia, to contribute with a blog entry, hosted by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) and led by “innovation foundation” NESTA (formerly the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts).
Drs Comunian andBrook argue that “Degrees do not necessarily need to be seen as pecuniary investments” (the belief that unless one gets a financial return on one’s investment, they have no value). “They are investments in many other forms of value that may or may not be redeemable in financial returns”. They add: “rather than cutting funding and discounting student career outcomes, we need to put pressure on HE providers to make the public value of creative vocations explicit, as well as improve creative graduate outcomes within and beyond the creative sector”.
Out this month… A special number of Fashion Theory, guest edited by CMCI’s Dr Joanne Entwistle, along with Emma McClendon of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
This special issue on “The Body: Fashion and Physique” includes an introductory letter from the guest editors, while Dr Entwistle concludes with a discussion on “Fashion Diversity”.
Fashion Theory is the academic journal of Dress, Body & Culture, and it aims to provide: “an interdisciplinary forum for the rigorous analysis of cultural phenomena ranging from footbinding to fashion advertising.” Their website is at: https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rfft20/current
Joanne Entwistle is Reader in Cultural and Creative Industries; Emma McClendon is Associate Curator of Costume at the museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology.
There’s been quite a media stir over Dr Kate McMillan’s report on the representation of female artists in the UK. Headline findings include that nearly 70 percent of artists represented by London’s top galleries are men.
It’s the latest in annual series of reports commissioned by the Freelands Foundation, which aims further to understand the role that gender plays in artists’ careers.
CMCI is teaming up with University of Notre Dame (USA), The Society for Cinema and Media Studies, and King’s own Film Studies department to present a three-day symposium: London: Gateway to Cinema and Media Studies.
The event will consider London’s rich history and complex future in relation to cinema and media studies. Keynote speakers include Charlotte Brunsdon, University of Warwick, and Ian Christie, Birkbeck, University of London.
Panels include “London as Industry Hub”, chaired by our own Professor Paul McDonald, while our head of department Dr Sarah Atkinson will speak on “From Film Walks to Film M-apps: London as Location and the Cinemafication of the City”. Other speakers come from across the UK and USA.
We are delighted to announce the launch of CMCI-kings.org, a new website for the department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries here at King’s. It is designed to showcase all the latest research, impact and thinking from our academic staff and research students.
Writing in the first “edition”, Professor Jeanette Steemers explains that even though CMCI is already represented on the existing College website, that doesn’t have enough space to highlight the full range of our research activities as and when they happen.
It’s also the place that brings together our other online activities including this CMCI news blog, our Twitter feed and Facebook pages. We plan to highlight four items a month in this pilot phase, and the website team are also working on a social media strategy and a monthly newsletter which will bring stories by email to students, staff, alumni –and anyone else who wants to keep up to date with the research we do.
The new site is very definitely a collaborative effort and Professor Steamers offers her special thanks to CMCI PhD students Elena Terranova, Taylor Annabell, and Rebecca Young for bringing the project to fruition, in addition to Dr Christine Singer for designing the pilot back in the summer of 2018.
It’s an absolute pleasure to see the launch of the CMCI-Kings.org website today.
The launch represents the culmination of efforts by CMCI staff and students together to provide an accessible and up-to-the-minute resource about what is happening in the Department, which contributes to our community.
It is very definitely a collaborative effort and I’d like to offer special thanks to our wonderful PhD students, Elena (Terranova), Taylor (Annabell) and Rebecca (Young) for bringing the project to fruition this month, and to Dr Christine Singer for designing the pilot back in the summer of 2018.
So why do we need our own electronic presence? After all, we have the College but that doesn’t have much space to highlight the full range of our research and activities as and when they happen.
If you want to write about your research or simply an issue you think deserves greater attention, then don’t hesitate to get in contact with our team at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to review an event, King’s or external, or a publication then get in touch. If you would like to publish an opinion piece or a set of reflections or an interview, then we’d like to hear from you. Posts inspired by conferences or reading groups you are organising or are attending, or creative projects you are involved with, are especially welcome.
You don’t have to write very much – 500 to 1000 words, and we might approach you to commission a piece. Because a key aim is that we get to know more about what is happening within the department so that we can stimulate face to face encounters, which might help us with new collaborations or new insights.
The website is designed to highlight CMCI research, impact and thinking from both research students and staff. It’s also the place that brings together our other online activities including the CMCI news blog, Twitter feed and Facebook pages. We hope to publicise four posts a month in this pilot phase, and the website team are working on a social media strategy and a monthly newsletter which will bring stories by email to students and staff. This is where we need your help, so please publicise the site within the Department, the College and externally and encourage people to sign up to our newsletter by emailing us at email@example.com.
We hope you enjoy our first stories and if you have any ideas about the website or want to contribute, please get in touch.
For the last year, I have been part of a project called ‘Energy in Store’ working with the Science Museum Group (SMG) to consider how museums can better meet the needs of diverse audiences. In particular, we have been looking at new ways of working with ‘enthusiast experts’ that could benefit not only the experts themselves but also new generations of researchers, the museum and the wider public.
Enthusiast experts, in the context of the Science Museum, are enthusiast historians of technology who often include former professional engineers, model builders or even inventors. These are people who have detailed knowledge, networks and practical skills that are vital to shedding new light on the collections, and also to bringing them to life. They are often the stalwarts of volunteer museums and demonstration sites across the UK. This is an audience group that has received relatively little attention from museums or policymakers in recent years, but one that plays a vital and under-recognised part of the heritage community in the UK and elsewhere. Through the project we wanted to draw attention to their particular skills and understandings of museum objects, enabling better interpretation of the parts of the SMG collection that are not currently on public display. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”608″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row 0=””][vc_column 0=””][vc_column_text 0=””]The substantial cuts in public funding experienced by museums in recent years have had an impact on their capacity to answer (often rather detailed) queries from enthusiast experts and to offer the level of access to the collections that researchers may expect. A large proportion of our project involved unpicking assumptions made by museum staff about what these researchers want, but also enhancing the enthusiast expert’s understanding around how collections management works and what happens behind the scenes in a museum.
We did this through holding a series of structured discussions over the course of a year between a group of enthusiast experts and curators and museum collections care and conservation staff. Together we visited the SMG collections stores in West London, and Wroughton, as well as the SMG sites in London and Manchester, often using objects as prompts for discussion.
Our meetings focused particularly on objects relating to the history of energy production and distribution. This was an interesting case study because energy technologies can be a challenge to collect, store and make accessible. Also, energy objects are often hard to manage because of their scale, or the fact that they reflect just small parts of enormous ‘networked infrastructures’, meaning that these objects can be hard to make sense of on their own.
It was a revelation to most of the enthusiast experts to see just how much happens behind the scenes when a research visit to see an object in storage is requested and just how much time and resources dealing with requests can take. We worked together to map out all of the individual steps involved in making a request and it showed that the process could be streamlined and made more transparent, thus benefitting both members of the public and museum staff. This is something that the Museum is going to work on going forwards.
It also became clear that enthusiast experts have their own distinct needs and research practices which perhaps do not always align with traditional museum collections management processes. For example, it is not always helpful to be shown just a single object on a research visit, as comparing a number of similar objects is a key way of understanding a collection. This isn’t currently a form of access that is available. However, SMG are considering whether and how it will be possible for researchers to ‘browse’ collections in their new collections centre in Wroughton. Offering this kind of access sounds easy, but it would mean thinking through a number of complex issues including how this could be resourced effectively.
By the end of the project, we were able to draw some findings which we have shared with the Museum. But we are certain that these would also be valuable for other museums who have similar collections or who have enthusiast expert communities (probably nearly all museums!). These include recommendations around sharing collections documentation, digital futures and encouraging social networks around stored collections (see our report below for more details).
Expert enthusiasts are uniquely placed to deepen existing understandings of stored collections reinvigorating them and adding new layers of meaning through their research practices, networks and connections. If we consider them as key actors within the wider ecology of heritage, then their involvement in the museum becomes essential for the sustainability and ongoing life of the collection.
The project was documented by Aura Films and has a publicly accessible archive on YouTube.
Here you can download a copy o the 2-page report on the project.
Energy in Store was funded by the AHRC (official name, ‘Integrating Forms of Care: Building Communities of Practice Around Reserve Collections)
At a recent session of the Culture Memory Group, Professor Andrew Hoskins from the University of Glasgow invited us to consider the significance of forgetting in understanding memory and in particular, approaching memory in the digital media ecology. In my PhD project I have followed the path of memory studies in focusing on memory yet thinking about the entanglement of memory and forgetting sheds light on the way young women engage in digital memory work in my case study.
Hoskins suggests that forgetting is memory’s silent partner, which remains elusive in research. How do we begin to conceptualise what forgetting is and how might this be represented? The challenge is to move beyond forgetting as loss of memory or as absence and erasure. It is also connected to latency and the potential for something to become memory. Digital forgetting is dynamic, not static because the flows of digital data reshape how we think about presence and absence.
A key theme in digital memory studies is the increased potential and uncertainty for digital traces to be discovered and disseminated unpredictably after the moment in which they were recorded or archived, as part of the entanglement of machine, human, and memory. Hoskins dubs this as emergence. The past lurks in new and unpredictable ways. It emerges. On a personal level you may experience this when Facebook reminds you ‘On This Day’ five years ago, you posted this, or you receive a notification that someone has scrolled back and retweeted an old opinion you wish you never had. The conventional expectation that media stabilises, strengthens and secures memory is undermined as the digital renders the past as more uncertain.
Nevertheless, we are lulled into a false sense that we can achieve total memory and that this can be controlled through the apps, platforms, and devices we use. Forgetting can occur through the erasure of traces. Hoskins situates this as part of a mode of digital forgetting, the present made past. The present is recorded and instantly archived.
Reflecting on the pilot research I am conducting, I can see empirical support for this. Participants discussed the way they actively performed digital memory work on Facebook and Instagram through sharing practices. The present is continually being made the past. Interestingly, the need to digitally remember bleeds into the experience of the present. This is exemplified through the way that one young woman reflected on her Instagram posts and stories of a trip to Paris with her friends. The digital memory work was not confined to the platform or reflection of the past experience in the present. Rather, it was part of the trip itself. Some of the places they went, outfits they wore and how time was spent was in anticipation of the recording and archiving that would occur.
The erasure of digital traces can also be interpreted as a form of digital forgetting. For example, one participant removed images of a previous romantic relationship or posts that had made sense at the time in which they were uploaded but no longer did. In my work I had framed digital memory work around selectivity, belonging and trust. Forgetting offers another way to tease about the affective dimension of remembering. The expectations cultivated among users is that social media spaces should be used for sharing positive and celebratory memories. One participant summarised this as sharing highlights, not only referring to her use of Instagram Stories Highlights but the way posts reflected the best moments of her life. The selectivity of digital memory work means that certain types of memories do not belong in this social space. These are forgotten.
My observations of the way young women navigate, post and interact on Facebook and Instagram examines their performances. If digital memory work also involves forgetting, how do I capture this in the design of my research? Already I have observed in the case of one participant a removal of previous Instagram posts prior to 2019 but only due to its magnitude. This echoes Hoskins question of how forgetting is represented.
For Hoskins an interdisciplinary and collaborative project with the artist Shona Illingworth called Topologies of Air is helping him think this through. In one art piece, there are layers of images, YouTube stills, drone vision, maps and shattered glass over an aerial depiction of Aleppo. The clustering of images across time and space, he suggests, allows him to consider how events are remembered and forgotten within this context. Extending this, a participant’s social media profile could be considered as a slice that could be layered upon one other over time. There are also layers of memory attached to each post. The memory of the experience the post refers to, the memory of posting and the memory of re-engaging with posted content. Attending to these layers of memory may allow for forgetting to emerge in new and useful ways.
As I continue to engage with pilot research that will guide the larger study, I carry a greater awareness of the way that intersections of digital forgetting and remembering might advance my understanding of the dynamics of memory and social media platforms.
Cultural Memory Group is a reading group based at King’s College London for postgraduate and early career researchers to gather to discuss concepts and theories in the field of memory studies. Through funding from the Faculty of Arts & Humanities in 2018/2019 the group has hosted a series of workshops and sessions with speakers centred on specific themes.
CMCI Emerging Voices is an annual conference led by PhD students at the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries (CMCI), in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities at King’s College London (KCL). The CMCI conference offers an opportunity for creating stimulating discussions around latest research and practices in the culture, media and creative industries fields. This year the conference celebrates its 6th edition. CMCI Emerging Voices 2019 will be, for the first time, a two-day conference.
The event will take place in Bush House, former headquarters of the BBC World Service (1940-2012) and now part of King’s College London on Thursday, 6th and Friday, 7th June 2019. With the theme of “Beyond Disciplines” this year’s conference celebrates new and emerging directions in the research of culture, media and creative industries that challenge how we understand and see technological, environmental, political, institutional and aesthetic developments that are shaping our cultural landscape. In particular, the conference wants to stimulate a discussion on how current research is contributing to their fields. Whether it is challenging how we think about existing structures, shaping how disciplines intersect through research or revisiting established ideas. The aim of Emerging Voices is to present works that contribute to the research of CMCI in new ways. The conference creates a space in which multi- and interdisciplinary research is produced, discussed and valued.
The programme of CMCI Emerging Voices 2019 includes original empirical and theoretical presentations by both researchers and practitioners from different disciplinary backgrounds and with a particular interest in Culture, Media and Creative Industries. 37 local and international speakers will come from all over the world, including Australia, France, USA, India, Philippine, Italy, Spain, Germany, and many others countries, to present their latest works. The presentations will tackle a broad variety of topics, such as articulations of gender, race, class, sexuality, etc. in media, culture and creative industries; audience engagement and participation; collaborative practices across the creative industries; contemporary museum practices; digital culture and everyday life and cultural and social memory. Last, but not least, CMCI Emerging Voices 2019 is delighted to have two keynote speakers with international profiles: Professor Hongwei Bao from The University of Nottingham and Suhair Khan Program Manager of Google Arts & Culture.
Keynote Speakers Profiles:
Professor Hongwei Bao is giving his keynote speech on Thursday, 6th June 2019. Professor Bao is Assistant Professor in Media Studies at the University of Nottingham and co-direct the Centre for Contemporary East Asian Cultural Studies (CEACS). He is also a member of the Institute for Screen Industries Research (ISIR) and Centre for Critical Theory (CCI) at Nottingham. Dr. Hongwei Bao is the author of Queer Comrades: Gay Identity and Tongzhi Activism in Postsocialist China (2018) and co-editor of Queer/Tongzhi China: Perspectives into Research, Activism and Media Cultures (2015).
He is currently working on a book on queer community media and cultural production in contemporary China. Dr. Hongwei Bao’s work primarily focuses on gay identity, queer activism, independent documentary and alternative media production in contemporary China. The subject of his keynote speech Queer China: Sexuality, Communication, and Culture in the Global South will bring together queer performances, images, and texts, in tandem with urban ethnography, to delve into the emerging queer cultures in urban China in the past two decades to interrogate the politics of being queer in the Global South.
Suhair Khan, Program Manager at Google Arts & Culture is presenting on June 7th, 2019. Suhair leads on UK Partnerships and projects for Google Arts & Culture. Currently based in London, her work focuses on the nexus of art, culture, storytelling and technology. A long-time Googler, she joined Google in Mountain View before moving to Singapore and then London. She is a graduate of both Cornell University and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Suhair grew up between Europe and Asia, and her interests and work have always drawn from an array of cultural and social influences.
She has written extensively over the years on art, fashion, design and culture for publications including Vogue, Conde Nast Traveler, and Architectural Digest. Her advisory roles center around social impact, culture and technology. In her keynote speech, Suhair will explore in detail the Google Arts & Culture online platform. Launched in 2011 by Google as part of the Google Cultural Institute this digital platform employs high-resolution image technology as well as Google’s Street View technology to provide visitors two options of exploring the museums and the artwork within. Todays, Google Arts & Culture grants public access to high-resolution images of artworks from the collections of more than 1,800 museums. The platform has helped preserve and share culture and allow curators to create engaging exhibitions online and offline, inside museums.
Friends and colleagues gathered for an event at King’s to toast the launch of CMCI’s Professor Paul McDonald’s latest book, which traces the career of actor-filmmaker George Clooney.
He begins with the hit television medical drama “ER” and proceeds up to 2017’s “Suburbicon”, showing the transition from commercial successes such as Ocean’s Eleven (2001) to more political films such as “Syriana”(2005).
McDonald places Clooney in the context of the Hollywood star system, but argues that on the one hand Clooney’s star persona has many similarities with that of traditional Hollywood movie stars such as Cary Grant, but at the same time sees Clooney as a very 21st century transmedia celebrity in the tradition of the “new” Hollywood. He’s a great example, then, of the transition between the two.
The programme and final details are out for our Emerging Voices Conference 2019, under the theme “Beyond Disciplines.”
The conference is organised by a team of volunteer PhD students here at the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries (CMCI), led by Lauren Cantillon, Katrin Schindel, Elena Terranova, and Rebecca Young.
It takes place from 6th- 7th June; the keynote speakers are Dr. Hongwei Bao, Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham, and Suhair Khan, Program Manager at Google Arts & Culture. It all takes place in the Exchange at Bush House, King’s College London, North East Wing, Aldwych, WC2B 4BG Strand, London.
The participation is free thanks to support from CMCI, who are covering catering and venue costs. The pathway 7: Linguistics, Media & Culture (LMC) of the London Interdisciplinary Social science Doctoral Training Partnership (LISS) have also contributed to the conference by supporting the travel and accommodation costs for the keynote speakers.
CMCI PhD student Lauren England in making waves in Australia, where she is presenting her research on UK craft higher education and professional practice.
She’s giving seminars at a number of Australian universities, presenting her research on the educational practices associated with professional development in UK craft degree programmes. She is also discussing approaches used by crafts graduates in establishing careers and businesses as independent creative producers.
This includes her recommendations for higher education providers, policy makers and craft sector stakeholders to facilitate the professional development of early-career makers and support the establishment of sustainable craft enterprise.
Lauren’s venues include the University of Melbourne, the University of South Australia, and the Australian National University. Her research is conducted in partnership with Crafts Council UK.
Congratulations to our head of Department, Dr Sarah Atkinson, who is the runner up in the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies 2019 Awards for Best Monograph.
Sarah has been honoured for her: From Film Practice to Data Process: Production Aesthetics and Representational Practices of a Film Industry in Transition, published by Edinburgh University Press.
The judges found this to be: “a timely, fascinating and informative book, using the close study of a particular film’s production as a means to reflect on important technological, industrial and theoretical developments. As well as an original contribution to the field, it offers an accessible path into a particularly exciting area of scholarship.”
CMCI’s Dr Harvey G Cohen has been heard on 15 National Public Radio shows across the United States celebrating jazz-master Duke Ellington’s celebrated “Black Brown and Beige” of 1943.
This was the Ellington orchestra’s debut at Carnegie Hall, at which he performed an ambitious 45-minute-long musical depiction of the African-American experience called: “Black, Brown andBeige”.
Appearing on “Night Lights” with David Brett Johnson, Cohen was joined by the celebrated jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, while the programme also featured the voice of Ellington himself, in addition to his music.
Dr Paul Sweetman’s report on Subcultures and Innovation for Knowledge Works (National Centre for Cultural Industries, Norway) has just been published. This is a report on a year-long project undertaken with Professors Atle Hauge (INN University, Norway) and Dominic Power (University of Stockholm), looking at subcultural innovation and creativity and subcultures’ contribution to the cultural and creative industries. Although the formal project has now come to an end, Paul and his colleagues’ work in this area is ongoing and will now be developed in additional research and publications. Knowledge Works, financed by the Norwegian Ministry of Culture, is a project-based knowledge centre involving a team of Norwegian and international researchers, developers, and industry stakeholders, with the aim of developing a comprehensive knowledge base about the cultural industries. The report is available on Knowledge Works’ website
On 2nd April, 2019 CMCI’s Professor Jeanette Steemers gave evidence to the House of Lords Select Communications Committee on Public Service Broadcasting and Video on Demand. The Committee was calling upon academic experts as part of its inquiry investigating whether there is a future for public service broadcasting in the context of the rising popularity of video on demand services. Amongst the lines of questioning, the Committee wanted to better understand the changing viewing habits of younger generations, and whether public service broadcasters’ obligations and privileges are still appropriate.
Congratulations to Jeanette for also being appointed Chair of the Steering Committee of Users for the Young Audiences Content Fund, launched on 1st April by the BFI.
On Wednesday February 13th the Creative Careers Student Committee welcomed a wonderful panel of speakers to discuss the future of diversity in the creative and cultural sector. Dr. Kate McMillan chaired the panel and lead the discussion with introductions from Saurabh Kakkar, Nadine Persaud, Hakeem Onibudo, Jodi-Alissa Bickerton, Amy Turton and Catherine Ritman-Smith. The discussion identified the problematic use of the term diversity, with the terms inclusivity, intersectionality and social justice deemed more accurate and sensitive to the reality. Jodi-Alissa and Hakeem discussed visibility, how seeing an image of yourself in the industry is welcoming and encourages one to feel a sense of belonging. For meaningful change we must, in Nadine’s words, ‘walk the walk’ and move beyond the discussion to create the change we want to see. Saurabh underlined the importance of the economic argument when presenting the benefits of diversity. Sometimes to actualise change, you have to make an argument that persuades people of its economic value beyond its intrinsic social value alone. Catherine touched upon the importance of education; learning the value of inclusivity through shared experience in schools and institutions, and Amy discussed education’s specific role in relation to unconscious bias, particularly within hiring practices.
Emma Áine O’Leary (member of the Committee) writes “We hope this brief overview encourages those not able to participate to consider the future of the creative and cultural sector and how we might embrace inclusivity and intersectionality going forward.” For more information on the speakers and the event visit the Creative Careers Student Committee website.
Many congratulations to Anna Lowe, graduate of CMCI’s Cultural & Creative Industries MA, who has been appointed Youth Engagement Tate Trustee by the The Board of Trustees of Tate. Anna will be bringing the views of the next generation to the highest level of Tate’s decision-making process. The appointment, which has been made by the Prime Minister, began on 1 March 2019 for a period of four years. Anna is the youngest serving Board member at a UK national museum or gallery. On her appointment, Maria Balshaw, Director of the Tate, said “I’m delighted to welcome Anna to Tate’s Board of Trustees. She has fantastic experience and networks on which to draw to bring new insight to the Board and to help shape Tate’s future.” CMCI is equally delighted for Anna, and looks forward to continuing close engagement with the Tate (including its collaborative MA modules), as she takes up this very exciting and hugely important role.
Congratulations to CMCI PhD student Yana Melkumova Reynolds, who together with Dr Laini Burton from Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Australia, has recently published an article on representations of disabled bodies in visual arts and lifestyle media in Fashion Theory journal. Focusing on three case studies – British performer Viktoria Modesta, American athlete and model Aimee Mullins, and Japanese artist Mari Katayama – the paper considers how the female amputee body is incorporated into the visual mainstream through the use of “fashionable” prostheses, how such prostheses de-medicalize disabled bodies and instead construct them as consumer bodies, and how—and if—fashion can help to disrupt ableist discourses of normalcy. Yana has also written an opinion piece for Vestoj magazine discussing Cambridge Analytica’s profiling matrix and the way it “weaponised” fashion labels and their social media following. Drawing on examples including Nike, Diesel and Gilette’s marketing campaigns, she considers whether brand allegiances can really reflect or shape political ideologies.
Dr Roberta Comunian has secured funding for a collaborative PhD scholarship in partnership with Creative United and Dr Elsa Arcaute, based at the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at UCL. The project, entitled “Complex Cultural Ecologies: capturing value through connections between public, private and not-for-profit organisations in the creative economy”, will explore the connections existing between publicly funded cultural organisations (PFCOs) and the creative and cultural industries (CCIs) with a specific focus on London and its cultural ecology across public, private and not for profit organisations. Using a complexity science perspective and integrating qualitative methods with social network analysis, the project aims to map the collaborative networks connecting PFCOs and CCIs and reflect on the motivations and benefits behind these interconnections. Applications for this scholarship from eligible students are welcome via the LAHP website, and you can read the full project overview here.
The CMCI PhD student community is pleased to open the call for papers for the 6th annual conference. This year’s theme is “Beyond Disciplines” and wants to celebrate new and emerging directions in the CMCI research that currently challenge how we understand and see technological, environmental, political, institutional and aesthetic developments that are shaping our cultural landscape.
The two-day conference will take place on 6th– 7th June 2019 and it will be hosted at Bush House. One confirmed Keynote Speaker is Professor Hongwei Baofrom The University of Nottingham, with more speakers to be announced shortly.
The BBC have published a commissioned article by CMCI’s Dr Christina Scharff titled: Why so many young women don’t call themselves feminist. Drawing on Christina’s research on young women in a neoliberal world, the article asks why it is that despite feminist movements attracting significant attention across Europe and North America, many young women still say they do not identify with the term. With up-to-date discussion of surveys and high-profile campaigns, Christina raises the question of what it means to be a feminist. She concludes with the ‘heartening’ observation that whichever label women choose to adopt, the vast majority of people now support equality. As a mark of the widespread interest in Christina’s piece, the article received over 600,000 hits in the first 36 hours alone.
CMCI’s Dr Roberta Comunian and Lauren England, PhD student, have recently published an article that explores the relationship between industrial and post-industrial knowledge in glassmaking in the UK in the journal Geoforum. Following the trajectory of glassmaking in Sunderland and Stourbridge the article explores how local industrial knowledge was reorganised outside of the factory into new craft-based glassmaking through processes of deskilling, reskilling and upskilling. It is argued that creative and cultural production is not just place-specific, it has a heritage, it evolves and can be ‘sticky’ in terms of located knowledge and skills.
Roberta and Lauren’s paper is free for everyone to download in the next 50 days.
Congratulations to Dr Red Chidgey whose recent talk at the Barbican Art Gallery on ‘Collaboration and Social Change’ was sold out. The talk was held in relation to the Barbican’s exhibition Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde, and aimed to throw new light on the inner workings of creative collaboration. Red guided the audience through artworks and intimate letters from a range of artists including Hannah Höch, Virginia Woolf, and Frida Kahlo. Amongst the themes raised were the thorny question of working rituals and artistic recognition; feminist disruptions of traditional ideas of womanhood; and queer invitations to re-think the creative couple beyond the human.
CMCI’s Dr Kate McMillan joined a panel of experts at Female Futures, on 18th January, 2019 at the Mall Galleries. The panel discussion invited the audience to reflect on such questions as ‘How much do you think the art world has changed since 2012, when the first Great East London Art Audit was carried out?’; and ‘What will the art world look like for today’s graduates in five years’ time?’ The event was part of FBA Futures 2019, the UK’s largest annual survey of emerging contemporary figurative art, mapping new practices and ideas of representation and draughtsmanship. Kate has been commissioned by the Freelands Foundation to undertake the 2019 report assessing gender in the visual arts across the UK.
Congratulations to Dr Ricarda Vidal who has published a brace of books to welcome in 2019. First is Revolve:R, the yellow edition, which (as you can tell from the accompanying image) is, indeed, an arresting yellow (third) edition of this artist book. It results from a 2-year-long correspondence between visual artists, poets, filmmakers and sound artists and comprises visual artworks, poetry, video art and soundscapes. Ricarda’s interest in intersemiotic translation is also extended in Translating across Sensory and Linguistic Borders: Intersemiotic Journeys between Media(co-edited with Madeleine Campbell). Systematically engaging with contemporary discourses across the performing arts, philosophy, religion and neuroscience, Ricarda’s book has been described as “a cutting-edge statement about how humans generate meaning in all areas of life.” (Karen Bennett, Nova University Lisbon)
Additionally, it is exciting to welcome Dr Hye-Kyung Lee’s brand-new Routledge Handbook of Cultural and Creative Industries in Asia (co-edited with Lorraine Lim). As the first handbook of CCIs in Asia, it offers interesting case studies from 12 different societies including not only East Asian cultural powerhouses but also many Southeast Asian countries as well as India. An added bonus – it includes a chapter on ‘The artepreneurial ecosystem in Singapore’, co-authored by CMCI’s Dr Roberta Comunian.
CMCI’s Professor Richard Howells is celebrating the New Year with the publication of the third edition of his Visual Culture (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2019).
Howells contends that since the first edition came out in 2003, the importance of taking the visual seriously -and learning how to read it- has only increased. His formerCMCI PhD student Dr Joaquim Negrieros came on board with the second edition in 2012, and this third edition (2019) adds new sections on taste and judgement; on images for power, fear and seduction; and on video games as new media. There is a new glossary, and for the first time the whole book is in colour with over 50 illustrations.
The cover (pictured) continues the tradition of the earlier editions by taking a “new media” perspective on a traditional oil painting –this time a manipulation of Gainsborough’s “Mrs and Mrs Andrews” of circa 1750. The original is in London’s National Gallery. Previous editions have been translated into Korean and Chinese.
Congratulations to CMCI student Ally Faughnan, who has won a £5,000 scholarship towards the cost of her MA with us.
Ally, who is a student on our MA in Arts and Cultural Management programme, won first place in the annual FindAMasters competition, for which she had submit a photograph / creative image and caption: “that captures what postgraduate study means” to her. The judges then asked the shortlisted candidates to submit a one-minute video from which they chose their winner.
Following on from her BA in Liberal Arts, also at King’s, Ally (pictured) combines her studies with work as a volunteer at the Victoria & Albert Museum, in addition to contributing to the arts and culture sections of the KCL newspaper and the Strand Magazine.
FindAMasters, a business that provides a searchable database of MA programmes around the world, have posted a video of Ally talking about her mission to make art galleries accessible to everyone, while also explaining how her CMCI optional module at Tate Modern helps her explore how this might be done.
Congratulations to CMCI Teaching Fellow Dr Eva Cheuk-Yin Li who has won the Outstanding Paper Award of the Hong Kong Studies Annual Conference.
Her paper, “The second life of Kowloon Walled City: Crime, media and cultural memory”, co-authored with Alistair Fraser (University of Glasgow), was selected from 300 journal articles generated from the Web of Science. Eva is proud now to be sponsored to present the paper in person in Hong Kong.
It is all about transmedia cultural memory of the Kowloon Walled City in colonial Hong Kong, which she describes as an instance of anarchic urbanism in the multidirectional global and inter-Asian cultural flow.
Hong Kong University’s Dr Tommy Tse continued the international theme of CMCI’s research seminars with a presentation on fashion and“prosumption” in China and Korea.
A specialist in East Asia’s media and cultural industries, Tommy (pictured) presented his research on the way in which production and consumption are increasingly interrelated in society, and the suggestion that this leads to the increased power of the consumer.
However, Dr Tse challenged the theoretical assumption that all types of ‘prosumer’ become directly empowered -especially by digital technology and that they actually have an equal opportunity to participate in the production process.
Tommy Tse is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at The University of Hong Kong. His presentation concludes CMCI’s autumn research seminar series: We start again in the new year with David Buckingham, Emeritus Professor in Media and Communications at Loughborough University, and a Visiting Professor at King’s, who will talk about “Growing up Modern: Writing the history of childhood, youth and popular culture since 1945.” This will take place on Wednesday, January 30th from 16.00-18.00, in room G.01, Norfolk Building, Stand Campus. All are welcome.
CMCI has become part of a three-year research project aiming to reshape the economic and social perception of the Cultural and Creative Industries.
Led by the University of Turku, Finland, it is a consortium of social and economic research institutes, cultural managers and creative workers from six European countries.
Under the acronym DISCE (Developing Inclusive and Sustainable Creative Economies), it is funded by the European Commission under the Horizon2020 programme and aims to reassess the role of the Cultural and Creative Industries in cities and regions across the European Union.
The CMCI contingent is made up of Dr Roberta Comunian, Dr Bridget Conor, Dr Jonathan Gross and Professor Nick Wilson, starting in January 2019.
In addition to lead coordinators from Turku, members of the consortium include the Gran Sasso Science Institute (GSSI) from Italy; the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) in Riga, Latvia; the Belgian-based non-profit consultancy Culture and Media Agency Europe aisbl (CUMEDIAE); and the Swedish-based European network Trans Europe Halles (TEH).
What don’t you normally see when you watch a reality television programme? The answer is –or should be- the “warm-up” act; the entertainers who routinely perform before and during breaks in the televised show.
These professionals are an important part of the craft of making TV in front of a live audience, but are little recognised in both the industry and related academic research.
Visiting speaker Annette Hill, however, went some way to putting that right in her CMCI research seminar in which she spoke about her research into this “absent presence” in contemporary television.
Annette (pictured), who is a Professor of Media and Communication at Lund University, Sweden, and currently Visiting Professor here at King’s College London, argued that study of the warm-up act highlighted “cruel optimism” of the creative industries today.
Next up: Guest speaker Dr Tommy Tse, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at The University of Hong Kong will present his research into fashion consumption in Korea and China. The seminar takes place on Wednesday, 28 November, from 16.00-18.00, in room G.01, Norfolk Nuilding, Strand campus. As ever, there will be the opportunity for questions and discussion after the presentation.
We are delighted to announce that CMCI will be hosting the international Museums in Arabia conference here at King’s in 2019. It’s part of an established series that operates as a collaborative network for exploring the theory and practice of museums and heritage in the Arabian Peninsula.
The conference will be investigating how different cultural, political, social and economic actors are involved in and shape cultural practices within museums, arts and cultural heritage institutions? And how is this key question addressed within the rapidly developing and complex landscape of the Arabian Peninsula?
The event is jointly organised by CMCI’s Dr. Serena Iervolino and Dr. Sarina Wakefield of Zayed University, United Arab Emirates, who also chairs the series.
Supported by both King’s and CMCI, the conference takes place from 26-28 June 2019. If you are interested in presenting a paper at the conference, abstracts of up to 400 words should be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Further details are available from Dr. Serena Iervolino (pictured) at email@example.com
CMCI’s Professor Richard Howells continues his (academic) interest in art forgery with a review of Shaun Greenhalgh’s autobiography: A Forger’s Tale: Confessions of the Bolton Forger inThe Times Higher Education.
Greenhalgh is self-taught man from Lancashire who claims to have fooled the fine art establishment with a variety of fake works of art including “La Bella Principessa” (pictured) -which is attributed by others to Leonardo da Vinci. He made a comfortable living from it all until he was caught and sentenced to more than four years in prison.
Howells concludes: “Could his autobiography be one of Greenhalgh’s finest creations?”
Professor Howells has published a number of items on art forgery and also appeared on BBC television talking about his prized (by him) collection of fake drawings supposedly by LS Lowry.
We are delighted to Amanda Lagerkvist as Visiting Scholar a CMCI. Amanda is Associate Professor of Media and Communication Studies and a fellow of the Wallenberg Academy in Sweden.
Describing herself as a “media phenomenologist”, Amanda (pictured) also heads the research programme “Existential Terrains: Memory and Meaning in Cultures of Connectivity” in the Department of Media Studies at Stockholm University. She has a particular focus on “death online”, and her work develops a theoretical framework for existential media studies, focusing on digital-human vulnerabilities of online mourning, commemoration, and the digital afterlife.
Her work has been widely published including a monograph Media and Memory in New Shanghai: Western Performances of Futures Past (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). She is currently writing a monograph entitled Existential Media which is contracted with the Oxford University Press.
Our Head of Department, Dr Sarah Atkinson, has been on the road and on the air talking about her research on gender and the virtual reality industry.
Funded by the Canadian-backed Refiguring Innovation in Games Project, Sarah’s activities have been numerous and varied, including a two-day workshop here at KCL which brought together 20 leading women from the VR sector to work on a manifesto for the industry.
The vision was formally launched at two industry technology conferences – the new.New Festival in Stuttgart, Germany and the Augmented World Expo festival in Munich. Sarah is pictured (left) with project collaborators Helen W. Kennedy and Catherine Allen.
She then went on to present the research findings at the ReFig annual conference at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and is currently working on a related publication with Vicki Callahan at the University of Southern California: Atkinson, S. and Callahan, V. (2018) Mixed Realities: Gender, Precarity, and New Models of Work in the Convergence Economy, Wane State University Press.
The project has received a great deal of media interest including an interview with Sarah and colleagues on the BBC World Service “Click” programme. You can hear it and Sarah at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3cswhf7
CMCI’s Professor Jeanette Steemers reports two reports, wrapping up her Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project “Children’s Screen Content in an Era of Forced Migration: Facilitating Arab-European Dialogue”, which has now officially reached completion.
It’s not always obvious what CMCI people do when they are not at work. This blog does not seek to pry into their private lives…. but we can reveal that our programme administrator Rebecca Whitaker has returned from a week volunteering with Help Refugees in Calais, France.
Help Refugees are a grass-roots charity created in the final months of the Calais “Jungle”, and they seek to provide food, clothes, and shelter. Becca kicked off her contribution by working in “Tent World” (pictured), admitting in her blog: “For someone who doesn’t much like camping and is fairly short, tent world was a challenge…”
And so to the kitchen, where she put in hard hours peeling garlic -a big job when you consider that the Refugee Community Kitchen serves around 2000 meals every day in Calais and Dunkirk.
CMCI’s Dr Kate McMillan appears in a new television documentary on the Australian artist Sidney Nolan.
Made by ABC in Australia, it explores and celebrates the work of one of the country’s best-known artists, proceeding from his early years to his international career and all the success -and turmoil- that came with it.
Kate (pictured from the film) contributed to the section that explores Nolan’s works on Aboriginal deaths in custody which were never shown in Australia.
The film aired in Australia earlier this month, but is scheduled to be shown on the BBC shortly. We’ll let you know when.
There cannot be too many PhD students who are combining their studies with opening their own art gallery, but step forward CMCI’s Tommaso Calabro!
Tomasso (pictured) has marked the opening of his new gallery in Milan’s Piazza San Sepolcro with his inaugural exhibition: “Twombly and Tancredi: Homage to Cardazzo”.
And although his premises in the Palazzo Mariettiare are distinctly neo-classical, Tommaso is determinedly specialising in modern and contemporary art.
His opening exhibition pays homage to the Italian gallerist and art dealer Carlo Cardazzo (1908-1963), and to two artists he particularly admired: Cy Twombly (1928-2011) and Tancredi Parmeggiani (1927-1964). It runs until November 30th at Tommaso Calabro Galleria D’Arte, Piazza San Sepolcro, 220123 Milan, Italy: see http://www.tommasocalabro.com
Tomasso is currently pursuing his doctoral studies in CMCI, researching a thesis on the establishment of value in the contemporary art market. His supervisor is Professor Richard Howells.
We are delighted to share some pictures and a video from Dr Kate McMillan’s commissioned work for the XXIV Rohkunstbau Festival at Schloss Leiberose, Germany.
Her Instructions for Another Future (my feet are ears), 2018, took the form of an HD digital film projection, 5.54, handmade airdryed clay hagstones, hagstone, spraypaint, and theatre lights. The sound included ‘Platter Process Two’ by Reluctant Carnivore/Karl Ockelford, developed in collaboration with the artist.
Congratulations to CMCI’s Dr Leung Wing-Fai on the e-publication of her new book: Digital Entrepreneurship, Gender and Intersectionality: An East Asian Perspective.
Her book is the result of qualitative research focusing on Internet start-ups, digital entrepreneurship, race and sex discrimination, and the “sharing economy”.
It addresses intersections between gender, age, ethnicity and class with a focus on start-up founders- including many husband and wife teams– in order to understand the working and private lives of digital entrepreneurs in and from Taiwan.
The book places all this against a backdrop of the country’s political, social and economic history, while investigating contemporary debates about entrepreneurship as they are experienced by new generations of start-uppers who challenge existing social and cultural norms by becoming creative workers and embracing the precarity that exists in the volatile digital economy.
A senior CMCI academic is working with one of our current PhD students to organize a workshop in Singapore.
It’s a collaboration between Dr Roberta Comunian, CMCI’s Reader in Creative Economy, and PhD student Denderah Rickmers, under the title: “Social enterprise, social innovation & the creative economy: current knowledge and shared research agendas”.
The workshop is being developed with Andrea Nanetti and Peer Sathikh based at the Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), and will lead to the preparation of a special issue of the Social Enterprise Journal in 2019.
CMCI’s Dr Jo Entwistle has been in Chile as part of a symposium event at the Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez in Santiago.
The theme was: ‘Cultural Mediators in the Digital Age’. This was the second leg of a symposium series, the first of which was hosted by us in CMCI last September at King’s.
Jo also gave a guest lecture the Chilean journalism and media studies students. She hopes that more connections will come out of this in the future, together with journal article and a Spanish language book translating her talk.
CMCI’s 2018-19 research seminar series got off to an excellent start with a controversial and well-attended presentation on secrecyand historic photographs in post-Mao China.
Our speaker was Margaret Hillenbrand, Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture and Tutorial Fellow in Chinese at Wadham College, University of Oxford.
Under the title “Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China”, Professor Hillenbrand discussed the “missing histories” of contemporary China, and argued that conventional narratives of amnesia and censorship do not adequately explain why certain events have failed to gain commemorative traction in the present.
Her research into this area focuses aesthetic objects that she calls photo-forms – works which “riff” on well-known historical photographs (such as of Tiananmen Square in June 1989) and serve as spaces in which public secrecy emerges.
CMCI Senior Lecturer Dr Paul Sweetman is back from Norway where he gave two talks about his current research project on subcultures and innovation.
On this project, Paul is working on with professors Atle Hauge (INN, Norway), and Dominic Power (Stockholm University).
Paul’s first Norwegian talk was a research seminar in the Department of Tourism, Creative Industries and Marketing at the Inland Norway University of Applied Science, and the second formed part of a day -long seminar at Fabrikken, Lillehammer, attended by policy makers and practitioners, and co-sponsored by organisations including Knowledge Works (who are also funding the subcultures and innovation project as a whole) and Arts Council Norway.
Our photograph shows Paul in action in front of a famous headline from the history of subcultures.
Nick Wilson, CMCI’s newest (“full”) Professor, is celebrating his promotion with a clutch of books and articles just launched:
First is his co-edited collectionThe Palgrave Handbook of Creativity at Work (2018). Already nick-named “The big yellow book of creativity”, this features 30 research-based chapters from international writers and practitioners drawn from across the world. Nick is particularly pleased to to see fellow CMCI colleagues and alumni, Dr Roberta Comunian, Dr Jonathan Gross, Dr Birgit Wildt, Dr Brigid McClure, Dr Toby Bennett and Dr Laura Speers also contributing to this handbook.
Nest, Nick’s article “What’s the Problem? Cultural Capability and Learning from Historical Performance” is featured in the inaugural edition of a new journal in arts and humanities – Historical Performance (Indiana Press). This piece brings together Nick’s work on the early music movement, cultural entrepreneurship and cultural capability.
Here’s a chance to catch CMCI’s Dr Anna Woodham talking about her Heritage and Climate Change project –and getting the key points over in just one minute.
It’s one of a series of mini-videos about the link between climate change, museums, collecting and discussions under their “care for the future” theme. The short videos are designed for social media with auto play and subtitles.
Providing Children’s Content in an Era of Migration: Challenges and Opportunities
Review by Public Media Alliance, 24 September 2018 Access the original post here.
European and Middle Eastern practitioners, producers, public broadcast representatives, academics, children’s media experts and the PMA gathered at King’s College London to discuss children’s content provision, with a focus on diversity and migration.
Both practitioners and research conducted by Childwise show that children are becoming increasingly concerned about current affairs, and are more worried about conflict than anything else, especially in the UK. Yet, they lack content that effectively explains that reality to them.
For many participants a key question was “how do we get kids to discover kids like them?” in the quest for creating content that has an authentic voice. It was decided that the crucial step would be to find the universal nature of these stories – the real link between characters and audiences – to create a meaningful connection.