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Policy and research

22 questions about the creative economy: what do you think?

21 March 2016

I really enjoyed my recent session with Dr Jenny Kidd’s Cultural and Creative Industries students – a third year undergraduate group numbering almost 60. As a way of structuring a discussion, I set out 22 questions facing the UK creative economy in 2016. In order to trigger a second stage of debate, I invited the students to rank the questions in terms of their importance to each individual.

The pattern of responses is very interesting. One highly ranked question was the one which focused upon how to get a job in the creative economy – this included an excellent discussion about the creative dimension of jobs in social care for the elderly and estate agency, underlining the point that the development of creative skills is increasingly important across the whole economy, not just in the creative industries. No surprise, though, that a group of final year undergraduates have their minds on the jobs market. Judging by their liveliness in this session, they don’t need to worry.

So, which other questions made the top six, according to the students? Well, number one, by some distance, was a question which raised the issue of social media’s impact upon young people’s lives, in terms of the time they consume and, according to some accounts, their contribution to mental ill-health.

Credit: Flickr_Mitch Altman
Credit: Flickr_Mitch Altman

The jobs question came second behind social media’s ill-effects, followed by a closely bunched set of questions on the following themes: big data; the robotisation of jobs, the latest developments in digital music and digital turbulence in the news industry. A third and smaller bunch of top concerns covered the controversy about the market power of the big American internet platforms; conflicts over governance of the internet and the future of the BBC.

We also ran a few show-of-hands questions on topical issues. These showed the following: none of these students regularly buys a newspaper; nearly all of them regularly use the BBC; and most would rather the UK did not leave the European Union.

Following this opening blog, members of Jenny’s class are invited to offer their own thoughts. And if anyone else would like to join in, be our guest. The questions as framed for the discussion are set out below.

The UK creative economy: 22 questions for 2016

1. Big Data. Is ‘Big Data’ the ‘crude oil of the digital, creative economy’ or its asbestos? Bearing in mind issues such as privacy, ‘trolling’ and other social concerns?

2. Robots. Who will lose their jobs to robots this year in the next five years? Will creative jobs be resistant to the growth of machine or artificial intelligence?

3. Music. Is Spotify (or Deezer or other music streaming services) the long-imagined ‘celestial jukebox’? Is this, in effect, a solution to the vexed problem of theft of copyright-protected music files on the internet?

4. News. In the last 20 years, the aggregate sale of UK national newspapers has fallen by half. Yet this week, the first new national newspaper (excluding Scotland) was launched. Is the newspaper dying or being re-born? Or have we simply found better ways of making and sharing news in the digital era?

5. Platforms. Can anyone make a successful business model based upon advertising on the internet other than the major technology platforms, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple? Are these companies too big and too powerful? Should politicians or competition authorities break them up? Has Silicon Valley set a moral as well as a technological example?

6. VR for all. Is consumer targeted virtual reality going to be the ‘new new thing’ of 2016? Or is there something else out there waiting to surprise us?

7. Internet rules. Does it matter that no-one knows who runs the internet or indeed how to run the internet?

8. Artificial emotional intelligence. Are computers capable of emotional intelligence? If they are, how would this affect the video games scene?

9. Shopping. As Amazon hooks up with Morrisons and Sainsbury bids to control Argos, what are the prospects for the high street and e-commerce in 2016? Has digital shopping reached its limits or only just got started?

10. Social media. Are social media bad for your mental health? Is 3 to 5 hours a day of online activity bad for young people or a new normal? Relax!

11. IOT. The Internet of Things was supposed to bring us the fridge that orders food to re-fill itself. Where will be the next areas of sensor saturation?

12. Europe. Does Europe want or need a continental-scale market in digital products and services? Will it get the go-ahead for one in 2016?

13. Video. The internet is filling up – with video. What are the implications of this shift to a visual online culture?

14. Drones. Should we love them or fear them?

15. STEAM. Should the people who make policy about university research and other matters (ie our politicians) be more focused upon STEAM than STEM? Is there any chance of a shift?

16. Universities. If you were designing a new University for the Creative Economy, what would be its main features?

17. BBC. Can the BBC survive or even prosper in a world of ‘over the top’ television? What are the Beeb’s strengths and weaknesses? Who will win in the ‘over the top’ race?

18. Games. What sort of qualities will mark out the most successful video games of 2016?

19. China. Is 2016 the year when ‘Created in China’ supersedes ‘Made in China’?

20. Creative Cardiff. What makes a great creative city? Is Cardiff already one? If not, can it become one? Will Creative Cardiff be a significant player in this story?

21. Creative Citizens. Is 2016 the Year of the Creative Citizen?

22. My job. How do I get a job and/or make a living in the creative economy?


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