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Creativity in the Age of the Internet

Freeman, Alan (2008): Creativity in the Age of the Internet.

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This paper was presented on October 31 to a seminar as part of the Freeman Centre Seminar series organised by the Science Policy Research Unit at Sussex University, with the kind support of CENTRIM, of the University of Brighton. The seminar series can be accessed at http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/1-4-11.html and the presentation slides at http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/documents/freeman_slides.ppt The paper’s aim is to propose an economic definition of creativity.

I begin by analysing the distinct economic roles of culture and creativity in the ‘Creative Industries’. Lax usage has made this term a synonym for three distinct things: creativity, culture and intellectual alienability. My aim is to distinguish Creative Labour, of which this sector is a specialist user, from Cultural Outputs, which it produces. These are found combined in the Creative Industries in an advanced form, but they also exist separately outside it. In order to understand their wider economic impact – in particular, their relation to innovation and Intellectual Property – it is necessary to distinguish them.

I begin from the empirical reality of the ‘Creative Industries’ as currently defined. I show that this establishes it as an ‘industrial sector’, in the economically meaningful sense that it is a specialised branch of the division of labour. Its definition, however, has yet to be aligned with this reality. Using the term Cultural and Creative Sector (CCS) better to capture its nature, I show that it is the outcome of two processes: the revolutions in service sector productivity which have culminated in the age of the internet, and the separation of mechanical from creative labour, which we inherit from the age of machines.

Creative labour is a general economic resource, employed both inside and outside the CCS. In the CCS, creative labour is found in its most advanced and specialised form, and has applied to maximum effect the new service technologies which have emerged with the internet age. This sector is therefore the appropriate place to study creative labour. However, in order properly to assess its wider impact, the latter has to be defined independent of the assumption that it only produces cultural products. This paper proposes such a definition. It outlines, on the basis of this definition, how the economic contribution of creative labour to society might be assessed.

This paper updates the paper "Culture, Creativity and Innovation in the Internet Age" presented at the Birkbeck College DIME conference earlier in 2008

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