MyCreativity, First Session Part One
At around 10:15 the usual suspects started showing up, including my fellow master students (some of us are aware that a 10 a.m. start means 10:30 in conference-speak). Geert Lovink (see photo) opened the proceedings as laptops took over the podium. Ned Rossiter (see photo), whose new book was presented a little while ago, reminded the crowd that we are here to look at creative industries in ways that are not covered by policy-makers. To see the issues that may have slipped through the cracks. We need to ask the right questions: what is creative labour? What are the conditions? How can we solve the problem of precarity? (More about precarious workers later on).
The first presentation is an attempt to outline the place of power in contemporary capitalism (as the second presenter would term it, we were having “Foucault for Breakfast”). Holmes discussed the Research Triangle Park (RTP), a post industrial research and development park that connects the dots between three universities. The flashy powerpoint takes us through pictures from the park, each building hard to distinguish from the other since they’re all painted white. “Clinical white,” Holmes says, and connects this with a desire for a perfect signal to noise ratio. Streamlining is certainly a keyword for the topics he goes on to address.
The emergence of the RTP and its current ‘recession’ form an allegory for the state of creativity, with a large role set aside for the problems of intellectual property. The RTP was created in the 1950’s, and was an attempt to offset unemployment and the brain-drain. Public funding was pumped in to instill confidence, attracting big names like IBM, bubbling up quickly. The reason for its success? Holmes understands the park- with its university connections – as a streamlined production of patents. The faster technological innovation moves, the more corporations must have their ‘ears to the ground’, so to speak. That is, corporations (patent owners) needed to form stronger bonds with the universities (innovators), and this came out through a kind of social engineering (Holmes uses this term to reference the attempts at genetic engineering going on in the actual labs). Professors double as small-time entrepreneurs (they’re required to share the profits), and universities are pseudo tech companies. Public funding gets translated into private patents – with the necessary implications on both sides. Currently, the RTP ‘suffers’ from the fact that its infrastructure, perhaps already outdated, cannot accommodate the fluidity of start-ups. Also, the park has failed to establish a brand-name (contrasted with places like ‘silicon valley’).
While the park tries to adapt to the changes it was in part responsible for, the universities have expanded their business interests. Holmes points out that Duke University has invested 310 million dollars in the Singapore Medical School – cheap if they succeed in tapping the markets in China and India, Singapore, he says, is a relay between markets. NCSU Raleigh, too, has blurred the boundary between business and university, with corporate logos decorating the research labs. As ICT gives way to biotech, Holmes sees more of the same, with patents continuing to be the glue between corporate and academic interests.
Holmes doesn’t rule out the possibility of a solution to all this, but was hard-pressed to suggest one. Not to worry, he did wish us good luck.