Networks, how they work and function. Geert Lovink from INC asked us at the beginning of Wintercamp 'why organise networks- what does it mean to organise networks?' And 'what does it mean to invent new constitutional forms?'
n.e.w.s. was invited by Bas van Heur to take part in MyCreativity, which was started-up in 2006. Contributors Prayas Abhinav, Branka Curcic and I were able to attend the camp. Finding the PDF I was curious to quickly catch-up on the discourse produced so far. Much quoted and inherent to the discussion is Richard Florida's book: The Rise of the Creative Class, Cities and the Creative Class, and The Flight of the Creative Class. What these ‘city reporters’ agreed on was that Richard Florida’s ‘creative class’ is – if anything – ‘a parasitic simulacrum of social creativity’ (Matteo Pasquinelli). The question then becomes how one actually determines real or authentic social creativity, if it does exist at all. Transformation of the structural conditions of production in such a way that ‘creativity’ (the reference here is to ‘individual creativity, skill and talent’) can be channeled into regimes of property. However, as Ned Rossiter stresses, in order to address the political dimension of (Sebastian Olma) 'If, on the one hand, post-autonomous thought represents a systematic attempt at grasping creativity while, on the other hand, the creative industries are a method of exploiting creativity, then the former should offer a potentially rich perspective for the exploration of the latter. Thus, before returning to an explicit discussion of the creative industries issue, a brief look at some post-autonomist approaches to creativity in contemporary capitalism is on order.
Annelys de Vet describes, which I can reproduce here without retribution, the risk that creative industries will become an extension of political economic policy. In other words, CReativitY is not about industRY.
'I have nothing smart to say about the creative industry. This might be because I’m in the middle of it myself, not being able to see it clearly anymore. But most of all creativity can’t be compared with industrial principals. It’s not about production, it’s about reflection. It’s not about security, but about experiments.It’s not about output, but about input. It’s not about graphs, but about people. It’s not about similarities, but about differences. It’s not about majorities, but about minorities. It’s not about the private domain, but about the public domain. It’s not about financial space, but about cultural space. Creativity has nothing to do with the economy, or with bureaucracy. It’s about cultural value, trust, autonomous positions and undefined spaces.'
Where I think this could be successful is centered around prosumerism (in the positive sense of the word) and the implicit markings of such. Ned Rossiter’s work on the creative industries is an attempt to critically draw on this tradition in order to make sense of creative industries practice. His analysis is predicated on the notion that what he calls ‘creative labour’ forms the constitutive outside of the creative industries. Now, this might sound trivial, but in fact, it is not. What Rossiter argues ‘is not merely that creative industries research has to take into account ‘the conditions and experience of creative labour’ but rather that ‘creative labour’ provides a possible basis for an immanent and practical form of critique. In the case of the creative industries, the constitutive outside is a force of relations characterized by two key features: antagonism in the form of the exploitation of creative labour as it subsists within a juridical-political architecture of intellectual property regimes; and the affirmation of creative labour that holds the potential for self-organization in the form of networks.’ 1
Many ‘networking opportunities’ happened at Wintercamp, not only occurring within the My Creativity group. Because of working within these confines, along with some serious attempts at having fun at networking, twists and turns of running around and checking in and out of other groups made it all somehow worthwhile. So instead of berating and focusing on what was no fun, I decided to tell here how our unproductivity as a group allowed some creative potential to be developed, and hopefully at a later date- implemented.
With the provided orange stickies we wrote a sentence or two about what we found key to discuss in this short time. While brainstorming, chatting and opening up the discussion, certain lectures disunited the group- project proposals for building databases of alternative 'business models' was dissed. As the philosophical discussion about work approached, 'what is work' members who incited the discussion about copyleft and Utopian urbanism of 60-70's, left. What always struck me as something particularly Amsterdams, this 'spatial turn' in which all space, like the rest of the country, has been brought into culture. So you either make new land, what the Dutch do very well, or you develop existent parcels. What the Digital City, De Waag, Mediamatic and now Institute of Networked Cultures have given the city is a meta space, much like the 'meta group' who ran around the conference interviewing, blogging and sitting in on the goings on. It really has been and still is a wired city. Many creative juices have flowed, been taken-up and enabled the research and development unparalleled in many other urban spaces while initiating an active discursive environment. Amsterdam only has around 900,000 people.
The urban space of Amsterdam was further historicized in the Dutch perspective with ‘Het broedplaatsenbeleid’ (literally ‘incubator policy’). It is now a city policy whereby subsidies are allocated to house artists, provide studios below the going market rates in specially redeveloped buildings (a significant part of the policy has been targeted at legalizing squats and supporting an ‘anti-squat’ movement). Like baby chickens, the idea behind the policy is that cultural activity needs to be sheltered from the market during its initial phase. When the chick finally turns into a chicken, it should be able to support itself. It is a controversial policy and the artists benefiting from it often complain about the strict bureaucratic requirements to get in, along with high rents. A fine image lingers as one member of our group made the gesture of getting her head cut off in the end, much like the many chickens in Barneveld. Most agree, it is only a matter of time before the artists can't afford the spaces and after having gentrified the place, get kicked out.
Then the expression of repulsion and sick to the stomach of 'I feel like this is work' expressed by one member to the group changed the course. Intended as ‘fun’, the creation of a database or building a site- actually designing and implementing such a thing incited nausea. Not to some and I can imagine, though by no means a techi myself- how this might sounded like 'work'. Or was it the word business that incited nausea?
So what's work? I decided to listen and run around and get a few things done that I needed. We put the database on hold and focused on setting up Intangible Negotiation for writing contracts (sorry Google Docs), one ethical and one that can be used and altered for different working situations. We also created a shrink-like 'Future Archive', audio accounts of us retelling the present through an imaginary future. This enabled us to talk about our personal experiences of generally shared exploitation and frustrations of not really being able to make any difference. By the end we were getting along way too well.
Those who do not know each other need a reason to get together- like our group at My Creativity. Networks start based on friendship; most are convivial situations, affiliations. Of course they expand with common goals, objectives and from working shared contributions. I draw this comparison because n.e.w.s. was invited to Wintercamp to be part of a network that already had existed but was dormant... let's say and where most people did not know each other. We were not paid to take part, though some people received travel costs. Instead we worked, exchanged, for free for 5 days, sharing each other’s experiences and perspectives.
This made me reflect on the origins of n.e.w.s. which would never have been formed without paid contributions in the beginning as it was about bringing unknowns together to discuss different perspectives and ways of working. Some people would have contributed for 'free' as there was a personal connection and had other means of income and their gain was the knowledge production aspect. But most original n.e.w.s. contributors were interested in the experiment, seeing if this could work along with developing an international network.
Notwithstanding the general weariness of a marathon sessions, crappy food and shitty coffee and no breaks, we were looking for a new name by this point, having disliked the term from the get go. First it was YourCreativity, then Ourcreativity but finally it winded up in negation: NoCreativity. Was this inspired by the discussion around the n.e.w.s. forum 'Cutting Slack'? I won't go much into it here as you can read it on the site but it gives an interesting take on how inspiring 'performing laziness’ can be. Instead of being productivist, by the end we were looking at how not to 'work' and conceiving of the possible political implications of not doing much at all. Maybe that wasn't the agenda anyway or maybe there wasn't one in the first place. That said we expanded our network, shared some ideas and got a few things done, together. Now we’ve got FLOSS manuals to translate into many languages, pedagogical projects to set up with EduFactory, residencies to pass on to freedimensional, actions to be organised with Creative Labour, consultancy to be framed in our lecturing series, and that database for alternative 'business models' archived, designed and partnered. Who's still in?
1. Rossiter, Ned (2006) Organized Networks, p. 32.