Counter-Cartographies as the Practice of Media Theory

Different media of expression make intelligible the creative industries in unforeseen and novel ways that depart from the self-referential script of policy discourse and its circumscribed ‘mapping’ exercises. It must be said, however, that all idioms and modes of expression are necessarily self-referential. This is how they obtain their distinct grammar and singularity. In this sense, modes of expression (media of communication) can be likened to the concept of genre.

However, there is no equivalence here or unifying genre that aggregates the spectrum of expression. As the field of power articulates with institutional codings and practices, expression is distributed unevenly across a scale of legitimacy. Policy, as the idiom of expression common to the institutional settings of governance of the nation-state and global-state, sits at the apex of authority in a way that speculative media theory, for instance, does not. At its best, the grammar, format and method of policy displays a mastery that invites if not awe then at least some mild admiration.

Not burdened by the demand of virtuosity as expected of the composer, waiter or artist, and rarely obliged to deliver innovation in proprietarized form to industrial financiers and competitive peers, the discourse of policy is able to focus its determinist aspirations on reproducing a seamless continuum of beige. Policy is about synthesis of the prevailing doxa, not the invention of techno-social futures. It is typically anterior to the world of which it speaks, just as the avant-garde hold a posterior relation to the world against which it struggles. Both have their limits and possibilities.

As the reproduction of that which is already known and established, policy resides in a demarcated zone of security. Its default is one of authority. Yet its actual connection to the materialities of labour, life, industry, experience, creativity and communication are considerably less certain. This is the shadow of doubt that always lingers beside policy, haunting its proclamations of governance and control.

In mobilising a range of media practices – informational mapping, sonic geographies, video documentaries, podcast interviews and debates – this project wishes to bring a counter-discourse to the development and understanding of creative industries in Beijing. Moreover, through the articulation of media practice and disciplinary differences, the project seeks to enable forms of self-organization that would otherwise not exist. In so doing, the project hopes to build new platforms of research and investigate the relation between research sustainability and the prevailing urban, cultural and economic conditions in Beijing.