Urban China: Counter-Mapping Creative Industries Issue

Urban China – October 2008 issue
Counter-Mapping the Creative Industries

Edited by Ned Rossiter, Bert de Muynck, Mónica Carriço

Bi-lingual: Chinese/English for international distribution/readership

This issue of Urban China is framed around an experimental research platform that sought to conduct a counter-mapping of Beijing’s creative industries in the summer of 2007. With a prehistory in Australia during the early nineties and the ‘Creative Nation’ policy agenda of the Paul Keating led Labor government, the creative industries became formalized as a policy discourse in the UK during the early years of the Blair government.

Between 2001-2005 governments around the world became excited by the creative industries as a solution for post-industrial unemployment, most notably in Australia, New Zealand, East Asia, western Europe and Brazil. The United States had its own policy variations, but maintained the essential elements of ‘creative classes’, cluster developments, urban gentrification and intellectual property generation underscored by service industries and ‘free labour’. The creative industries obtained formal status in China in 2005 with documents from the 11th Five-Year plan outlining models of development.

This migration of governmental reason from the periphery to the centre which then became repackaged for global consumption resembles the colonial-era cartographies of resource extraction and transformation. Unlike the economic logic of depletion that underscores the ravaging of material resources, the creative industries policy was born in the time of dot.com mania and the informatization of social relations. To this day, the creative industries policy largely remains a discourse of hype disconnected from material conditions. Of course, this is far from the reality.

Broadly understood as a ‘value-adding’ process generated through the economization of culture and its attendant costs of labour, much emphasis has been placed by governments on ‘mapping’ the creative industries. International ‘scholar-consultants’ along with government departments and think-tanks have been responsible for much of this mapping work in an effort to capture the elusiveness of creativity. More often than not, these maps hold little resemblance to the idea of a visual registration of geographically situated relations (which in itself functions as a geopolitical, imperial technology). Nonetheless, the imperial logic of control and containment figures largely in what are better understood as lists of statistics whose econometrics operate as persuasion devices for government, potential investors and insecure populations.

This issue of Urban China sets out to critique and redefine the idea and practice of ‘mapping’ the creative industries. Foregrounding the experimental process of collaborative constitution, we are interested in the multiple idioms of expression that make creative industries intelligible beyond the blandness of policy discourse. Activist researchers, artists and writers in Europe, Brazil and India have been particularly inventive in combining collaborative techniques of production with social-political critique via media of communication. We see this work as part of the prehistory and global dialogue around how to create new spaces and transdisciplinary knowledges able to negotiate the complexities and politics that attend the economization of culture.

In bringing the idea of counter-mapping to the creative industries in Beijing, the question and problematic of translation is quickly established. Understood as a social practice rather than search for linguistic equivalence, translation registers the conflictual dynamics of the encounter between different knowledge and social systems. Rather than adopting a defeatist logic, we instead see the conflictual processes of translation as constitutive of new social assemblages and knowledge systems.

As a method of collaborative research, translation inevitably questions the ‘cluster’ model that has come to define government policy and infrastructural development within the creative industries. Rather than focusing on concentrations of creative sectors – high-tech parks, cultural precincts, film and new media production centres, etc. – and their spin-off benefits for property developers, this issue of Urban China investigates what might be understood as the ‘constitutive outside’ of creative industries in Beijing. We identify six key thematics or vectors of inquiry that, in our minds, make visible and bring into relation that which has become ‘partitioned’ from discourses on creativity (e.g. experiences of creative labour, service workers, information geographies of open source networks, etc.). Unlike the usual mapping documents on the creative industries, which are typically derived from compilations of statistics on economic growth in the sector, this issue of Urban China sets out to produce an alternative map of the creative industries in Beijing.

Urban China is a magazine interested in testing the relation between Chinese government policy initiatives and their impact on the urban condition and architectural design. It considers this tension as key to the production of new proposals that open initial policy perspectives to the complexity of contemporary urban, social and economic transformation in China. How do counter-cartographies of the creative industries influence our idea and experience of what a city is? It’s clear that property developers benefit from the creative industries meme, and there’s no question that speculative capital has impacted in massive ways on the social-urban transformation of Beijing and other Chinese cities. Districts are re-arranged, populations mobilized, programs are implemented in specially demarcated zones. But how does this stealth-like approach to urban change conflict with the more volatile, elusive, fleeting forms of creativity? What are the cartographic dimensions of this ‘urban sensorium’ and how is its conflictual constitution shaping understandings of creative industries in China?

We invite contributions to these questions, themes and issues.

1. Concepts
• organized networks
• collaborative constitution & transversal research methodology
• counter-cartographies

6 framing thematics of content organization
• migrant networks and service labour
• network ecologies of creative waste
• informational geographies vs. creative clusters
• centrality of real-estate speculation for creative economies
• import cultures & export innovations in architecture and urban design
• artist villages and market engineering

2. Method: translation, collaborative constitution, transdisciplinary research

3. Content
- texts (500-1000 words)
- interviews
- images (photographs, film sequences/stills)
- diagrams, maps, time-lines
- concept-designs

Texts can be submitted in Chinese or English (both, if you have that capacity)

4. Key dates
31 August – all content due
September – editing & design
October - publication

5. Contact
send submissions and any queries to: publish[at]orgnets[dot]cn