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Creative industries and open source: framework 6/2007

Update 5.2.: Juyst noticed that EICPC has posted a summary on the conference.

The Finnish art review framework is out with a new issue that contains several articles from a recent conference, “Critique of Creative Industries”, arranged at Kiasma in co-operation with the European Institute for Progressive Cultural Politics. The EICPC has an intersting net journal.
In any case, I wanted to mention two of the articles in the new issue.

One is by Aku Alanen, reseracher at Statistics Finland. He did not like the concept of “creative industries”, one reason being the elusiveness of the concept. What type of industry does not need creativity? Alanen wants to find a way of statistically measuring “creative industries” or, why not, “open source industries”: the article is well worth a read both for its conceptual analysis and the empirical-statistical insights:

What’s Wrong with the Concept of Creative Industries?

The concept of open source industries differs from the others in that is has never before been even suggested as a basis for statistical classification, even though there are sound arguments why it should. The concept covers those activities that are a sort of opposite to IPR-based creative and cultural operations and use. Such a classification may well be a key division in statistical work in the future.

In empirical terms, open source activities can be divided into three categories.
1) Business-oriented activities: how businesses are run using open source; 2) non-profit activities and voluntary work in the third sector within a variety of cultural fields, such as the Linux operating system and its development, Wikipedia, related organisations, etc.; and 3) certain operations of the public sector, such as those cultural industries excluded from the so-called creative industries: library services, museums etc. The most problematic areas in the classification are 1 and 2.

In my article I try to a wiki-critique, for a change. The dream of a cornucopian digital economy is already amply criticised by Zizek and others, who have pointed out how easy its is to forget the correspondence between real world inequalities and virtual world divides. The servers still need electricity and the hackers food (at least pizza). If you can draw a map of the world’s richest countries, you can draw a map of the places using the Internet most intensively. I want to add to this economic perspective a cultural one: the long tail of internet communities is a fact, but it is also a fact that the hegemonic language(s) and practices of the net excert a pull not unlike more familiar colonialist pulls.

Digital Opportunities, Real Impossibilities: The Mismatched Promise of the “Cultural Industry” and Cybercommunism

Corresponding to the demand for stylish mobile phones in the market, there is zero demand for the non-European parts of Finnish culture, such as eräkirjallisuus (“wilderness literature”), in which hunting and fishing trips are described in endless variations on the short-story formula. This type of literature is not politically correct, since it involves the killing of animals, is mostly read and written by non-elitist males, and in a ritual way always revolves around the same narrative: leaving home for nature, hunting or fishing, and gaining something in the process. No amount of digital revolution will wash away this political incorrectness and make eräkirjallisuus desirable for the European or Global public. Better to write detective novels – a European genre – with a local flavour; the rise of the Scandinavian detective is already in evidence.All of this points to the fact that, in the case of small cultures and linguistic areas, the problems and possibilities of the digital era are significantly different from those of the bigger, more dominant players.


  1. Matti Vaittinen wrote:

    I heard on the news (here in F) that people with enough money are becoming bored with going to Africa – they have seen it already. An increasing number of rich travellers are looking for “Nature experiences” in Lapland. Somehow the bears and wolves of Kuusamo attract these people, and Lapland’s excotism, too. Could this be a good starting point and a chance for Finnish “eräkirjallisuus” to become more readily understandable and accessible for these ‘global nomads’ who come to seek a new kind of ‘wilderness experience’ in F? Translate Mr. A E Järvinen into English. I have thought about this many times. Would that sell (for these people, at least)? I’m giving this idea for free to anyone who can do the job 😉

    Also, considering the more commonplace, the avarage “eräkirjallisuus”: why not just change the shot gun and the rifle for a digital camera (in these stories), and sell the good feeling and climax of a kill in the form of “getting an extraordinary nice digital shot of a bear in the Carelian wild”? – I give you free this idea as well 🙂


    Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 10:13 pm | Permalink
  2. tere wrote:

    Maybe this could be done. Indeed, in the 60’s Järvinen himself talked warmly about tourism as a new possibility for Lapland. At the same time one wonders how and on what basis the translations would work. In one of his books Järvinen writes an apology for using non-standard Finnish expressions, “belonging to the life in the wilderness”, and provides a list with Finnish-Finnish translations. He insists, that he has to use the words he does, because they contain the sights, sounds and smells of the forests.

    I’m sure one could find good approximations from London, Faulkner or somebody else. But then we come to “Nietzsche’s question”: it is possible to make the translation work, it is possible to embed Kuusamo and Lapland as parts of the global economy of modish tourism etc., but would that be heaven or hell?

    Or, even, if Finnish hunting culture slowly tranforms into a more European, semi-elitist sport, is not something lost?

    Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 10:44 am | Permalink

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