Cultural Diplomacy or Creative Enterprise: a Definition of Terms

For the past few years I have been privileged to be invited each July to give a lecture on this topic to the MA students in arts administration at Boston University as part of their London Summer School. There is a lot of sloppy definition about around these four terms and I have used these annual sorties to gradually hone my ideas. This presentation dates from July 2016.

And culture is? 

Culture originally connotated a process of cultivation or improvement, as in agriculture or horticulture. In the nineteenth century, it came to refer first to the betterment or refinement of the individual, especially through education, and then to the fulfilment of national aspirations or ideals. In the mid-nineteenth century, some scientists used the term “culture” to refer to a universal human capacity. In the twentieth century, “culture” emerged as a concept central to anthropology, encompassing all human phenomena that are not purely the results of human genetics.

Specifically, the term “culture” had two meanings:

  • the evolved human capacity to classify and represent experiences with symbols, and to act imaginatively and creatively; and
  • the distinct ways that people living in different parts of the world, classify and represent their experiences, and acted creatively.

A distinction is currently made between the physical artefacts created by a society, its so-called material culture and everything else, intangibles such as language, customs, etc. that are now the main referent of the term “culture”.

The Arts

On the other hand, The Arts are a subdivision of culture, composed of many endeavours (or art-forms) united by their employment of the human creative impulse. The term implies a broader range of disciplines than “art”, which in modern usage usually refers only to the visual arts. The other major constituents of the arts are the literary arts, more often called literature – including poetry, novels and short stories, among others – and the performing arts, among them music, dance, theatre, opera and film. Whether or not a form of creative endeavour can be considered one of “the arts” can be contentious, due to the cultural values attached in Western culture to the term “art”, which frequently implies a field elevated above popular culture.

And diplomacy is?

The original Greek word diploma, from which it comes, just meant a sheet that had been folded in two: i.e. the convention of presenting a slip of paper from your ruler presenting your bona fides to the ruler in front of whom you are currently standing as an emissary.

Creativity and diplomacy do not mix

On February 21, 2012, five members of the group PUSSY RIOT staged a performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The group’s actions were eventually stopped by church security officials. By that evening, the collective had turned the performance into a music video entitled “Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!” The women said their protest was directed at the Orthodox Church leader’s support for Putin during his election campaign. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill I, said the performers were doing the work of the devil.

On March 3, 2012, two of the group members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were arrested and charged with hooliganism. A third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was arrested on March 16. Denied bail, they were held in custody until their trial began in late July. On August 17, 2012, the three members were convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”, and each was sentenced to two years imprisonment.

The trial and sentence attracted considerable criticism, particularly in the West. The case was adopted by human rights groups including Amnesty International, which designated the women prisoners of conscience, and by a number of prominent entertainers. Public opinion in Russia was generally less sympathetic towards the women. Putin stated that the band had “undermined the moral foundations” of the nation and “got what they asked for”.

So creativity is?

Creativity describes the production of novelty and is a term that was coined as recently as 1927 by A N Whitehead. The dominant factors in this production are process, product, person and place. Process describes thought mechanisms and techniques, such as divergent over convergent thinking and the ability to “stage” a process. Product is a tangible output from this process that becomes a measure of the creativity. Person considers intellectual habits such as openness, the level of ideation, autonomy, expertise and exploratory behaviour: the creative lifestyle demonstrates a non-conforming attitude and advanced flexibility. Place describes the circumstance in which creativity flourishes, such as the degree of autonomy, level of access to resources and the nature of those gatekeepers.

Until the Renaissance, creation was seen as the conduit of the divine, and for humans discovery dominated over creativity as being the only permitted adventure left. By the Enlightenment creativity came to be perceived as originating in the abilities of the individual and not God, and the link was made to the concept of the imagination. A distinction came to be made between this and talent, seen as a capacity to be productive but not breaking new ground.

To be creative these days requires skills of preparation, incubation, intimation, illumination and verification. The process describes incubation as a break from problem-solving, that results in insight; divergent thinking generates multiple answers to a set problem; intimation produces mental representations of an insight which permit the structured testing of new ideas. Creatives exploit their implicit and explicit knowledge, blending concepts in new ways and honing the integrated worldview by resolving dissonance and seeking internal consistency. Thus do they incubate, imagine, improve and invest. Originality and appropriateness are both required.

What of creative enterprise?

Entertainment is big business in the United States. The sector as a whole generated 564 billion U.S. dollars in revenue by the end of 2014. Forecasts predict that the entertainment industry will grow to over 679 billion US dollars in value by 2018, proving its worth in domestic markets and as a major U.S. export. The film industry is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, player in the broader entertainment sector; it is considered a cornerstone of the industry.

UK – Five of the top 10 best-selling albums worldwide in 2014 came from British artists, with One Direction leading the UK assault and second only to the US’s Taylor Swift.

Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Pink Floyd and Sam Smith also made the top 10 biggest-selling acts in what was a record year for British music. UK artists were responsible for one in seven albums sold worldwide in 2014, making for a record 13.7% share of the global market.

Counting sales of albums, tracks and stream plays, the top 10 Global Recording Artists 2014 saw One Direction’s Four as the most successful British album. Sales from UK albums and singles also generated approximately $2.75bn globally that year. 

The DCMS Map 2001

The UK creative industries were worth a record £76.9 billion to the UK economy in 2013, after growing by almost 10 per cent year on year. Official statistics from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, show the industries made an economic contribution which equates to £8.8m per hour of Gross Value Added (GVA) or £146,000 a minute.

Growth in the creative industries was higher than in any other UK industry and was three times the average increase in the UK economy during the period.

The value of services exported by the creative industries was £17.3bn in 2012 or 8.8 per cent of total UK service exports. Between 2011 and 2012 the value of service exports from the creative industries increased by 11.3 per cent. This compares with an increase of 2.8 per cent for total UK service exports. The current international strategy for the UK targets an increase in the value of creative exports to £31bn by 2020.

The sectors, which include advertising, architecture, crafts, design, film, games, publishing, museums and galleries, music, technology and television, are an important source of job creation for the UK. Together, they accounted for 1.71m jobs in 2013 or 5.6 per cent of total UK jobs – a 1.4 per cent increase on 2012.

The Creative Industries were defined in the Government’s 2001 Creative Industries Mapping Document as “those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property”. As of 2015 the DCMS definition recognizes nine creative sectors, namely:[2]

  • Advertising and marketing
  • Architecture
  • Crafts
  • Design: product, graphic and fashion design
  • film, TV, video, radio and photography
  • IT, software and computer services
  • Publishing
  • Museums, galleries and libraries
  • Music, performing and visual arts

The creative industries have been seen to become increasingly important to economic well-being, proponents suggesting that “human creativity is the ultimate economic resource,” (Florida 2002, p. xiii) and that “the industries of the twenty-first century will depend increasingly on the generation of knowledge through creativity and innovation” (Landry & Bianchini 1995, p. 4).

The Howkins creative entrepreneur

The policy consultant and author, John Howkins, has a more developed list but this has not achieved international recognition.

He reminds us that, contrary to the beliefs of President Bush, it was a French economist and journalist, Jean-Baptiste Say, who coined the term ‘entrepreneur’ in the late Eighteenth Century to describe a person who unlocks capital tied up in land, and redirects it. (ref Howkins)

He has this to say:

“Entrepreneurs in the creative economy…operate like Say’s original model entrepreneur but with an important difference…they use creativity to unlock the wealth that lies within themselves. Like true capitalists, they believe that this creative wealth, if managed right, will engender more wealth.”

Howkins goes on to observe that creative entrepreneurs tend to be bright and to value their independence above all else. The freedom to manage their own time and abilities compensates for the unpredictable nature of their working environment, and the irregularity of their income:

“These people instinctively think for themselves, instinctively network, instinctively keep several balls in the air at once. They are the shock troops not only for new ideas about our culture but for new ideas about working in it.”

The focus of the creative entrepreneur differs from that of the typical business entrepreneur, or indeed the social entrepreneur, in that s/he is concerned first and foremost with the creation and exploitation of that intangible asset: creative or intellectual capital. Essentially, creative entrepreneurs are investors in talent – their own and/or other people’s – and the dynamic has moved recently from the product offer through the service offer and on to value creation.

With the onset of Long Tail economics, the artist now takes his/her product direct to market via the Internet and is no longer dependent on a third party to negotiate access; making their entrepreneurial and business abilities ever more crucial.

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