Home > art, cultural commentary > Creative networks and redundancy

Creative networks and redundancy

This is just a thought that came out of a late night conversation.

The cuts are coming: the pain will be felt everywhere, and that includes the arts. Initial reaction seems to be that the impact is going to be felt hardest at among smaller, more specialist, and regional groups for whom the withdrawal of relatively small amounts of funding – for a part-time administrator, say – will be the difference between the group functioning and not functioning.

It’s not as though many of the individuals receive funding directly, because they don’t – I’m thinking here of the archetypical starving artist in his/her garret, the musician whose interest is circuit-bending old electronic toys to make different sounds, the writer who’s trying to find some new literary voice or style. But they all benefit indirectly from public money supporting events and social networks in ways that are often hidden, such as subsidising conferences, seminars, guest speakers/performers at events, finding the odd couple of hundred quid for a group to be able to publish something, and so on.

If that kind of ‘seed money’ and organisational capacity is going to be reduced in future, we’ll need to find alternative ways of operating. Creatives are good at that. Maybe we’ll end up reinventing 19th century styles of socialising, with private soirees and informal groups in people’s front rooms. Maybe we’ll see more of something that already happens to a certain extent, with workshops tacked on to commercial events. But the lifeblood of creative endeavour is networking: the ability to stay in contact with like-minded people, or find others with the same interests in order to share skills, opportunities and so forth.

One way to ensure the capacity for this to happen is, in informational terms, building in redundancy. In practical terms this means that for any one individual, connections to others can come through multiple channels so that if some of those channels disappear, others will remain. Even in these days of Facebook, MySpace, LiveJournal, Google and WordPress it’s often harder than you might think to connect to actual real people who share your interests and live close enough together that they can meet face to face occasionally.

So while the opportunity is still here, I personally am going to start cultivating networks and building my personal ability to stay in contact with those who are doing things that keep my creative juices flowing. And we probably all need to be doing this far more intensively now than we have done in the past.

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