Here’s a short bibliography, which might constitute a set of ‘memes’:

Richard Florida, in The Creative Class, postulates that creative people are driving urban regeneration, and indeed the modern economy. Cultural diversity, rather than being a problem, is active ingredient in the ‘funkiness’ of an area; attracting the gay community adds to the number of creatives in an area.

Charles Landry extends this idea to the UK, creating blueprints for regeneration.

Peter Drucker, in a number of books, argues from a demographic perspective that the 21st century will be a knowledge-based economy where the 20th was based on manufacturing.

John Kenneth Galbraith argues for a new reading of class divide: those who are secure and have a vested interest in the status quo; those who are insecure but still being funded by the system;  those who are marginalised: unemployed, casualised labour and so on.

Ken Robinson argues for creativity in education to be taken seriously, as a third objective alongside literacy and numeracy.

Richard Sennett points out the effect of a privatisation of experience and of craftsmanship under late capitalism.

Clay Shirky is pointing out that Web 2 and other development mean that patterns of organisation are changing under the influence of technology in “Here comes Everybody”.  There are important implications in quality judgements that result from the development of current information technology.

What to make of this?  Well at least it explains the changes that are happening in the arts, from some of the zeitgeist.  I think it also indicates part of a fundamental shift in the emphasis in society; one can even read into this the recent credit crisis is a result of a change in economic model.  Intellectual property rights in the age of mash-up become problematic.  And all the time the working classes know something’s going on, and are in fear of joining the marginalised and are tempted to retreat into nationalism.

From an arts perspective, the traditional model of being driven solely by aesthetics won’t quite hold.  It requires a high level of patronage: by the aristocracy, by the State, by big business. There are at least three aspects of quality, of which aesthetics is only one.  We should also add social impact – this is the basis of the duality that Tessa Jowell was exploring in her essay, the Role of Government in the Arts, which lead to to ACE’s arts debate.  And of course, there has for thirty years now been an attempt to measure the economic impact of arts actvity, both on a macro-economic scale, and as a measure of a model of successful arts organisations.

As artists – perhaps in this context I should say creatives – there is a responsibility on us to start measuring our work and make more explicit our intentions artistically, socially and commercially.  We are living through a fundamental social shift.  It’s not enough just to live through it, or even just to comment on it; we have to embody it, going beyond description into demonstration.

2 thoughts on “Zeitgeist”

  1. really interesting post thanks Julian, I’m doing some work on web 2.0, inc Clay Shirky’s ideas. It is fundamental in so far as people’s expectations are of dialogue and participation. Back to the future – where people are going to expect opportunities for much more self expression in response to art. My experiences of going to the Royal Ballet or Glyndebourne where the middle classes shout ‘bravo’ and clap from time to time, must be the eccentric. if interesting, exception not the norm. The success of Diversity, winners of Simon Cowell’s ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ is exciting though in terms of the potential for arts and culture to change minds and reinforce what I, and I’m sure you, would see as ‘good’ attitudes and values.


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