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Author: Richard Barbrook


1) We Must Invent New Futures

The information society has arrived – and the McLuhanist prophecy of the network utopia has been disappointed. The critical analysis of the creative city provides an opportunity to devise new futures to guide our actions in the present.

2) The New Class of the New

Like their forebears who moved from artisan workshops into the Fordist factory, the present generation is learning how to make new things in new ways with new technologies. This study will examine how far the flattened hierarchies and cooperative ethos of cognitive capitalism are remaking the shape of the city’s economy.

3) Mapping the Creative Workforce

The emergence of a new class of the new lives is not just an economic phenomenon, but also social, political and cultural. This study will measure the vital statistics of the creative class: age, gender, ethnicity, education and ideology. In parallel, psychogeographical research will both delineate the neighbourhoods where its members congregate and trace their links with the global diaspora of intellectual labour.

4) Funky Businesses in Trendy Locations

Just like the artisan trades of medieval times, the creative sector is clustered in specific areas of the world city. Forming a distinct subculture, its members wear the same clothes, drink in the same bars, listen to the same music and share a common obsession with cutting-edge technology. This study will examine the role of these marks of distinction in forming the new class of the new.

5) The Cultural Vanguard of Property Speculation

The creative sector is making a major contribution to the regeneration of neglected inner-city areas. Unfortunately, in many cases, the original inhabitants of these neighbourhoods have been bypassed by this economic turn around. They lack the technical skills, cultural outlook and social connections required for employment within this post-industrial sector. Worst of all, an influx of creative companies and their employees causes a rapid inflation in property prices and commercial rents in the area. This study will track this gentrification of inner city neighbourhoods and how its negative consequences can be countered.

6) Self-Managed Exploitation

The neo-liberal cult of authoritarian managerial power has become an anachronism within the creative industries. Instead, as the business manuals of the dotcom boom explained, the spread of contract working and job insecurity can be rebranded as extending individual freedom and career opportunities. Among the most talented employers and employees, the measure of success isn’t just making lots of money, but also creating something cool. This research will investigate how respect and autonomy for knowledge workers are the preconditions of innovation and excellence in this sector.

7) The Carnival Economy

For most of the citizens of the world city, creativity is what happens when they’re playing outside the workplace. Within popular music, the new thing appears on the dance floor and in the streets before it’s repackaged as a commodity. This study will investigate how those who earn their living outside the creative industries are not just participating in cultural production, but also, in many cases, driving forward innovation in this sector.

8 ) Sharing Knowledge as Collective Production

The information society isn’t just a new phase of capitalism, but also an evolutionary stage beyond capitalism. Alongside orders and commodities, gifts are now one of the principle methods of organising collective labour. The technical icon of the knowledge economy – the Net – is primarily a tool for sharing knowledge not selling information. This study will examine how the principles of open architecture and open source can be extended from the virtual realm into the real world.

9) Libertarian Social Democracy

Social welfare and economic security provide the best foundations for constant change and perpetual innovation. Contrary to the neo-liberal prognosis, public housing, free healthcare, subsidised culture and state education are still the preconditions of a modern civilisation. This study will ponder how this reformist programme can be updated and extended for the new conditions of the 21st century. Political democracy requires cultural democracy. If everyone is a voter, then everyone is also a creator. When mapping out the route to the future of libertarian social democracy, our vision of the new class must become inclusive.

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Within this MySpace version of the electronic agora, cybernetic communism was mainstream and unexceptional. What had once been a revolutionary dream was now an enjoyable part of everyday life.