We propose that the ambiguity of discourse around a category – rather than being problematic – improves the longevity of that category. This is especially true in the creative industries. Using methods and theories drawn from sociology and art history, we tested this thesis using swing as a case study. Based on three years of archival research we found 70 co-existing definitions of swing and 89 different uses of the term. These multiple meanings enabled various understandings to come in and out of focus over time, contributing to swing’s longevity. Our findings extend to other categories within the creative industries.
We would like to thank the members of The Initiative for the Study and Practice of Organized Creativity and Culture at Columbia, participants in the Dartmouth conference “Innovation, Organizations, and Society” (November 2014), the Cornell workshop “Artists and Social Scientists “ (April 2015), the Stanford Authenticity Workshop (May 2015), and the AoM symposium “Uncovering novelty emergence through music, time, and technology,” organized by Sorah Seong, for their generous feedback during the development of this project. We also thank Candace Jones, Amandine Ody-Brasier, and Massimo Maoret for their invaluable insights, comments, and questions that have nourished and enriched this study. We are grateful to Frank Alkyer and Evelyn Oakes at DownBeat magazine for opening their archives, their guidance, and historical insight. We also thank the librarians Remi Castonguay (Benny Goodman Papers, Sterling Library, Yale) and Nick Patterson (Music & Arts Library, Columbia) for their kind assistance. Our thanks equally go to musicians we spoke with (Jeffrey Ernstoff, Peter Erskine, Aaron Serfaty, and Les Thimmig) and Scott Goodman (of the Benny Goodman family).
Coman, S. and Phillips, D. (2018), "Ambiguity and the Longevity of Creative Industries: The Case of Swing through the Lens of Interdisciplinary Collaboration", Jones, C. and Maoret, M. (Ed.) Frontiers of Creative Industries: Exploring Structural and Categorical Dynamics (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 55), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 203-235. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X20180000055008Download as .RIS
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