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Article Type: Comparative review From: Journal of Documentation, Volume 67, Issue 2
Creative Ecologies: Where Thinking Is a Proper JobJohn HowkinsUniversity of Queensland PressSt Lucia2009162 pp.ISBN 9780702236990
The Uses of Digital LiteracyJohn HartleyUniversity of Queensland PressSt Lucia2009253 pp.ISBN 9780702237003
Keywords: Innovation, Learning, Creative thinking, Ecology, Literacy, Communication
These two books are topically related by the fact that they constitute the first issues of publications entitled The University Queensland Press Creative Economy + Innovation Culture Series. The first book is a shorter overview of how creativity depends on a mix of environmental conditions (diversity, change, learning, adaptation) and deals with implications of the author’s creative ecology model for free speech, education, collaboration, management, cities and the internet. The second book then extends Hoggart’s (1957) The Uses of Literacy into the digital media as professionals still ignore “on-line social networks”, “user-created content”, and “participatory media”. The two books are cognitively/intellectually connected via both treating creativity, innovation, information, knowledge, learning, education, literacy, communication, the new internet media, culture in general, and much more. (This new series will, no doubt, be very welcome because so many research results are lost owing to absence of publishing opportunities for academics; see Gregg, 2009.)
“The University of Queensland Press” Creative Economy + Innovation Culture series showcases fresh research approaches to global creative thinking, enterprise and innovation. The series links the creative and digital media fields to law, education, business and technology. This is new knowledge for the new economy” (quoted from the back page). Howkins” book is further introduced by asking “Why do some ideas flourish and others fail? Why is independent thought valued in some societies and discouraged in others?” The present book, to continue the introduction, is “The study of Ecology of how organisms relate to their environment. Following on from the success of his 2001 book The Creative Economy, leading thinker John Howkins applies ecological principles to the concepts of creativity and innovation, generating Creative Ecologies. He shows how creativity depends on a mix of environmental conditions, such as diversity, change, learning and adaptation … drawing on diverse sources, from Charles Darwin to Buddhism, to examine the implications of his creative ecologies model for free speech, education, collaboration, management, cities and the internet. The book describes the right habitat for hatching ideas. This radical combination of creativity and ecology provides a holistic, visionary model for everyone who wants to think for themselves and develop new ideas” – a lifelong learning process!
The customary Introduction already offers interesting information: describing the plan of the book, but also listing the 18 comparative/contrastive characteristics of various Creative and repetitive systems. That alone ought to whet the intellectual appetite of any thinking reader! Then the ten chapters: beginning with some basic ideas of creativity, innovation, knowledge and related phenomena; succeeded by many interesting ideas. These are so numerous that a short review cannot do proper justice – however, a literary reductionism approach in the form of listing key phrases (each representing an idea, concept or phenomenon) may hopefully be sufficient (as quoted-cum-paraphrased):
“The challenge”: learning to look (to be creative, work with people better than yourself); definitions (differentiate between creativity and creative economy; creativity in the context of cultures, religion and secular societies; innovation, talent and expertise; creative economy; eco-literate models and creative ecology; self-organizing systems, complexity, emergence, memé, and Gaia); the origins of an idea) extraordinary thinking and inventiveness in all cultures; influence/control of humanism and Enlightenment; city-based mini-ecologies; rise of holistic viewpoints); the American dream machine (the first conjoining of arts, business to create popular culture – spreading worldwide: the creative economy; origin of manufacturing and services; and various interpretations thereof); circles of desire (Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs; self-fulfillment, aesthetics, cognition and creativity ecology); searching for a name (how to label these successive changes: consumer society, information society, wired or network economy, and/or knowledge economy?); the challenge: bringing the focus back to people (the labels miss the dynamic process of individuals and the fuzzy, contingent nature of knowledge – all must be integrated into a new theory of creative ecology to provide a framework for creativity, innovation, …).
“First ideas”: counting industries (building knowledge-driven economy without creativity; redefining cultural 13 industries as creative); individuals and occupations rise of important creative class in cities); cores and circles (overlapping margins of creative work; models: endogenous and exogenous influences); ways of working (psychology of creative people; styles of working); relationships (rationality and irrationality in economics; new ways needed in evolutionary economics: self-organization, systems and chaos theory; static vs. dynamic holistic approaches); the map is not reality (abstract vs. realistic descriptions; creativity and functionality); bigger than the economy (systems-thinking needed; in creative ecology).
“Scope and scale”: no limits to growth (determining factors of creativity: scope or range of activities, and scale or numbers and varieties of people involved, plus their openness, responsiveness, and variety/diversity; art-science crossovers); everyone can have a go (creative ecology has a very low barrier to entry: except education and time; small vs. larger companies); exponential variety openness generates contradictory expressions, format and products because of variable meanings and absence of consensus; creativity is volatile and competitive – this creates opportunities; individualism vs. collaboration); autonomy and openness (continuous learning required; search for new order of beauty, harmony, diversity, … , resulting in fluidity and emergent thinking).
“The adaptive mind”: the ecological mindset (biological sciences offered themes of systemic diversity, communities, and adaptation, i.e. ecology and environmental studies; to be adopted in economic theory, i.e. use concepts of habitat. Niche, population, communities, eco-system, deep ecology, cybernetics, holistics, network feedback, use of four ecological thinking: diversity, change, learning, adaptation); diversity (manifested in discovering and learning changes and in patterns, concepts and language usage); change (dominant model: evolution; survival of the fittest; influence of socio-biology and behavioral psychology; gene of creativity?; purpose and intent); learning (how to exploit and change ecological niches?; by handling ideas, information, knowledge, learning, experiencing; differences between education, training, learning; the creative mind; who we learn from in a creative ecology); adaptation (through four processes: imitation and memé, communities – note: arts vs science, C.P. Snow’s “Two Cultures”; collaboration – emergent thinking, competition); let’s redesign the world (environmentally friendliness; reductionism; systems analytical/holistic approaches; chaos theory, global warming debate; balance needed between integration and self-assertion of individualism).
“Creative places”: favorite places (where can creative ecology flourish free to explore ideas, learning, adapting, to allow easy changes?; Maslow’s human needs psychology; various groups and organizations enabling dialogue, brainstorming, creativity to flourish); high-energy centers (requirements beyond creative ecology: diversity, change, learning, adaptation with large scope and scale; market with people are needed for networking in cities, and on internet’s cyberspace); cities: creative/innovative magnets (Richard Florida’s four Ts: Territorial Assets, Talent, Tolerance, Technology – to be found in large cities); the internet: the world’s most adaptive market (allowed greatest burst of creativity; the information mine; biggest self-help; greatest impact: on individual autonomy and network collaboration; no informational entropy: ideas, knowledge, creativity go on forever – the anti-entropy principle or law).
“Negotiating uncertainty”: doing by thinking (feeding off diversity and change, using learning to encourage adaptation; turning ideas into money requires creative people to negotiate; the ten negotiating factors); serial change (turning ideas into products; corporate restructuring and refinancing; risk analysis; theory of value chain); niches (niche as a domain of eco-system; a place to feel comfortable to be able to work in creatively); the personal difference (people joining the creative ecology experience change, learning, adaptation in their own idiosyncratic style; personal differences; work provides identity, status, reputation, even fame); novelty (a plan to adapt to the creative process my be novel in different ways); meaning is uncertain (creativity has value because of its meaning); value is uncertain (meanings are volatile, so value is difficult to estimate; value input is based on personal history, experiences, skills, etc.; value outputs are variable); demand is uncertain (demand for personal creative expressions and products are impossible to quantify); the network office (personal differences of creative people in hierarchical hubs of communities or network offices exhibit fractal patterns; mutual benefit principle; copyright is currency (intellectual property, personal priorities; calculating the value of creativity); mixed portfolios (different ways of handling information nurtures ideas; mono-cultural approach is sterile; use diversity, etc. to learn and create).
“The way forward”: growing talent (growth model with imagination, creativity, and learning being more important than physical resources; meaning of growth; controlled by supply and demand only?); sustaining the ecology (four types of economic growth and capitalism: entrepreneurial, corporate, state and oligarchy capitalism; where does creative ecology fit in?); growth models (earlier countries approach of creative destruction, mixing art and science, creativity and innovation, in emergent forms – being high in diversity, change, learning, openness, adaptation, with highly emergent thinkers involved; consider the American, Japanese, German, Chinese, Indian, and Brazilian growth models; correlation between poverty and level of knowledge: creativity gap); east and west (comparing/contrasting London’s and Shanghai’s creativity and innovation; two arch-typical philosophies; problems of banking, energy, and pollution, etc.); the tipping point (when does a creative-people network become a fully fledged ecology, a tipping point, a threshold? Best indicators of scale: quality of diversity, change, learning and adaptation: when personal expression, ideas, images, symbols emerge to the forefront; these are hard to quantify; scope and scale involved).
“New places, new policies”: creativity is not deferential (difficult even for enlightened governments to understand creative ecology because creative cities are chaotic, non-linear, emergent, with surprising disruptive technologies; creativity is often not knowable and never controllable; many aspects beyond the government’s comprehension and thus control; importance of regulations; government – business collaboration test thereof based on inter-disciplinarity, transparency, evidence, consultation, proportionality; and implementation); a policy audit (governments to carry out policy audit of creative ecologies); one typology framework for policy audit is based on three examples; learning to learn, balancing ownership and access, and trading ideas.
“Three steps to growth”: thinking is a proper job (new ecology and its dramatic scope and scale are summarized by three principles: “Everyone is creative” (see six latent creativity-indicators), “Creativity needs freedom/autonomy” (creativity ecology needs freedom from and freedom to), and “Freedom needs markets” (creativity requires an indefinitely large number of social and commercial market-places)); a model ecology (the internet dramatically validates the three principles of the creative ecology: creativity is universal, it requires freedom, and it is easy to set up a market; the internet is a new social network celebrating creativity in an open, inclusive, diverse, global fashion – its sheer quantity of ideas, information, knowledge (even some wisdom?) “in the air” is far too much for any one person to comprehend – as it should be!).
“The new billion”: looking for a job. The creative ecology is part of the evolution of open society … everyone has their own creativity characteristics or traits within a context of freedom and markets … resulting in an adaptive learning system and social development. Yet, the high rates of diversity, change, learning, adaptability means that many people are out-of-step. The absence of equilibrium of this hypothetical concept can be liberating and productive or worrying and distressing as there is always tension between private, individualistic creativity and the public or group, and between freedom and regulation. Different cultures have different mindsets in dealing with these enigmas. Every individual has to find ways to solve these personal challenges.
The end of the book offers the usual Notes, References, Acknowledgements, and Index.
The level of deliberations Howkins’ book is “introductory”, whereas the book by Hartley reviewed next is on a much higher cognitive/intellectual level as considered from several viewpoints. Both ignore C.P. Snow’s request to bridge the gulf between the Two Cultures which has for a long time separated, for instance, the sciences and the humanities. Both Howkins and Hartley, but especially the latter in his deeper analysis of creativity, innovation, literacy, knowledge, learning/teaching, among others, could have included some references to The Scientific Method, new sub-disciplines of Philosophy of Science (such as of pedagogical methods, tacit vs explicit knowledge, clashes of knowledge; including theories of systems analysis, complexity (e.g., Érdi, 2008), chaos, typology of intelligence and thus thinking), among numerous others; see all-too-few books provided in the References, many of which likewise deal with creativity, innovation, education, for example. However, it must be stressed that Howkins did occasional use the following new-science-age terms of systems theory, holistics, integration, connectivity, cybernetics, chaos, entropy, complexity, non-linearity, fractals, order/disorder, uncertainty, emergence, modeling, hierarchy, reductionism, networking, self-organization, Gaia, tacit abilities/attributes/skills and knowledge, fuzzy logic, feedback, replicators, …). Nevertheless, it would have been to the reader’s benefit if he had dealt with these more-recent concepts in more details as they are unequivocally part of the creation/innovation/discovery repertoire.
Contrary to the criticism I have had to make of several books written by professional philosophers, Howkins’ use of the English language, use of short sub-headed sections and bulleted lists, for example, are exemplary! His connective/transitional statements between chapters and sections provide clear direction of how he develops his arguments.
The second book reviewed is also part of the new UQP series. Fifty years after Hoggart’s (1957) pioneering The Uses of Literacy reshaped the educational response to popular culture, John Hartley extends Hoggart’s argument into “digital media”. Print media made possible the realism of the modern age – journalism, the novel and science – not to mention mass entertainment on a global scale. What, then, are the possibilities of digital media? The book reassesses the historical and global context, commercial and cultural dynamics and the potential of popular productivity through analysis of the use of digital media in various domains, including creative industries, digital storytelling, YouTube, journalism and mediated fashion. Encouraging “mass participation” in the evolutionary growth of knowledge, The Uses of Digital Literacy shows how today’s teenage fad may become tomorrow’s scientific method. The time has come for education to catch up with entertainment and for the professionals to learn from popular culture.
The following are the main chapter titles as well as the text’s sub-heading (plus a number of quoted-cum-paraphrased parts); the latter being a welcome part of the Contents allowing the reader a quick overview:
“Repurposing literacy. There are other ways of being in the truth”. In so far as this Chapter 1 could well be regarded as an Introduction to the book, the following points ought to be highlighted. In the first section of Dr Who?, Hartley describes the contribution of Hoggart’s book 50 years ago that lead to educational and disciplinary reform in schools and universities, mentioning also his trenchant views on “abuse of literacy” as exemplified by the print media. Inasmuch as since then several new media have been added (from TV to the internet) to our present “era of multimedia”, it is time for a reappraisal of the “uses of literacy”. Hence, the book begins with a brief history of the influence of Hoggart (being represented as Dr Who?), succeeded in making discriminations by some specifics of his ideas, exemplified by: Hoggart understood that in commercial democracies people can choose what media entertainments they like; but if anyone has the desire to promote “critical literacy” and “intellectual emancipation” for the general lay population to provide means to express themselves, as well as choose their own media and tell them their opinion, may find an opposition by the “established intellectual authority”. The latter would prefer to claim exclusive expertise in the matter of judgment, evaluation and taste-formation. Hoggart, who maintained his own preference for “hard-working, fair-minded intelligent laypeople” over experts, knew that the game was up years earlier. As Hartley explains, the taste of the population could not be corralled into a universal consensus … their judgments were bound by their own familial, age-group, class, gender, race, national and colonial status. That is, cultural, political and moral values were formed within the context of cultural specificity among increasingly differentiated demographics; resulting in “other experiences” and “other ways to know the truth”, which were not anti-intellectual but wisdom obtained by other means. This required the above-mentioned need for re-examining “The Uses of Literacy”. The contemporary situation is then deliberated first in the section of What is digital literacy for? – because of accelerating technological “affordances” and economic growth both professionals and the public are using the multimedia for both non-market and market-based activism and social networking. This was never before possible during the era of broadcast, one-to-many passively-received “mass” communication, all being fundamentally important in influencing innovation, and developments in information technology and knowledge economy. Hartley outlines the growth of human relationships, values, identities, and desires, all interacting complexly with political power, various institutions, markets and technology. “Meanings” interact with money, values, etc., at both the micro and macro-levels, resulting in a modern semiotic sense, which is being put into a “value historical chain of meanings” summarized in a comparative/contrastive-style table. Hartley then describes in some details Hoggart book’s implications on commerce, among others, in the section “Multimedia literacy – print, media, critical, digital”; followed by preferentially dealing with the important aspects of “Repurposing education for innovation” (referring also to creativity and knowledge creation) and the need for “Educating teachers” in dealing with multi-source learning, multimedia literacy, and repurposing higher education. Additional modern challenges are to be found in the sections of “Creative workforce” (going beyond the IT society); “Creative educators?” (new ways needed to increase teachers’ knowledge and skills); “Learning as a distributed system” (e.g. disciplinary knowledge in a controlled environment must inspire desire to learn; individuals and families must take more responsibility for their own knowledge needs; learning services will be provided by private and public institutions in a “distributed cognitive/intellectual system”). The urgency for universities, for example, to adopt soon the new e-teaching/e-learning modules is discussed in the section “Learning entrepreneurs”. See also the potential demise of universities in Nolan’s (2009) “Death by e-learning”.
“From the consciousness industry to the creative industries. Consumer-created content, social network markets and the growth of knowledge”. The author mentions the 2006 tipping point: the year of consumer-created content affecting both the media industry and cultural studies. It was time for a consumer makeover because it was dominated for too long by top-down ideologically motivated political-economic approaches preserving the media-effects paradigm; too much attention was given to providers and firms, too little to consumers and markets. This user-created content based on gratification method, for instance, created many questions. A new hope emerged for integrating/unifying the study of economics and cultural systems and processes, usually considered separate disciplines. In several sections, Hartley deliberates in some details the philosophical, ideological, theoretical, concrete/physical, economic, social, political, … implications of this new trend. The “media industry studies” needs a critical makeover forced on it by the external environment, both intellectual and industrial. Hartley then describes and discusses many challenging new aspects related to the evolution of the meaning of “industry”, “industrialization”, and “manufactor”, and the need for reconfiguring the terms in the sections “Media studies: all change?” and “Industry: reality or metaphor?”. He then deals with communication systems, interactive technologies, and alternative models in “From industry to (social network) markets”; with user-created content as “digital democracy”; creative economy concepts, models, and successive phases (in two comparative/contrastive tabular style and one model diagram) in The “creative industries” concept. This section covers specifically also outputs, clusters, market, inputs, services, knowledge-cultures, human capital, and citizen-consumers. This rather fundamentally interesting chapter then continues to deliberate in “Creative industries: tested to destruction?”; “Supply to demand”; “Social network markets”; “Creative destruction”; “The growth of knowledge: a future for media industry studies?” with discipline cluster model; economic/expressive outputs model; two creative causation models and knowledge growth open-system model (see three diagrams), among others.
“Bardic television. From the ‘bardic function’ to the ‘eisteddfod function’”, The quote “To have great poets, there must be great audiences too” in To have great poets sets the stage for this chapter in which Hartley revisits the “bardic function” (meaning: “the active relationship between TV and viewers”), i.e. pertaining to TV programming and mode of address using the shared resources of narrative and language to deal with social change and conflict, bringing together the worlds of decision-making (news), central meaning systems (entertainment) and audiences (“vertically through the social scale”) to make sense of the experience of modernity. The author attempts to locate self-made and personally published media (including the YouTube, for instance) within a much longer historical context of popular narration. Questions: has the cultural function of the TV medium been affected by recent technologically enabled change, say in the context of social (and global) dispersal of production?; can TV still serve a “bardic function” after it has evolved from broadcast to broadband and into the mobile phase? Broadcast has been a household-based “read-only” medium; the broadband and mobile TV is a “read-write” medium, with Hartley describing some differences. In the following sections: “Talk about full circle!”; “Bardic television: ‘From the hall of baron to the cabin of the boor’”; “Narrative and polity – ‘representation of the people’”; “Olympic games of the mind”; “‘Bamboo shoots after the rain’ – proliferating global eisteddfodau”; “Digital literacy – from self-made media to self-made networks”; Hartley then deals with, again rather interesting, media-social style aspects, commencing with the earliest (e.g. 6 to 14th century) foundation of European storytelling known as the bards; comparing it to our present TV “bardic function” by listing seven qualities and seven functions shared by bards and TV; deliberating in great detail the influence of past cultures” styles of storytelling entertainment on today’s modes of communication.
“Uses of YouTube. Digital literacy and the growth of knowledge”. Before YouTube originated, Hartley led a research project designed to link geographically dispersed young people to allow them to post their own information and to engage in exchanging opinions. This Youth Internet Radio Network (YIRN) failed, as Hartley explains it in “YIRNing for YouTube” – but thereafter YouTube was offered. He compares the two systems, and describes the advantages of the new approach in the context of education and knowledge creation, for example. To address the question of how one might exploit the YouTube from the scientific, journalistic an imaginative viewpoints, Hartley describes the change from “Print to digital literacy”; then deals with the “Updating TV’s ‘bardic function’”; followed by considering the importance of language in communication and storytelling networks, and offers structural analysis of myth, folklore, and tales in the two sections of “YouTube is semio-spherical” and “A message from the ancients” – all as a basis for being able to more-fully understand the various types of stories, information, and entertainment we are consuming today. For instance, the list of seven plots identified in structural transformations of ancient tales are still discernable in today’s “stories”, including those presented to us in political messages about recent wars. Finally, in “‘Those who tell stories rule society’ – narrative science” and “Narrative reasoning”, Hartley refers to Jungian archetypes to find an explanation of the story-telling patterns and involved semiosis, referring to Maslow’s “self-actualizsation” and Jung’s “self-realisation”. Again, Hartley reduced storytelling to seven basic stages from Anticipation to Resolution. Finally, he mentions that storytelling does what science cannot: stories are an evolutionary mechanism for inductive reasoning, providing references to publications dealing with this intriguing cognitive/intellectual thought.
“Digital storytelling. Problems of expertise and scalability in self-made media”. Harley starts in “Digital storytelling” to define the generic meaning of “digital storytelling”: it describes any computer-based narrative expression, including “hypertext fiction” and game narratives plus YouTube, and the like, as described in many publications. It is the practice whereby “ordinary people” participate in hands-on workshops using computer software to create self-expressive narratives of realization of identity, memory, place and aspiration; filling the gap between everyday cultural practice and professional media; anyone can engage in this reconfiguring of the producer/consumer relationship; this non-professional creative work adding value to contemporary culture. Referring to others” research, Hartley describes this genealogy mode of digital storytelling as a “California export” with some “Welsh re-engineering”. In this chapter, Hartley then considers two selected problems of digital storytelling, i.e. scalability: how can individual creative expression be scaled. Two aspects are: the bundling of myriad self-made stories, and the propagation of the method of making these stories. Second problem: the delivery of digital storytelling workshops, typically by professional experts compared with those who gather to learn and use the technique. The expertise question has two aspects: the role of the expert facilitator, and the expertise of the user. Hartley then deals in this chapter’s remaining sections – subheaded “Scale: little or large?”; “Propagation: a Welsh export?”; “The expert: bully or pulley?”; “Expertise: ‘Gawd! It looks like it could talk to me!’"; “Digital storytelling for science, journalism, imagination?” – with solving these problems in the context of translating digital storytelling from a phenomenon locked into the “closed expert paradigm” to one active in an “open innovative network”.
“A writing public. Journalism as a human right”. As Hartley has it, cultural studies and journalism overlap in important respects and he compares them. If only he had prepared a comparative/contrastive table, as I am repeatedly suggesting is numerous book reviews! Both journalism and cultural studies are interested in the mediation of meanings through technology in complex societies; both investigate ordinary everyday life: journalism reporting events, cultural studies dealing with ordinary lived experience. Both display emancipationist tendencies: journalism being part of the modern “liberal freedom’s” tradition, cultural studies as part of a critical discourse struggling over identity, power and representation. Difference exist: journalism research grew up within universities tending to focus less on the overall purpose of journalism in modern society and more on its purpose as a profession in an industrialized and corporate mode of production. One suggestion according some researchers: cultural and journalistic approaches are either adversarial or mutually exclusive despite their sharing of a common interest in the communication of meaning characterized by conflict. This chapter describes a cultural approach to journalism, starting with answering how the former’s “object of study” has done this in a critical none-quantitative way. It is proposed through this cultural approach that journalism should not be seen as a professional practice at all but as a human right! This, I find, is an important key social concept – so that Hartley’s deliberations in sub-titled sections of Cultural studies and journalism; The cultural approach to journalism; The challenge to “everyone”; Journalism as a transitional form; Journalism and culture; Everyone is a journalist; A writing public; Globalization and a redactional society are particularly interesting.
Fashion as consumer entrepreneurship. Emergent risk culture, social network markets and the launch of Vogue in China. Hartley refers to a researcher’ 1899 – publication proposing an evolutionary theory of economics analysing “honorific” dress (i.e. fashion) as opposed to “useful” clothing to illustrate his economic principles. Unlike Marx, this economic explanation is founded on consumption, not production, and on systematic pattern of choice, relationship, competition and hierarchy among both the affluent “leisure class” and all other classes. Dress (as opposed to clothing) became an expression of wealth. Consequently, the wealth-indexing dress required a system of “invidious distinction” and comparison, plus a society-wide representation and an advertisement medium for circulating “fashion semiotics”, e.g. magazines. The latter then network and communicate the required social status advantages. Hartley describes in some detail the social and economic and communicative processes involved as coordinated by the market where the efforts of designers, manufacturers and retailers confront the risks involved. He begins by highlighting the importance of information to reduce the market’s uncertainty and risk in the section “Waste – or wealth?” and “Institutions of learning: the fashion media” for the benefit of both the producers and consumers. Everyone involved learns through the fashion media and provide feedback which results in innovation and emulation. Hartley describes the modernization, economic reform, opening up, and globalization of China as an example of emergent risk culture (as a collateral beneficiary of Western progress?), and socially driven markets in the sections “Fashion and modernity – Chinese style: Vogue in China: representing risk culture”; “China in vogue: peer-to-peer mediation”; “Entrepreneurial consumers – living in risk culture”. Although Hartley finally explains on the last page of this chapter that the above-described social milieu requires a wider “literate readership or reading public” of the fashion media, it would have been advantageous to have more clearly emphasized the conceptual and practical relationship between the fashion industry and the book’s main theme of “digital literacy”.
“The future is an open future. Towards the ‘Chinese century’ and cultural science”. This final chapter then declares “cultural studies as being a philosophy of plenty”; offering an understanding of the creation of cultural values among large populations in times of economic growth, democratization and consumerism. Simultaneously, however, this “long 20th century” was marked by unprecedented social and ideological upheaval, with an earlier European hegemony and British free-trade imperialism shifting to US entrepreneurial-managerial capitalism, characterized more recently with the rise of “globalisation”. As Hartley points out, this same century was noted for it supplementary media. Each medium (sports, press, publishing, cinema, radio, telecommunication, television, computer games and the internet) supplemented but did not supplant the earlier media. Demands intensified on the consumers: e.g. to make use of these media they had to acquire informal but sophisticated multi-literacies. In this “convergence culture” the socially networked user-consumer is the point of intelligibility among competing attractions and distractions, as Hartley puts it. Popular cultures passed from “passive” consumption of representations made by experts into “active” participation; from “read only” to “read and write” modes of communication resulting in the further growth of knowledge. These are the “uses” of open literacies whose current form happens to be “digital”, even if it is undisciplined and in multiple forms.
In the following chapters entitled “The politics of plenty; brainchildren of the West”; “Cultural studies and social change”; “Creative destruction: excess of representation”; “Representation of excess”; “From DIY to DIWO (do-it-yourself to do-it-with-others)”; “Population-wide creativity as an enabling ‘social technology’”; The ministry of enjoyment Hartley describes some historical, social, cultural, political, economic, educational, including of course the communicational-digital literacy aspects of the evolution – all challenging cultural studies.
The book concludes with two sections: the first entitled “Towards an open future” points out that the twentieth century was that of the USA marked by numerous major new technologies from the telephone to the internet and beyond. Yet, China emerging superpower is resulting in a “disruptive renewal” next stage. This requires a focus on local-global instances of popular creativity, propagation via the internet, among others, across the whole population coordinated in hybrid network markets. Open digital literacies will be ubiquitous. As Hartley maintains, cultural studies (now to be called “cultural science”) emerges as a philosophy of plenty and as a conceptual framework for analyzing innovation systems, creative industries, growth of knowledge, and much more.
The final section “Towards cultural science (once again)” then laments the limited ambition and defeatism of this discipline curtailing studies. The practitioners excel in in-close “mico-“studies of local phenomena while ignoring the “macro”-level of conceptualization, thus damaging the understanding of how the new media affects the growth of knowledge. The popular culture of open digital literacy among non-specialists requires now a more systemic response. At present, we have too much contestation and not enough knowledge – as deliberated at length by Hartley. After providing a table of “A provisional mission statement for cultural science” and other ideas on reflexity creativity, growth of knowledge, complex social networks, empirical methodology, and other phenomena, he places all this into the context of digital literacy.
The book ends with the usual Notes, References, Acknowledgements, and an Index.
1 Style of presentation
Naturally, both Howkins and Hartley utilized a different writing style. In both cases, the English is uncomplicated in contrast to a few “philosophical” books I reviewed in the past. The “readability” of both books is good, judging by Fry’s readability graph approach (see James, 2007, pp. 198-204). Yet, readers ought to be aware of the latter’s book utilizing a much greater-in-depth synthetic (i.e. descriptive) and analytical approach than the former. Also, there are several style aspects of Hartley’s book that ought to be highlighted.
Keeping in mind the title of “the uses of digital literacy”, there is one immediate concern I had once I finished reading the book: although each chapter’s content, or message and argument are easy to discern, at least one chapter in particular, as well as certain parts of several chapters, are somewhat difficulty to cognitively/intellectually connect with the title. I keep on attempting to directly place Hartley’s deliberations into a context with “uses of digital literacy”, which sometimes is not easy; only with a strenuous mental effort is that then achievable. Reason: Hartley too often goes off on an intellectual or rhetorical tangent that requires a reader to slow down to find a meaningful place in the “digital literacy”. The book may have a broad linear approach, but this logical line-of-presentation becomes dashed or dotted too often.
This “stuttering” information-presentation could have been easily avoided by utilizing two writing-technique tools: at the beginning an Introduction outlining the purpose/aim of the book and how this is achieved, and by the employment of appropriate transitional/connective statements to describe where the argumentation is coming from and proceeding towards. This is well described by James (2007) and Tichi (1966): see former for “transitional”, “style”, and “readability”; see latter for “transitional”, “connectives”, “coherence”; among others.
Also, the style of presentation varies from one chapter to the next. Exemplar: Chapter 7 on “Fashion” versus chapters 3, 5 and 6. The reader will find it difficult to place the information of chapter 7 into the “digital literacy context” in contrast to the other three chapters” information. Reason: the author provided a lead-in statements as follows: in chapter 3: “This chapter revisits … ”; chapter 5: “This chapter considers”; and chapter 6: “This chapter seeks … .” All chapters could have benefited from such mini-introductory lead-in-guides.
Readers less initiated in the field of, for example, cultural studies, will have to engage in deliberate slower analytical reading to fully digest some of Hartley’s arguments. And readers who are somehow prevented from reading the book “in one go” (i.e. are uninterrupted by longer periods) may well be advised to reread Chapter 1 to return to the intellectual setting. For that reason, a concise Introduction prior to Chapter 1 outlining the purposes/aims of the book and the type of information to follow, would have provided a welcome intellectual orientation for readers.
Inasmuch as this book has a great wealth of information, it would have been beneficial to provide in several places brief overviews exemplified by a concise mini- (or interim-?) introduction and an equally short overview and/or a summary in each chapter; and a book-covering Summary or Conclusion at the end of this treatise (James, 2007). Indeed, I have seen in several academic books where all this has been provided.
Why not test my above ascertains by allowing a better student (graduate student or PhD candidate) to read this book, offering a bonus, prize or award for providing an honest critical literature appraisal?
As to Hartley’s book, there are several positive aspects other authors might like to emulate: the Contents list all the text’s sub-headings, thus allowing a quick overview of the book; use of several comparative/contrastive tables avoid the need for lengthier text descriptions and proffer a type of classification of ideas/concepts; several flow-chart-like and circular diagrams or models always enhance the researcher-reader communication and especially comprehension (Gowin and Alvarez, 2005), and a few photographs are likewise always welcome; the use of bulleted lists in the text should be a standard preference replacing long-winded ”unstructured” essay-type outlines; each chapter title is succeeded by a concise set of key phrases – resembling a mini- abstract(?), and the quotations above each chapter title are likewise a welcome lead-in.
Chapter 1 has several sections dealing with education, teacher’s training, and related topics. I am surprised that no reference was made to the recently recognized importance of generic (tacit, enabling, transferable) versus explicit (discipline-related or on-the-job-related-training related) skills (attributes, abilities) as described in many publications (see Hager and Holland, 2007). Indeed I dare mentioning also that, inasmuch as especially creativity and innovation is frequently mentioned, the “styles of intelligence-requirements” for various disciplines” jobs ought to be highlighted here: see Zhang and Sternberg (2006).
2 Readership of the two books
The two books’ back-page advertisement states that the UQP series “links the creative and digital media fields to law, education, business and technology”. That unequivocally means that just about all professional individuals and groups are addressed, as all are involved in some style of creativity, innovation, invention and discovery, holistic-cum-systems-type thinking, evaluation of intellectual styles, information technology, knowledge classification, research methodologies, employment-contextual needs for literacy and tacit plus explicit skills/attributes, … All these intellectual phenomena are to be continually examined by social/cultural studies. Historian of the development of ideas (Watson, 2005) and knowledge (Boorstin, 1983) can extend their range of endeavour through these two books. Politicians ought to know the power of the new media (Trippi, 2004). In this context, see also the new book by Hughes (2009) on the Shock of the New (and access his television program The New Shock of the New) dealing with the arts: is modern art still able to shock in its originality and in understanding society? He also asks: what “garbage” (his word) should be excised from and what to retain of our media culture? What about some blogs (Lane, 2009)?
Karl H. WolfSpringwood, Australia
Boorstin, D.J. (1983), The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself, J.M. Dent & Sons, London and Melbourne
Érdi, P. (2008), Complexity Explained, Springer Verlag, Berlin and Heidelberg
Gowin, D.B. and Alvarez, M.C. (2005), The Art of Educating with V Diagrams, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Gregg, M. (2009), “Damn the publishers: commercial mindset is preventing young academics getting into print”, The Australian Newspaper, May 27, p. 24
Hager, P. and Holland, S. (Eds) (2007), Graduate Attributes, Learning and Employability, Springer Verlag, Berlin
Hoggart, R. (1957), The Uses of Literacy, Chatto & Windus, London
Hughes, R. (2009), Shock of the New, Thames & Hudson Publishers, London
James, N. (2007), Writing at Work: How to Write Clearly, Effectively and Professionally, Allen & Unwin, London
Lane, B. (2009), “Lab Rat the king of science blogs”, The Australian Newspaper, May 20, p. 35
Nolan, G.O. (2009), “Death by e-learning”, The Australian Newspaper, June 10, p. 40
Tichi, J.J. (1966), Effective Writing: For Engineers, Managers, Scientists, John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY
Trippi, J. (2004), The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Democracy, the Internet and the Overthrow of Everything, Harper, New York, NY
Watson, P. (2005), Ideas: A History from Fire to Freud, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London
Zhang, L.-F. and Sternberg, R.J. (2006), The Nature of Intellectual Styles, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ and London