Creativity in Action: Creative Multimedia SMEs in Manchester

Creativity in Action: Creative Multimedia SMEs in Manchester

David Calvey
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3886-0.ch004
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This chapter explores the concept of communities of practice (CoP), with reference to ethnographic data from a range of creative multi-media SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) in Manchester in the UK. The central argument is that many of these communities are profoundly mediated by the interplay of competitive commercial imperatives with professional obligations and constructions of identity. Hence, the concept of community is a more fragmented and fractured one. Ultimately, CoP is a robust metaphor to analysis organisational life but more descriptive detail of situated lived practices and mundane realities of various work settings is called for. Ethnographic data is drawn on to demonstrate the participant’s accounts of their lived experiences, which include reflections on the process of creativity, collaborative negotiations with clients and organisational learning. Ethnomethodology, a form of sociological analysis, is then used to suggest alternative ways to analyse the situated nature of practice, learning and community.
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The Research Context

The discussions in this chapter initially emerged from SMILE (Skills for the Missing Industry's Leaders and Enterprises), a research project sponsored by the ESF/Adapt-University for Industry in 2000-2002. The aim of this research was to evaluate the range of management skills within small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the North West of England, specifically those producing multi-media educational and training products. The research was undertaken by a multi-disciplinary team of social scientists, based at the Manchester Metropolitan University. The research was ethnographically driven and centred on a series of case study organisations, with the predominant use of in-depth interviews with key members of staff in multimedia SMEs (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) in the Manchester area. It is widely recognised that such creative industries are a strategic and growing sub-sector in the UK economy. The project aimed to take stock of the current management skills in place, identify skills gaps and make some recommendations for learning and development within these firms. The ideas within this chapter build on previous published work from this project (Banks et al, 2002; Russell et al, 2003, 2004).

Within post-industrial economies, the creative industries have been identified as a new and fast growing industrial sector. The reasons for their emergence are manifold and complex. We can however point to a number of key factors that, we argue, are driven by processes of globalisation and the convergence between the traditionally distinct spheres of economy ’and‘ culture. The term, creative industries, hints at this resolution of opposites; the blending of the historically separate worlds of culture and economy, or art and commerce, to form a new and hybrid sector.

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