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Media, community and the creative citizen

Grant Holder: Professor Ian Hargreaves and Dr Andrew Williams

Co-applicants: Mr Glyn Mottershead, Mr David Harte (BCU), Ms Catherine Green (RCA), Prof Jonathan Dovey (UWE), Dr Caroline Chapain (UB), Dr Aikaterini Alexiou (OU), Dr Theodore Zamenopoulos (OU), Dr Shawn Sobers (UWE)

Researchers: Jerome Turner (BCU), Giota Alevizou (OU), Gail Ramster (RCA), Alan Outten (OU), Tamara West (UB), Emma Agusita (UWE)

Funder: AHRC

Period: May 2012 to October 2014

Creative citizenship is best understood as everyday civic engagement and participation using creative resources, forms and talent. This research explores how three types of creative citizenship add value to communities, in the context of a contemporary media landscape which offers radically new types of connectivity whilst raising challenges of unequal access. The research will generate important data for policy makers as they seek to understand better the potential of the UK creative economy. As such it will “inform the development of more effective community based interventions to address key economic and societal challenges” (AHRC, Connected Communities vision statement). The research speaks directly to two Connected Communities cross-cutting themes: first, understanding changing community cultures and patterns of connectivity within and between communities; second, connecting research with communities. It also addresses three of the five areas where the Connected Communities programme seeks to add value: enhanced community participation, increased community well-being and more diverse and cohesive communities. The research will be constructed and executed in close collaboration with the communities involved and will deploy a range of research techniques, including quantitative and qualitative methods, as well as multi-media co-creations and exchanges.

Having identified what distinguishes creative from other forms of citizenship (Hartley 2010a), our over-arching research question is this: How does creative citizenship generate value for communities within a changing media landscape and how can this pursuit of value be intensified, propagated and sustained? From this, the following research questions arise:

 1. What are the new digital and physical media ecologies and practices currently emerging within communities and how do extensive social media and mobile devices impact on the extent and effectiveness of creative citizenship practices?

 2. What are the different forms and meanings of creative expression, participation and production that these new media ecologies enable within communities of different types and towards what civic or community goals are they directed?

 3. How can we describe, evaluate and stimulate the contribution of creative citizens to the conduct of public debate and deliberation?

 4. What is the value (civic, cultural, social and economic) of micro-level acts of everyday creative productivity within larger and more formally established communities?

 5. What are the most effective frameworks, policies and interventions to support and enhance creative citizenship?

These research questions will be addressed in close collaboration with community partners, representing three manifestations of creative citizenship in the new media landscape:

  • “hyperlocal” news and publishing in the UK;
  • community-led design; focused upon enhanced community mediation and inclusion;
  • creative practitioner communities, exploring tensions and value-creation between formal institutions/expertise and informal creative networks and everyday creativity.

Research Outputs

Book, Journal articles, Conference paper, Website, Film, Exhibition, Case study material, Teaching material, Expertise gained through the application of research in a non-academic environment.

Research Impact

Our ambition is for this work to provide a reference point for evaluations of the scale and potential of the UK creative economy, considered in the light of contemporary media ecologies. Our target audiences for impact include: UK Government; the Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; local government; local enterprise areas; political parties; Creative England; the British Council; the Arts Councils; think tanks; representative and member bodies like the Community Media Association; journalism networks. We will use a range of conventional and more novel communication channels, including:

  • a website and blogging platform;
  • a range of media products, including best practice guides, platform interfaces and media applications (i.e. mobile phone video noticeboard), targeted to communities;
  • academic papers, targeted to academics and policymakers;
  • a scholarly book, summarising the research findings in comparison with other research and experiences, targeted to policymakers, academics and practitioners;
  • three briefing papers, targeted to communities, practitioners and policymakers;
  • two network events - targeted to communities, academics and practitioners;
  • three strand-based exhibitions - targeted to practitioners, academics and the general public
  • one conference, targeted to communities, academics and practitioners.

The research team itself is rich in impact-generation expertise. Hargreaves (PI) is a former national newspaper editor and respected commentator on media and other issues. His recent (May 2011) review for HMG on intellectual property has given him prominence in the debate about the relationship between the creative sector, regulation and growth. This builds upon his work for the Welsh Government (March 2010) on the creative industries. Dovey (CoI) is a leading academic practitioner in knowledge exchange, through the Digital Cultures Research Centre at the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol. He also has a professional background in media production. Harte (CoI) is a leading figure in the Midlands blogosphere. Greene is an experienced collaborator with high profile companies (e.g. Research in Motion/Blackberry) and has her own diverse influencing network, as is Alexiou. Chapain's strongly interdisciplinary background positions her well in delivering academic impact, including through her work as co-organiser of the Creative Regions in Europe Network andSummer School.

We have selected partners who have a strong route to market in terms of impact, namely Ofcom, the UK media regulator and provider of much core data on UK media markets; Nesta, the UK's leading innovation-practice body; Talk About Local, a pioneer in scaling up and propagating hyperlocal journalism networks with proven expertise at Cabinet level; and Glass-House Community Led Design, which has admired expertise and substantial influence in its field. The partnerships involved in the third strand of the project (communities of creative practioners) are South BlessedKnowle West Media Centre, and the Moseley Exchange.

These partners provide channels of impact of a different sort where we are experimenting with behaviour change with our collaborators. South Blessed, a highly informal but innovative video channel based in Bristol, is largely self-generating and self-funded. Documenting its reach and potential will provide a high impact and motivational illustration of what can be achieved by an informal community of creative citizens; this aspect of our work will be influential in communities which lack strong connections to mainstream media and indeed higher education. Moseley Exchange is an urban creative exchange in Birmingham: many other networks like it can be influenced by well researched insight into the way it generates value using the networks that exist both within and between such exchanges. Our partners are our medium.

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