As a starting point, here is an outline of my proposed research for my full-time PhD, which I have now started.
The research question is:
What is the nature of social media use among creative workers and how can it inform understanding of creative communities for cultural policymakers?
I aim to provide the first insight into how creative workers use social media, and also question the role of social media use in creative communities. The issue of debate I’m looking to address is that cultural policymakers still lack understanding of creative communities and creative workers (Oakley 2006, McGuigan 2010). At the same time, UK cultural policy discourse is placing more emphasis on the ‘digital’ (for example the DCMS Connectivity, Content and Consumers report. While ‘digital’ and social media is indeed becoming more prevalent in working and everyday lives, what is lacking is a nuanced understanding of how the people working in the creative industries are actually using it.
To address the research question I will focus on a group of people working in the creative industries in a particular city. I’m using Birmingham, UK as the case study city for my study. I’ve chosen Birmingham because it has been a city of particular interest for creative economy projects, such as the Creative Cities Partnership and Cross Innovation, among others, looking to facilitate collaboration and stimulate Birmingham’s creative industries. I also chose Birmingham because it has a distinctive social media scene typified by the Birmingham Social Media Cafe which has been running for over 5 years, and was established by people working in the city’s creative industries.
Another facet of the research will look at the working conditions of the creative workers, and the role social media use plays in this. Much work has been done in the field on the precarity of creative work (Banks and Hesmondalgh, 2009) and now there is some exploration into the role technology plays in precarity, such as Works Intimacy by Melissa Gregg (Gregg does not look at creative workers however). There is an argument in the field that technology is blurring the boundaries between personal and professional life, something the creative industries is renowned for anyway (McRobbie, 2002) so I’m really interested to see what role, if any, social media use plays in this.