What is Creative Citizenship? Take Two

December 14th, 2012 by Jerome Turner in Hyperlocal Research | no comments

Following our two-day research meeting which ended today at Moseley Exchange, Annette Naudin seems to have been the first to answer to John Hartley‘s question to us: What is creative citizenship?

Hopefully others on the project will respond to this too, but I’d like to contribute right now whilst thoughts are fresh, and before I decide I haven’t done enough deep thinking on the subject. I also know others will come from angles that involve a lot more informed reading and knowledge around the subject, so I’ll leave that to them.

In considering the term ‘creative citizenship’ (and we did this a lot this last two days), I’d rather not dissect the two words separately, but rather consider some examples. Food for thought, if you like (the catering was also good).

The creative side of the question is interesting (okay I did dissect the phrase). One person’s creative act for the good of their community may actually be a very immediate, quick movement (even as small as a RT), but have immense impact on a great number of people. Was that creative? Maybe the thinking behind it was creative in a joined up way at least, if not the button pushing.

I recently wrote an article for my local hyperlocal which should hopefully be published soon, something that had started off as a simple idea but actually involved a lot of planning, sourcing questions from the community, a long drive (there and back), recording an audio interview, taking photos, transcribing the audio (which took far longer than I’d imagined), dealing the photos, writing the story, deciding it was too long and scrapping half of it, showing it to the person I interviewed who then corrected for accuracy, then putting in all the web links, and finally sending it off. Beyond the initial spark of the idea, I’d say most of those stages didn’t feel creative. Not necessarily an act of journalism either, as it made me realise there must be journalistic methods that would have made the whole thing less long-winded (I just can’t imagine that anyone else would take that long putting together one story!). But maybe the final product will feel like the result of a creative act, akin to the one finely glazed pot that comes through after hundreds of arduous failed attempts in the kiln.

Andy Williams said yesterday that our hyperlocal content analysis might not have unearthed many instances of new original video within posts because video is essentially hard to do for many people. But in the case of my story, pointing a camera at my subject, asking the same questions and then uploading this to Youtube would probably have knocked off around ten hours of work, and the end result might by some have been perceived as more ‘creative’. Whereas I might think of it as the lazy way out. But the key here is that video is my comfort zone. So the message is: play to your strengths and don’t follow too many expectations of what might be the ‘right’ way to be creative.

8mm Cine Club

Another first hand experience of creative citizenship comes in observing the people who come to my 8mm Cine Club. It’s a group still in it’s infancy, only two months old, but I’ve already been impressed by the people who’ve come along, and by default, participated and contributed. People like local bloggers James Clarke and Steph Jennings have helped me lug gear around, made tea and engaged with some of the younger visitors, but then I’d expect nothing less of them, they’re nice people. But the people who turned up to the first meeting and returned the following month were a different story. One man brought along his films to show, as was the advertised ‘deal’, but also his enormous 8mm projector and speaker setup, which saved the day when mine broke down. I hadn’t asked people to do this, but whether by some sense of pride of his own kit or nervousness about mine, he did so anyway. I’d like to think it was because he saw someone else setting up a new, free social event and thought ‘It’s nice to be nice’ and responded likewise. In the same vein, I’ve had others offering kit and random phone calls from all around, along with exposure through various press, blogs and recording for a podcast.

On a personal level, when I feel like I am doing something that fits into that ‘creative citizenship’ box, I realise that part of me is hoping that by some logic, if I do nice things for my community, I’ll get something back, hopefully beyond a smug sense of satisfaction. I’m sure there are others who are similarly motivated. So we might think of these acts as ‘karma farming’ (although we know these are not the only motivations). What if everyone contributed in this way, if we were all karma farmers and everyone routinely and regularly reacted to their community creatively? It’s another question that Hartley offered, what might a future creative citizenship utopia look like? Possibly a scary, overwhelming place with unconferences every day of the week, and everyone morbidly obese from the goodwill cake contributions.

Finally, I’ll close with the definition of creative citizenship that I give people when they ask what I do, I tell them about the project and they look at me blankly: ‘Creative citizenship is people doing things for their community that they don’t have to do, they’re not getting paid for, but they do it anyway.”

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