Creative Citizens Unbound

Posted by: Professor Ian Hargreaves

Britain’s first ‘Creative Citizens’ conference

We’re ready to go with the UK’s first Creative Citizens conference, due to take place on September 18/19 at the Royal College of Art in London.

This Cardiff-led event will bring together scholars and community activists from all over the world to discuss the many ways in which digital media are creating opportunities for individuals and communities to do new things or old things in new ways for civic benefit.

Cardiff scholars have played an important role in the intellectual history of creative citizenship.  Professor John Hartley, founding head of the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, has argued in a rich series of books and other publications over many years for concepts such as ‘DIY Citizenship’ and ‘DIWO’  – Do it with others – Citizenship.  John, now based in West Australia at Curtin University, Perth, will be with us in London for the conference.  He is also, with me, co-editing a book, to be published by Policy Press in 2016, with the working title: The Creative Citizen Unbound. His own new book, Cultural Science (Bloomsbury) is published later this month.

Another significant JOMEC figure in the story of Creative Citizenship is Daniel Meadows, whose work as a documentary photographer and pioneer in the UK of digital story-telling speaks to the core thinking behind creative citizenship that digital media offer important new potential for anyone with the motivation to use their own creativity to express it.

Working on a joint presentation which John Hartley and myself will deliver at the conference (‘Two journeys, one destination’) I came upon a screen-shot from Daniel’s work, which includes the hugely successful joint venture with the BBC, Capture Wales.  Here’s what Daniel had to say back then:

‘For too long the professionals have had it their own way, feeding us a kind of TV in which we are only represented by the labels they stick on us. Digital Storytelling allows us to reassert our individuality in the wired world.’

At the  Creative Citizens conference, our research team from six universities (Cardiff, UWE, Birmingham, City of Birmingham, Open University and the RCA) will present its initial findings from fieldwork.  Included here is really fascinating output from Cardiff’s Dr Andy Williams, who has worked with Dave Harte of BCU and Jerome Turner, on the biggest ever survey of hyperlocal news providers in the UK.  I’ve no doubt Andy will be blogging here about that work shortly.  Our other areas of fieldwork involve user-centred planning and design and the operation of creative networks, with studies based on Bristol and the Moseley suburb of Birmingham.

Keynote speakers at the conference include Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive of Nesta, whose recent book The Locust and the Bee explores the creativity at work in the evolution of capitalism (See John Gray’s New Statesman review) and  Paola Antonelli, Curator of Design (and champion of interaction design) at the New York Museum of Modern Art (catch her Ted Talks).

I particularly recommend her feisty response to critics of her decision to include video games in MOMA’s collection.

We will also hear from Jean Burgess of Queensland University of Technology, who has done great and pioneering work on YouTube.  Catch Jean’s presentations at

There are workshops on a wide range of themes relevant to creative citizenship, including politics, making, education, young people, technology and value,  with participants from all over the world.

We also have a UK-focused policy debate involving the heads of four of London’s leading political think-tanks and built around an intervention (‘steps towards a manifesto’) by Professor Stephen Lee, Director of Centre Forum. This will take place, aptly, on the evening of the Scottish Independence referendum.

I’m also planning, with Andy Williams, a research feedback session from creative citizens in November or early December.  If you’d like to be kept informed and to join that discussion, just let us know.