One thought on “Supporting public creation and public creativity

  1. Simon Smith says:

    This is a very thought-provoking post, Nick. In fact it’s suggestive of some slightly troubling convergences (which is why I like it). Is there a connection, for example, between phenomena like social innovation and productive publics on the one hand and some of the normative scripts of higher education reform (e.g. privatisation, deprofessionalisation and academic entrepreneurialism) on the other?
    I think your employment of the term publics as a noun rather than an adjective (as is normally understood by the term public engagement) is particularly useful. If we go back to authors like Tarde and Arendt, then we have to understand publics as collectives that are productive of value and bearers of an ethos. In other words the term denotes something more than the stakeholders in, or the markets for, academic knowledge production. Instead of just managing social demand, we’re obliged to think about how to partake in the ethos of a particular public and to view our knowledge creation as an investment in its reputational economy. Only then do we gain the right to join (work with) a public, and only then do we gain access to its social and symbolic capital.
    (Adam Arvidsson explores the idea of productive publics very intelligently in his new book: http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/adam-arvidsson-on-the-ethical-economy-new-book/2011/08/07).
    All that sounds very progressive. But if this is the sort of public engagement you’re challenging us to perform, there’s a part of me that suspects that our motivation could also be linked to the crisis of the academic vocation. Are we looking for new publics because our primary public is dissolving? Is our public engagement partly driven by the need find substitute productive publics in a post-professional academy? How, then, do we establish boundaries that protect the integrity of different publics that we might engage with, including the public of peers and the other publics we intrude upon? I hope your project will be able to explore some of these types of questions.

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