Creative and Cultural Studies Projects

Promoting the making self in the creative micro-economy 

 A $315,000, 2015-2017 ARC Discovery research project collaboration (DP150100485) between the School of Communication, International Studies and Languages and MatchStudio, School of Art, Architecture and Design, UniSA.
Project Team:  Pr Susan Luckman | Dr Jane Andrew

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A making renaissance is underway, with handmade practice and goods in global demand in a way not seen since the 1970s. In 2012, more than $900 million worth of merchandise was sold globally through the website—the ‘eBay for the handmade’—launched in 2005 to specialise in handmade and vintage items, and handmade supplies. Australian sellers were the fourth most significant source of items (just behind those in the US, the UK and Canada), representing a significant net export gain for Australian creative small-enterprises. is just the highest-profile tip of a much larger iceberg that includes a plethora of online retail sites specialising in handmade small-scale creative production. Alongside more traditional retail options such as direct and commission sales, these sites are attractive to many creative sole traders and are enabling an explosive expansion in the international creative marketplace. Notably, women make up the majority of online designer-maker micro-entrepreneurs, often establishing a small business as a means by which to balance caring responsibilities with paid employment and/or bring in top-up family income.

However, the ease of establishing online shopfronts hides the complex work required to start and run a small business, especially one in an increasingly globally competitive space with isolated producers and narrow profit margins. This raises new challenges for craftspeople and designer-makers, who not only require practice-based skills but new entrepreneurial skill-sets—both technical and personal—to operate successfully as a micro-enterprise in this emerging global market. A creative micro-economy that emphasises ‘long tail’ buying ‘directly’ from the maker offers both creative graduates and more established designer-makers micro-entrepreneurial pathways not previously open to them. But to maximise the potential of these opportunities at a practical level, skills in professional practice need to be complemented by other capacities. Notably these include the skills to successfully negotiate the use of social media as a marketing tool which requires the promotion of producer self-identity (including the maker’s home and family relationships) as part of the value being sold.

Therefore employing methods including semi-structured interviews with established handmade producers; ‘1-up’ monitoring of design graduates across 3 years to longitudinally analyse the contemporary experience of establishing a creative career post-graduation; and a historical mapping of Australia’s arts and crafts support organisations, the primary aim of the project is to determine how online distribution is changing the environment for operating a creative micro-enterprise, and with it, the larger relationship between the public and private spheres. A key research question will be: what are the ‘self-making’ skills required to succeed in this competitive environment? 


Small-scale enterprise and the cultures of transitory public spaces

Investigators:  Pr Susan Luckman | Dr Katrina Jaworksi | Dr Phil Bagust | Dr Jean Duruz | Dr Jane Andrew

For several decades now, creativity-led urban regeneration and social inclusion strategies have become established mainstays of governmental policy. Often accompanied by festival and other time-bound initiatives, policy agendas for economic development and population management have been reinvigorated by, and especially in the wake of Richard Florida’s 2003 best seller The Rise of the Creative Class, which initiated a wave of interest globally among city officials and urban planners. Originally focused on attracting and keeping the post-industrial workers seen as essential to economic growth in the new economy, this wave of interest now embraces the arts and creativity as drivers of urban economies. The need to innovate, and renovate, in this way has been felt most strongly in cities hit hard by the move of manufacturing to offshore locations where labour is cheaper. Cities such as Detroit, Manchester and here in Australia, Newcastle, have embraced the festivalisation of public space and the nurturing of creative micro-enterprise as the ‘shock troops’ of urban renewal. Indeed the Renew Newcastle model is one being embraced by Adelaide, as elsewhere, as it seeks to enhance the city’s reputation nationally and internationally as a culturally ‘alive’ place and expand out the attractiveness of the city as a place for workers to linger after work or come to on the weekend as a strategy for night-time economy growth and/or renewal. More recently, the figure of the ‘pop-up’ event or venue has entered into this space. Fitting in well alongside renewed interest in localised economies around food (farmers markets) and the handmade (maker’s fairs), the ‘pop-up’ has emerged as a specific cultural phenomenon.

The research questions we wish to pursue include: What is the attraction (to owners, government, community, and most importantly consumers) of pop-up businesses?; How does the location of a pop-up venture impact upon that place?; Is it sustainable (internally, and in terms of nearby ‘bricks and mortar’ retail tenants)? What is the lifecycle of a pop-up culture/business?; What aesthetic qualities do pop-up businesses reflect; what social values; therefore what can they tell us about wider cultural trends?; What contribution do they make to the festivalisation of public space, to what effect?; What business models underpin the pop-up economy? What does pop-up economy reveal about contemporary food and cultural fashions? What is the relationship between the pop-up economy and the gentrification and increasing unaffordability of inner urban housing stock, especially for young people, in Adelaide?


Creative Tropical City: Mapping Darwin's Creative Industries, 2006-2008

ARC Linkage Project (LP0667445) 

Chief Investigators: AsPr Tess Lea (CDU) | AsPr Susan Luckman (UniSA) | Prof Chris Gibson (Wollongong)
Partner Organisations: NT Tourist Commission | Darwin City Council | Department of Chief Minister

This research improved our knowledge and understanding of the creative industries in Darwin. It provided a strong evidence base for the development of policy options for growing the creative industries in Darwin, and it critically interrogated national and international creative industry policy frameworks for their applicability to Darwin.

See the Final Report

Cultural and Linguistic Diversity: Youth Music Identity Profiles Project
Researchers:  Dr Daniela Kaleva, Dr Alison Elder, Phil Van Hout
Funding: DECD - $36,000

The Youth Music Identity Profiles Project aims to increase cultural awareness and enable positive identity building by facilitating work with young people that illustrates the diverse linguistic and cultural composition of each individual and the group as a whole. Two groups of Year 9 and 10 CALD students who are undergoing a transition from middle to senior secondary school will explore their identities by tracing and comparing the music they grew up with and they listen to now considering also cultural context, spaces (private, public, online) and platform of communication of the specific musical encounters. The project offers students the opportunity to engage in a conversation about cultural diversity and identity by discovering, reflecting, re-imagining and sharing their stories using musical creativity and digital technologies. The project will culminate in Youth Music Identity Profiles learning resources for students and teachers empower students to voice their diversity through a focus on music. The Youth Music Identity Profiles workshops and learning resources promote the positive aspects of multiculturalism by enabling the group of students involved in the project and future users of the Youth Music Identity Profiles learning resources to experience commonality in diversity.

Areas of study and research

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