Corresponding Geographies: Remapping Work and Workplace in the Age of Digital Mediaby K. Sanson

Television & New Media

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Year
2014
DOI
10.1177/1527476414559289
Subject
Cultural Studies / Visual Arts and Performing Arts

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Television & New Media 2015, Vol. 16(8) 751 –768 © The Author(s) 2014

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DOI: 10.1177/1527476414559289 tvnm.sagepub.com

Article

Corresponding Geographies:

Remapping Work and

Workplace in the Age of

Digital Media

Kevin Sanson1

Abstract

This essay makes three related claims about digital media creative clusters through a case study of the Hub in Glasgow, Scotland. First, online social networking platforms are an increasingly “common sense” feature that property developers include to attract media workers to purpose-built properties. Second, integrating and managing professional identities through the construction of place are considered necessary to promote that place to a larger audience. Finally, reorganizing place in this way refashions creative work as a more nebulous concept, a process that integrates formerly distinct aspects of our work and nonwork lives into the common pursuit of innovation for economic gain.

Keywords creative labor, creative clusters, new media, space, place, Scotland

The following discussion critically examines the shifting geographies of media work in the context of economic globalization and new communication technologies through an analysis of an office complex for digital media professionals based in Glasgow,

Scotland. This development is part of a larger economic and cultural agenda, pursued by the nation’s devolved government, to brand the region as a digital media center and generate the sort of urban work environments deemed necessary to attract and retain key creative talent. Scottish Enterprise, the country’s national economic development agency, has pursued this objective by developing “skills clusters” in both Glasgow and 1University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Corresponding Author:

Kevin Sanson, University of California, Santa Barbara, 4437 SSMS Building, Santa Barbara, CA 931064010, USA.

Email: ksanson@carseywolf.ucsb.edu 559289 TVNXXX10.1177/1527476414559289Television & New MediaSanson research-article2014 at UNIV NEBRASKA LIBRARIES on December 4, 2015tvn.sagepub.comDownloaded from 752 Television & New Media 16(8)

Dundee. More than traditional business parks, these spaces advertise urban contexts where the creative workforce is comfortable living, working, and playing alongside a community of similarly minded colleagues. This is a place-based strategy to bolster the commercial application of local creativity in the global marketplace, on one hand, and reimagine the local creative worker and workplace in terms more fitting for the postindustrial era, on the other. Oftentimes, these developments are more successful at generating hyperbole than they are at building local capacity or attracting sincere interest from the local creative community, though that does little to hinder public investment or boosterism. This seems to be the case in Glasgow where enthusiasm for the cluster remains a high priority for the development agency despite a challenging property market. In short, clusters, both in Glasgow and elsewhere, are considered too important to the larger economic and cultural strategies that spawn them to lose their privileged status on the policy agendas of regional governments.

I am less interested in outlining the reasons for success or failure in this essay. The economic complexities of such developments are the subject of much notable debate in political economy, urban planning, and policy studies. Instead, I aim to make visible from this case study a new geography of media work, a shifting sense of workplace that refashions the type of work and workers most valued in these clusters, and to what end. In other words, what community does this new geography of media work imagine as most “at home” there, and why? Central to this objective is the role new communications technologies play in transforming the spatial orientation of the workplace, and how they often reinscribe the very power structures and politics of space they are touted to transcend. As those technologies increasingly find themselves embedded into the physical infrastructure and design logics of the modern office complex, this case study underscores for media and cultural studies scholars the role electronic media play in articulating and policing the boundaries of the workaday life as much as the everyday life. Whereas these sociospatial concerns have often been addressed within the domestic contexts of the home, city, or nation, this case study further signals the workplace as an equally compelling material site to examine the relationship between space, place, and electronic media. Such are the concerns that frame the following analysis.

In Glasgow, this transformation is most apparent in the collapsing distinctions between physical and digital space in the built environments of media work, a reconfigured spatial matrix that I term “corresponding geographies” to better account for the extensions of purpose-built office complexes into social media platforms like

Facebook and Twitter. Quite literally, I’m trying to make sense of a building that blogs, tweets, and updates statuses, and what that might tell us about the shifting sense of workplace for a digital sector with a global mandate. Corresponding geographies help explain how the digital spaces considered here have emerged not as alternatives or supplements to their physical counterparts but as increasingly necessary parts of an interrelated whole, a design logic intended to reinforce a wider set of managerial discourses about the nature and necessity of creative work for global competitive advantage. Corresponding geographies are “caught up” in larger tensions between the seemingly benign celebrations of digital media’s sociospatial potential at UNIV NEBRASKA LIBRARIES on December 4, 2015tvn.sagepub.comDownloaded from

Sanson 753 and the current socioeconomic “fetishization” of creativity in the larger global marketplace. In other words, the developments promise potential tenants the digital infrastructure and tools they require to unlock latent creative potential on a global scale.