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Innovation and the cultural economy

Pratt, A.C. (2017). Innovation and the cultural economy. In: Batheldt, H., Cohendet, P., Henn, A. & Simon, L. (Eds.), The Elgar Companion to innovation and knowledge creation: a multi-disciplinary approach. (pp. 230-243). Edward Elgar.


Innovation is generally regarded as a universal and positive element of economic life. However, it is an apparent paradox that not all innovations are good, nor are they necessarily an improvement on those which they replace. We have all experienced the ‘novelty’ gadget that is quickly forgotten, or the new special effects-heavy, multi-million dollars, blockbuster film that fails at the box office. We cannot dismiss this as the fickleness of taste, there are a number of well-documented examples of the inferior technology ‘winning’: the classic case in video recording technology is the VHS format replacing the technically superior Betamax (Cusumano, Mylonadis et al. 1992). Put simply, the lesson is that neither technical nor artistic superiority consistently bear a simple or direct relationship with economic or cultural success. The important point is that the value of innovation is not universal but its value is established in context. This applies more generally, but in the field of the cultural economy the situation is more critical than in other fields. In the cultural economy the ‘value’ is the product or practice. Moreover, social or cultural values change, serving to ‘re-value’ an object or practice, at any stage in the production process between ideation and use. In this chapter I explore how such instability and change in the ‘value’ of innovations may need to be re-positioned at the centre of our analyses; challenging what we find in mainstream analyses of innovation where such rouge characteristics are regarded as ‘exceptional’ or peripheral. I conclude that insights from innovation processes in the cultural economy should prompt us to re-frame our analyses not only of the cultural economy but of the rest of the economy as well

Publication Type: Book Section
Additional Information: This is a draft chapter. The final version will be available in "The Elgar Companion to Innovation and Knowledge Creation" edited by Batheldt H, cohendet P, Henn A, Simon L., published in November 2017 by Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd. The material cannot be used for any other purpose without further permission of the publisher, and is for private use only.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > Culture & the Creative Industries
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