British Council Creative Economy

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23 September 2014

Jon Rogers: The makers of the pull economy

Professor Jon Rogers is Chair in Creative Technology at University of Dundee. His work explores the human intersection between digital technologies and the design of physical things.

(c) Technology Will Save US

Jon balances playful technologies with citizenship to find new ways to connect people to each other and to their data. As part of our Blurring the Lines provocations he speaks to us about 'The makers of the pull economy':

'It is the time of year when the swallows are making their final swoops and dives outside my window, before heading on their migration to far-off lands. I am envious that they live their lives blissfully unaware of human-defined borders and social geographies.  They go where the food is.  They pull in the resources that they need and go where they want to as their graceful flight paths blur the lines across geographies and culture.

Like the swallows, our digital economy is not nested in a single country. The language of expression may change, but the platforms for access are global. We migrate from one platform to another, keeping our own identity and moving how we want. The web that connects us is a truly global, borderless entity. Yet it continues to surprise me that our platforms for access remain almost entirely from the US – Facebook, Twitter, Google and Amazon all come from a small region just outside San Francisco. Hardware, despite Apple’s rise to global power, is less US dominated and I for one am glad of this. 

(c) James Offer

The web is empowering the shift from a push economy, (where standardised goods and services are predicated and provided by industrialised market models) to a pull economy (where individuals and communities are able to self-organise provision of goods and services on demand).  From the Arab Spring to the Scottish Referendum, this networked economy is already making huge changes to how politics are being played out and it is just a matter of time before our everyday economics of retail, production, education, travel and  healthcare is also radically changed.   Amidst this change we are starting to see a new creative economy emerge, a creative economy that is emerging from practitioners across the globe. Of course there is the start-up venture-capital fuelled culture of Silicon Valley, but this is being countered by a worldwide network of makers and doers. Where collaboration is valued over being ‘lean’ and where communities of practice are valued over communities of funding.  Whether this is by hackervist groups in Johannesburg,  co-designers in Delhi, or by makers blurring the natural world with digital production in Sao Paulo, their is the commonality of collaborative practice.

There is much to do in order to grown these nascent ventures, many supported by the British Council.  As the new digital pull economy starts to feed into our lives, do we want it to come from a valley on the west coast of the US or from a global network of co-designers setting out to find innovation from within and across cultures and society?    And like the swallows playfully darting outside my window,  our creative economy blurs the lines between cultures as it crosses continents in search of new places to soar. Welcome to the makers of the pull economy. ' 

Jon Rogers founded the Product Research Studio in 2009 and has worked with some of the world’s best known organisations, including BBC R&D, Microsoft, Mozilla, NASA, the Met Office, Victoria and Albert Museum, MIT Media Labs in the US and the National Institute of Design in India. He is an advisor to the British Council-supported Unbox Festival in India, is the Head of Hack for the Unlimited Space Agency, and provides research consultancy to the design agency Uniform.