Digital Platforms for Craft in the UK and China

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: Sch of Electronic Eng & Computer Science

Abstract

The Creative Economies are key growth drivers and economic sectors for both the UK and China. Digital platforms such as social networks, search engines, online marketplaces, and content distribution help to generate new products and services both online and offline. For those concerned with physical objects especially in the craft and visual arts sectors, digital platforms provide opportunities through the 4th industrial revolution where there is a blurring between physical and digital production. For example, digital platforms provide opportunities for innovation through using new materials and production techniques, they facilitate greater and closer access to markets and customers, and provide opportunities to include customers more in the design process. Digital platforms are therefore key to enabling growth in the Creative Economies in the UK and China. This is despite the fact that the UK and China have unique cultural heritages and traditions, different economic, social, and political profiles, and divergent digital infrastructure and regulations.

Digital platforms are inevitably implemented, used, and leveraged differently the UK and China. Firstly, there are deep rooted differences in culture and heritage between the UK and China which would affect conventions and methods of production and consumption in Creative Economies which would make different use of digital platforms to support them. Secondly, there are significant differences between countries' internet infrastructure and policies of use. For example, social media such as Twitter and Facebook are ubiquitous in the UK in contrast to Chinese social media platforms such as QQ and WeChat. Similarly, popular craft marketplaces such as those on taobao in China contrast with craft marketplaces such as NotOnTheHighStreet and etsy.com which are prevalent the UK. Thirdly, there are differences in different cultures' use of digital platforms such as social media which may be reflected in the use of digital platforms in the Creative Economy. Finally, there are differences in digital inclusion between urban and rural areas which are different in the UK and China and which would have an impact of the possible uses and uptake of digital platforms.

Whilst digital platforms are used across Creative Economy sectors there has to date been a concentration of research interest in those sectors which produce or consume digital content. For example, games, music, and media production sectors, which have included comparisons between the UK and Chinese sectors. However, the use of digital platforms in cultural domains which involve physical object production, consumption, and archival are not well researched despite the importance of craft as a driver of innovation in the Creative Economy and wider industries. The project will directly address this lack of research in the use and potential of digital platforms for craft sectors in the UK and China.

Planned Impact

Creative Economy represents 3.97% of economy (2015; [China Govt, 2016]), compared to 8.2% of UK's economy (2014; [UK Govt, 2016]) and 8.7% of the UK's exports of services (2013; [UK Govt, 2016]). This project will directly feed into the growth of these sectors by providing routes to better utilize digital platforms in the Creative Economies in China and the UK for creatives who are concerned with physical objects especially in the craft sector which has to date been largely ignored in terms of digital platform usage. It will provide case studies of how digital platforms can be used in the craft sector of Creative Economies, and what possible future uses of digital platforms might be.

The project will directly benefit people working in the craft sector through dissemination of best practice in how to use digital platforms in the craft sector to help them grow and sustain their craft businesses. This will directly help support growth of the Creative Economy in China and also the UK through targeted and localised case studies of uses of digital platforms. The web resources of case studies and digital platform guides will be supported in China for at least 3 years after the project is completed.

For policy-makers the project provides case studies of uses of digital platforms in Creative Economies which would help to inform development of government initiatives at local, regional, and national levels. Public sector agencies and bodies also benefit from the case studies and best practice which would them to shape their policies and also to directly shape future networks and communities of Creative Economies, especially in the craft sector. Professional and practitioner groups also benefit from inclusion in the project through stakeholder workshops thus expanding their national and international networks. They additionally benefit by being able to expose their members to the usage of digital platforms and informing future digital platform development which would directly benefit their members.

[UK Govt, 2016] UK Government report: "Creative Industries Economic Estimates - January 2016 - Key findings", Published 26 January 2016.
[China Govt, 2016] China Government report: "National Statistics Report 2015" - published 10 August 2016.

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