The School of Creative Industries (SOCI) at UON was established in 2017, when an eponymous Bachelor program was launched – it includes the core course, “What is Creativity” (CIND1001). The course, designed by an interdisciplinary team (Angela Philp, Cathie Payne, Helen English) from fine arts, music and communications, was developed by the teaching team led by Cathie with Helena Bezzina and Ben Matthews in 2017-18. The team set out to challenge assumptions about creativity by working on the basis of an innovative teaching and learning strategy that promotes “making” as exploration, over traditional assignments. Students work in teams over the period of a semester to respond to and interpret the city, using peripatetic, cartographic, and critical modes of engagement to create and exhibit in a single large-scale, multimodal, contemporary art event hosted at Newcastle City Hall (2017) and UoN's recently opened city campus, NeW Space (2018).
Newcastle is in transition, and the City Council has launched the Hunter Innovation Project, deploying smart city infrastructure to create a “Digital Precinct” in the area surrounding NeW Space where an “Innovation Hub” (Home - Hunter Innovation Project, 2018). In our curriculum, the city is approached through themes that are based on timeshifting so that the physical realities of spaces can be extended by a participatory and reflexive imagination, and by “making”. Complicit to this goal was the task of better integrating the students and NeW Space with the local innovation ecology, and to establish and expand networks that include the immediate experience of students, entities that strongly relate to the creative industries, and the citizens of the city (this was a public event).
Digital technology was a vital component in this strategy, which took Tim Ingold’s “art as inquiry” perspective on making, positing art practice as a mode of anthropological investigation that focuses on processes of making, rather than outcomes (Hallam and Ingold, 2014; Ingold 2013). We follow Pink et al., (2016) in asserting digital materiality should be treated not as “‘something’ done, but a process of becoming. Digital materiality refers to the making and to what emerges of these entanglements, not to a state or a quality of matter” (pp10-11). The materiality of these circumstances remain significant, but it is their experiential quality that forms the primary point of fascination where making is placed at the centre of our attention, rather than at the periphery—as phenomena that permit a-posteriori assertions about materiality.
The subject-as-enquiry, then, includes in its scope, what is creativity as it constitutes the ground for “creative industries”, that much challenged and negotiated, but persistent title given to so much policy, and so many contexts of study and research (Flew and Cunningham, 2010)? Through making, and exhibiting, we utilised digital and analogue, direct, performative, participatory, immersive, roving and virtualised experiences to bring into the immediacy of emerging Newcastle innovation ecologies and networks the voices and key learnings of our students—as emerging creative industries practitioners, and as active participants in a city's future.