Digital creatives – a proper name?

And what’s sex got to do with it?

By Andreas Wagner and Jeroen Van Looy
with thanks to Julian Tait

You hang out 8+ hours a day in one of the fancy urbanite’s wet dream café places with your laptop? You have neither a landline number nor an office address on you complementary card? Then you might already be a part of the edgy Mancunian scene of “digital creatives”. But be aware, among more traditional office slaves to the grind you could quickly earn a reputation as a happy go lucky information bubble multiplier.

Starting with a basic online information crawl, my hope of glancing upon a virtual manifesto of an aspiring new movement got slashed by google’s opinion of this phrase. There is none. Same counts for Wikipedia. I thought those to be the main sources for a general picture. But maybe I stumbled upon the first “rule” of the digital creatives: search it local, don’t generalize. Emerging groups in our world get too easily branded.

So let’s break it down to Manchester: to get a hold of these very communicative kind of people, let us then think in networked terms. The monthly meetings of the Social Media Cafe, the Northern Digitals, and the CING network are well known to be casual meetups and focal points. The range of professional backgrounds is immense: you find web & graphic designers, programmers, PR & advertisers, event organizers, students and professors, financial experts, managers, NGO workers, government officials, etc.

Figuring out what they are actually doing is a whole science itself. Creativity, it has been written, is the process of changing materials or ideas into something new. Having this done in a digital environment leads us pretty much to a proper frame we talk about: people that come up with new stuff using digital tools. You often can find people working in the digital creative professions outside their offices, attending in “social” events where they indulge themselves in the art of networking. The geographical clustering of events represents the “local” character of these groups. Having participated in a couple of those meetings, I must admit, it is fun to be a part of that. Although, I cannot stop to ask myself what is so special about the way they make their daily bread.

So what does sex got to do with location?
Well, it goes like this: While more established digital businesses in Manchester tend to be located around Castlefield, the starting points can largely be found in the Northern Quarter. And where are the local sexshops? Right. Simply put, starting digital creative businesses are in dire need of affordable office space to do their business. And the local triple X seems to scare off real estate developers, breaking commonly known gentrification patterns. The presence of an already high concentration of digital creative businesses also comes in handy when your looking for project partners.

This leads us to yet another observation. Many members of the digital creative community prefer meeting their customers and colleagues in nice easy going bars/coffeehouses with free wifi around their own – maybe a little less fancy – offices.

Starting up your own coffeehouse is just another way of making a living in the digital creative industry. But before running off to your local real estate agent looking for a nice premise, let me point out to you that there are already some of these quirky cafés in the Northern Quarter.

How do you understand “digital creative”? (Feel free to comment in a constructive way)

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