Brock University

Creative Workers and Cultural Fields

We invite papers on creative workers and/or cultural fields. Case studies, qualitative, quantitative, or comparative papers are all welcome. Theoretical and methodological papers will also be considered.

Session Organizer: John McLevey, University of Waterloo, ; Allyson Stokes, University of Waterloo,


Gender and the Field-Habitus Complex

Diana Miller, University of Toronto,

Two of Bourdieu’s main concepts, habitus and field, are deeply connected; Bourdieu argues that as individuals participate in cultural fields, their habitus adapt to the fields’ internal logics. Yet, he did not consider how this field-habitus complex might be shaped by gender. Using evidence from two cultural fields, the heavy metal and folk music scenes in Toronto, I argue that fields produce explicitly gendered forms of habitus, and that the gendered nature of these dispositions reproduces the fields themselves. The metal field produces a “metalhead habitus” focused on a narrow range of masculine traits, while the folk field produces a “folkie habitus” that blends masculine and feminine dispositions. A specific, feminine folkie disposition—a willingness to do unpaid support work for others—is crucial to supplying the vast amounts of volunteer labour on which folk festivals, a major organizational form in the folk field, depend. I also show that a masculine metalhead disposition—playful, boasting games of one-up-man-ship between men—is crucial to reproducing the stylistic conventions of heavy metal music. Taking a gendered lens to the field-habitus complex provides a clearer picture of the gendered mechanisms through which fields of cultural production are reproduced and maintained.


Defining Innovation: Developing a Multivalent Typology for Tracing the Evolution of Ideas in Various Cultural Fields

Andreas Hoffbauer, University of Toronto,

Innovation is a readily used concept for evaluating cultural ideas and processes. Whether looking through scholarly or popular texts, the concept of innovation is inevitably invoked. Yet the myriad of things described as innovative makes it a particularly difficult concept to define. From explaining creative organizations (artistic, Crane 1997), partisan control strategies (political, Padgett and Ansell 1993), manufacturing processes (entrepreneurship, Fishman 2013), to constituency outreach (social advocacy, Economist 2013), and beyond, the concept risks becoming a black box. Understanding what innovation is and parsing out its dynamics is important to understanding how new ideas are generated and in turn how they contribute to the evolution of their respective cultural fields. Moreover, a multivalent definition makes explicit the varying criteria for evaluating cultural objects and process. Using original data on how artistic, political, entrepreneurial, and social advocacy come to define innovation, this paper empirically demonstrates that there is great diversity in the way innovation is described, as well as important differences between fields.


The Practicing Audience: Towards New Methods of Research and Collaboration in the Design Studio

AnneMarie Dorland, University of Calgary,

How is the creative process of graphic designers altered when audience-inclusive research methods such as collaboration and observation are integrated into daily studio practice? This paper will challenge traditional notions of creative practice through an examination of cultural production within the creative field of the design studio. It will share findings from an ethnographic and interview based study of graphic designers in major Canadian studios engaged with methods of audience-collaboration and audience-inclusive production. The findings from this study suggest new ways of understanding the relationships between producers and audiences, contributing to existing scholarship regarding cultural production (Tunstall, 2010). This paper will propose that through the use of sociological research methodologies such as participant observation, designers are actively assuming proxy audience membership – complicating the role of the ‘cultural intermediary’ as proposed by Bourdieu (1984). By modifying existing models of the ‘circuit of culture’ formulated by du Gay et al., (1997) through the addition of active audience/collaborators within the stage of production, and by employing Giddens’s theories of practice (1979) as both a methodological and theoretical framework, I will question how new forms of creative practice complicate traditional understandings of the work of cultural workers in the design studio setting.


The Future of the Imagination: Negotiating creative research and education at Canada’s art and design universities.

Saara Liinamaa, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University,

This paper will present a section of research from my larger study of Canada’s three independent art and design universities as research institutions and key training grounds for Canada’s creative workforce. Drawing on planning and policy documents as well as advertising and recruitment initiatives from these universities, this paper will discuss how creative research, training and work becomes defined and negotiated at these schools in light of conflicting notions of what constitutes creative work as well as creative research and education. While these universities make serious claims about the future necessity of creativity as a pillar of social and economic health, my discussion will examine upon what sort of ideal creative workforce this future promise depends.


© Canadian Sociological Association ⁄ La Société canadienne de sociologie