The imagination is valuable to me personally, but I believe it is undervalued to society. In its relationship to values and evaluation, the role of the imagination is only starting to be explored as integral in the social construction of value (Hines, 1989, Hines, 1988).
However, integrating a highly subjective experience such as imagination into an objective framework seems paradoxical. Throughout the semester, I have grown an interest in exploring these methodological challenges such as the following: the paradox of a conceptual framework fitting both subjective and objective experience, the spatial and temporal paradox of social complexity science, and the paradox of the creative industries existing both inside and outside the broader economic system.
The major reflection I have had throughout the course centers around the imagination. Upon reflection, an exploration of the imagination may prove to be a key that does not necessarily resolve these paradoxes, but allows for a conceptual framework to understand them.
I will first begin by exploring developments in the creative industry literature and broader critical theory that suggest a distinction between a ‘core model’ utilized by society in its social operation and the potential, competing models formed at the periphery. The ‘peripheral models’ arise from singular, created ideas to challenge the core model of operation.
The imagination is integral in this process for two reasons. First, the imagination can be characterized as a resource by which new ideas are created at the periphery and then integrated into the ‘central model’. Second, the imagination can be characterized as a social concept that, unlike natural resources, moves toward infinity the more it is exploited.
The Central Model and the Infinite Periphery
Potts and Cunningham’s (2008) fourth model of the creative industries sees the creative industry sector as an economic driver acting from outside of the existing economic framework. They draw from complexity science to conceptualize the creative industries, not in terms of SIC code, but as a widely applicable set of principles or characteristics that help to articulate a narrative of economic development through creative destruction (Potts and Cunningham, 2008). Similar arguments further characterize research into the creative industries as stemming from an ‘outgrowth of the previously non-market economy of cultural public goods and private imagination that seeks new ways of seeing and representing the world’ (Potts et al., 2008).
Although only putting forth cursory empirical evidence to support this model, we see a characterization of the creative industries as existing outside a ‘core’ social model of operation. The creative industries is the innovation process, not merely of a sector or market, but of the entire economic system as a whole (Potts and Cunningham, 2008).
Another important argument of economic growth questions the validity of separate spatial economic systems (Wallerstein, 2004). This is important to our case because again, we are forced into a totalitarian ‘core’ system, in this case capitalism in dichotomy with that which does not take place within the capitalist system. This system may be compartmentalized, but it is described as a ‘global whole’ and a ‘constellation of juxtaposed, imbricated, ordered subsystems’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 2004).
Throughout the course we have discussed value in a similar context. One distinction is made between ‘market’ value as value integrated into our economic framework and ‘non-market’ value as that which exists outside the market (Snowball, 2008). It is interesting to note how ‘non-market’ value is openly creative seeking to create or build a model of operation, while ‘market’ value is seen as calculated, monitored, or derived.
We can ascribe a set of distinctions between the ‘core’ and ‘peripheral’ operational frameworks. The ‘core’ is the created ideas after it has been integrated into an agreed upon social system. The ‘periphery’ is the totality of the newly created ideas ultimately arising from the imagination of the individual. By this nature, the ‘core’ is finite because it exploits an agreed upon set of social interactions, while the ‘periphery’ moves towards infinity because it contains the sum of the newly created ideas.
Imagination as Temporal Link Between the Core and Periphery
An interesting critical article, published in a smaller publication, describes the role of the imagination not only as a place where new ideas are formed, but similar to a ‘Simonian’ interface (Simon, 1996) that helps to form ‘the scope of our own agency, our sense of totality … and affective and projective capacity for the shared futurity that makes social cooperation possible’ (Haiven, 2011). Haiven (2011) goes on to articulate a relationship between the imagination and capital whereas finance is described as ‘capital’s imagination’.
If we view these ideas within the ‘core’/finite – ‘periphery’ / infinite dichotomy we can make a broad observation about social science methodology. The infinite, like a cup or a chalice, forms the finitude of agreed upon social models. The imagination, as an infinite concept, actually bounds the ‘core’ into finitude because it is the imagination, in its infinite state, that allows us to conceive of a finite or agreed upon social system.
It is interesting to consider the role the imagination plays not only as acting on the economic system from outside, but also as a glue that allows for a socially constructed system of operation. This becomes a really interesting point if we see continue with our core-periphery conceptual framework
The Need to Recast the Subjective-Objective Dichotomy to Include Finitude – Infinity
We have discussed ‘non-market’ value heavily this semester, not only in this module, but in the moduleTheory and Practice in the Creative Industries. This is due in part to Clive Gillman’s (managing director at the Dundee Contemporary Arts) discussion of value. He articulates the subjective-objective paradox of cultural or non-market value. Because cultural value is a highly subjective experience, the moment you try to objectify the experience, it turns to dust. It becomes contradictory.
This characterization troubled me greatly because of the assumption made that a central characteristic of value is solely subjective or objective. I believe the subjective-objective dichotomy needs to be recast to include added spatial and temporal ‘states’.
I agree there is a paradox we reach when something is subjective or objective at the same time. Value is both. When it is used by a group of people there is an objective quality to it, but there is also an aspect of value that is socially constructed, that is dynamic, and that arises from the subjective creative experience of the individual’s imagination. However, we must build out this understanding of value to conceptualize value as a ‘state’ of being rather than a static social concept. If we go back to our ‘core’ / finite – ‘periphery’ / infinite distinction, we see that there are actually four states forming around the subjective – objective classification:
- ‘Core’ or finite subjectivity. This is the individual’s experience as it exists in a state inside the ‘core’ operational system.
- ‘Core’ or finite objectivity. This is the singular potentiality of the social system. That is to say the one social event that actually happens in the midst of infinite ‘peripheral’ possibilities.
- ‘Peripheral’ or infinite subjectivity. This is the individual’s creation of a new idea.
- ‘Peripheral’ or infinite objectivity. This is the infinitely potential combinations of new ideas as they grow into competing models trying to be integrated into the ‘core’ model.
To ascribe an objective reality to social interaction is an obvious fallacy if we do not make these added spatial and temporal considerations. Finitude and infinity help to add a temporal and spatial ‘state’ to the subjective and objective dichotomy.
Discussion: Imagination as an Infinite Resource and Infinite Social Concepts
If we view the infinite ‘periphery’ or imagination as, like aforementioned, a chalice that frames the finite social reality into existence then we must value the imaginative process in its ‘periphery’ state. Does the articulation and valuation of new ideas in the infinite ‘periphery’ actually increase the value or boundary of the finite?
Further, we must question a fundamental assumption of how we ‘mine’ creative resources. Creative resources may not be like natural resources. The act of ‘mining’ creative resources might actually lead to the existence of more creative resources whereas the act of ‘mining’ natural resources depletes them. If this is the case, there may be a fundamental change in the productive aspect of the economy to place significance on even discarded ideas. In a sense, ‘non-markets’ would become just as ‘real’ or valuable as markets.
Further, the notion of the finite and infinite social concepts might be widely applicable to social concepts beyond value similarly as the subjective-objective dichotomy often gets used to articulate the fundamental nature of many social concepts.
One potential avenue where this might be applicable is social change. Models of political reality could be viewed similarly to models of economic reality we have discussed. Again, does creating more ideas for social change create value within the finite, ‘core’ operational model? Do more ideas lead to better political systems?
Lastly, I would like to make one point about the limitations of this essay. While I could synthesize some emerging concepts of value, I had a problem with articulating a sound ontological and epistemological basis for the ideas I put forth. In a sense, I found myself trying to create a model to articulate the characteristics of the imagination I perceived throughout the module. I am not sure this is the best practice in theory formation; however, reaching a sound ontological or epistemological basis might bring me too far into the realm of philosophy than I care to journey.
I looked into prior theories of the imagination, which some heavyweight philosophers seemed to present such as Hume, but there was little information about imagination as a social concept. After finding little prior theoretical research into these ideas, I wondered how one might conduct empirical research into infinite social concepts such as the imagination. I leave this course with a desire to collect empirical data to explore the problems with the concepts aforementioned and perhaps explore ontological and epistemological aspects of the imagination. I believe the idea of reflexivity and Bourdieu’s habitus might be worth exploring for the epistemological relationship with the imagination (Adams, 2006).
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