Literature Review on “Creative Industries or Wasteful Ones?”

Posted: April 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: creative industries | No Comments »

It seems that creative industries are not as green as supposed. E-waste has been a shadow of the “clean” creative industries. Obviously, people who deal with e-waste, like those in Lùqiáo Qū and Gùiyǔ, are the victims in creative industries developments, sacrificing their and even future generation’s health and natural environment. People exposed to e-waste have higher risks to catch diseases of vital organs; Contaminants saturate the soil, rivers, and air, and spread to the surrounding villages. However, if there are no effective ways put forward to deal with e-waste, victims will not just limited to this specific group, but all the people in the world, as we share the same globe.

Literature Review on “Labour, Migration, Creative Industries, Risk”

Posted: April 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: creative industries | Tags: | No Comments »

This article lists three important developments in terms of migratory movement in China. As an instance raised by author, the demolition of the hutongs in Beijing, behind which creative industries are an important factor, reminds me something I forgot before. The original place Ningbo Hefeng Originality Plaza (Ningbo Industrial Design and Creative Center) located included not only a cotton mill, but also a resident area where my aunt had lived for more than ten years. The house my aunt lived with other families is a Qing dynasty two-floor architecture with delicate carving on the ridge beams. It is not the only one in this resident area. Regrettably, they were demolished in 2001. What a strong will the government has to renew urban districts!

Literature Review on “Creative Clusters: Out of Nowhere?”

Posted: April 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: creative industries | Tags: | No Comments »

One of the most impressive points in this article is the emphasis on “catch-up learning” which involves a process of “unlearning” and further exceeding of the codified knowledge with the purpose of achieving generative growth (Keane, 2008:35). Accordingly, unnecessarily duplicating the existing successful models from other cities or carrying out ‘follow-the leader’ strategies could not help to advance the competitive power of creative industries in China. For example, the success of Beijing 798 and Shanghai Binjiang Creative Park, both built based on deserted plants, has led to the phenomenon that a large number of old factories in China have been transformed into creative clusters. A typical instance is Hangzhou where at least eight creative clusters are originally old factories, like Loft 49, A8 Art Community, Tangshang 433, and 177 Creative Park. Even the names of these creative clusters are similar as Beijing 798, entitled by numbers. What’s more, there are more than one hundred old plants have been renewed as creative clusters. Although the retooling of factories as creative industries “has clear effects upon the texture of the urban landscape” (Neilson, 2008: 42), there are still some questions need to be further studied: are these factories suitable to be transformed into creative clusters? Is it the best way to build a creative cluster on the basis of a deserted plant? Is building creative clusters the best way to promote creative industries? Could a satisfying return be got from building this kind of creative clusters? Admittedly, it is necessary for us to learn from other cities’ experience at the very start, but more significantly we should identify our own advantages in the through knowledge accumulation and innovative thinking (Keane, 2008:35) instead of just copying the successful models and neglecting whether it is suitable or not.
Keane, Michael (2008) ‘Creative Clusters: Out of Nowhere?’, Urban China 33: 34-35.
Neilson, Brett (2008) ‘Labour, Migration, Creative Industries, Risk’, Urban China 33: 42-43.

Fieldwork_23, April 2010, Shipping company

Posted: April 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: logistics, maritime industries | No Comments »

On 23 April, Ned, Yulin and I visited one of the world leading shipping companies* in Ningbo. The aim of the visit covers research on the routine operation of a logistics company, the software/IT devices that track employees’ KPIs/ business operation, and working conditions of local staff in local market.

Comparing with a small domestic shipping company visited by other members in our team at the same time, we observed some interesting differences. The international company has a big and nice office in a 5-star hotel and with a well organized chart on human resources. About 100 people working here in different departments with clear job descriptions while the small company with 10-20 employees that staffs always wear several hats at the same time (our team member there found a girl kept data inputting while calling a customer).

Software used in KPI tracing in the big company differs from the small one. As mentioned by our interviewee that a powerful *EDI system is extensively applied within international companies that it can automatically generate update information from different database instantly to ensure the operation go efficiently and properly. By contrast, the system was not mentioned by the small company. Instead, my colleagues there observed the individual used personal MSN as a communicator for customer service and maintaining.

Another issue we want to explore is the working conditions.  People working in the international giant seem to work in a less stressful environment for most of they show confidence in achieving targets for their performance and can finish work on time without OT. Interviewees in the small company expressed that sometimes they need to work after office hour for customer- relationship building. Other findings are the role and influence Worker’s Union in the big company. Although most people apply for Union membership as joining the company, they don’t treat union as a powerful place for right protection. Even most of they don’t know how the Union usually work. The way workers claim their rights not through any organization as Worker’s Union or Foreign Enterprises Service Company but through the communication with the immediate boss which are regarded as the direct and efficient way. The reason for this, according to the interviewee, that there is no a culture here to seek help from Worker’s Union. No feedback from the small company on this question. 

In short, although located in a local market- Ningbo, we can see the culture in the big company is oriented by host country- more European and more international in terms of management style and daily operation practice.

western/international company culture with Chinese elements in the office

 Further research

Another finding included foreign company in China is forbidden in dealing with domestic services (voyages). This will lead to a further investigation on the updated stage of Chinese commitments to WTO on controlling domestic logistics. And the logistic chain is closely linked with the value chain of international trade. Thus, further investigation should be conducted the points along the chain as from factories to logistics agencies for booking space from shipping companies, to preparing the goods , to local containers management, to deliver to the port, to container loading into the port and finally to the destination.



*As required by the interviewee, any attempt to public the details of the interview in name of the company needs to be approved by the company management. Therefore the name of the company is not specified in this post.

*EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). More details about EDI system at

Literature Review_ “ICW-Immaterial Civil War” (Pasquinelli, 2007)

Posted: April 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: creative industries, real-estate | No Comments »

In the article, Pasquinelli revisits David Harvey’s work of The Art of Rent (Harvey 2001), claiming that “all the immaterial economies have a material, parallel counterpart where the big money is exchanged” (Pasquinelli 2006: 22). The mode of value generation in creative industries domain is in fact not limited to the exploitation of intellectual property, but also  a more tendentious way of parasitic exploitation  by another material objects. The discourse “collective symbolic capital” introduced by Harvey unveils the potential political economy of cultural interventions and the parasite exploiting the social creativity.

The culture context provides the marks of distinction which be exploited further by capitalists to sell material goods. The article mentions the Barcelona city as an example; Pasquinelli states that the production of culture as social capital and real estate speculation is a couple of immaterial and material compound.

To apply the concept of parasitic exploitation of symbolic capital, the mode of development of creative clusters in local Ningbo seems a contradictory and conflicted circumstance  for further investigation. An initial thought of this phenomenon is that the culture and creative economy-oriented project is possibly exploited mostly by real estate speculators and leave little space for sustainable development of culture and creative reproduction.


Harvey, David (2001), ‘The Art of Rent: Globalization and the Commodification of Culture’, in Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography, New York: Routledge, 2001, pp. 394-411

Pasquinelli, Matteo (2007) ‘ICW-Immaterial Civil War, Prototypes of conflict within cognitive capitalism’, in Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter (eds) MyCreativity Reader: Critique of Creative Industries, Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, pp. 71-81.

Literature Review_’Creative Industries or Wasterful Ones’

Posted: April 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: creative industries, real-estate, waste industries | No Comments »

Creative Industries are no doubt with a clean image comparing with those manufacturing counterparts with visible wastes produce. Anyhow, in the article ‘Creative industries or wasteful ones’, Maxwell and his colleagues reveal the dark side or the by-products creative industries create due to heavily relying on electronic technologies. Computers parts, TVs, mobile phones mp3s and other e-devices therefore contribute to a new even more toxic industry- an unbeknown one. The toxic process starts from the unawareness of knowledge of e-waste recycling which involves health risks for workers in the value chain and pollutions to land and water.  And the trend of e-waste from developed countries/regions to developing countries/regions calls for responsibilities both from countries and companies involved. The authors also call for users /public require the ‘clean’ industry be less ‘wasteful ‘by slowing down the business for a while in regarding the proper usage and treatment of e-waste.

It’s indeed an inspiring article which reveal not only how clean becomes wasteful but also the relationship between technology and moral issues. In addition,  consumers and civil society can use their power to claim for the right for the workers and  a less polluted environment which help to prevent the ‘wasteful ‘ industry not  go too far. In short, we are not facing the challenge of new technologies with unwelcome by-products. Instead, we need to inspect why and how we modern society use it for what purposes. Always do the right things and do things right.

Further thoughts and action plan

Our team got an initial action plan that we’re going to share this e-waste knowledge with local environmental protection NGO to see how academic resource can contribute to local communities .A further study will be conducted in the following days to explore another unbeknown wasteful aspect of the ‘clean industries’ in Ningbo-soil pollution on the demolishied factory sites where new Creative Industries and Real Estate Clusters are built.


Maxwell, Richard and Miller, Toby (2008a) ‘Creative Industries or Wasteful Ones’, Urban China 33:28-29,

Literature Review_Zhang, Li(2008) ‘Private Homes, Distinct Lifestyles: Performing a New Middle Class’

Posted: April 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: creative industries, real-estate | No Comments »

In her article ‘Private homes, Distinct Lifestyles: Performing a New Middle Class’,  Li Zhang traces the ongoing formation of a new middle class in China that has a close relationship with the reform of privatizing housing in 1998 which differed from   the former state-subsidized public housing policy.

In a time that the real estate industry becomes the main drive for economic booming in China, her fieldworks in Kunming revealing the link between the privatization of real estate and class   forming  focus more on property acquisition and consumption practices that differentiated a ‘happening ‘ middle class. Although it’s a ‘happening ‘ class, Li Zhang observed that the forming middle class shared some cultures cultivated based in the living space( Garden area, Villa or high-end residential areas), such as being wealthy enough to afford  the houses in the same Xiaoqu(Neighborhoods), sharing similar consumption (high-end consumption labeled by specific brands) ,   enjoying same lifestyles(fashion,  kids education and housewives’ leisure-time) and with a strong sense of insecurity by the well-gated systems that both act for isolating the relationship with next-door neighbors and protecting  privacy.

 Does a culture of a class just cover the finance status and the sense of insecurity as it’s in Li Zhang’s study? My observations here in Ningbo might well support her concept of ‘happening’ in terms of forming a new class rather than the set material standard shared within the class. The findings in Ningbo high-end neighborhoods show that there is a tendency that some wealthy people who used to show off their labels of personal possessions are now showing more concerns on the design and cultures of the consumer goods(although they are still big brand and expensive).  Sales in the LV store found that some people begin ask for a nice good without an eye-catching big label.  This shift from showing off to emphasize quality of goods also leads another change-diversified in lifestyles. It’s no longer the time ‘the middle class ‘follows the same activities in their leisure-time/past-times as food massage, Facial treatment and Golf. Some begin to spend more time jogging in the shared gardens and some parents with little children’s unite together to organize for outing. 

Yet, it’s hard to come to a clear definition of what a ’middle class in China’ looks like at the stage. It’s definitely a process rather than a specific term.

Reference:Zhang, Li (2008) ‘Private Homes, Distinct Lifestyles: Performing a New Middle Class’, in Li Zhang and Aihwa Ong  (eds) Privatizing China: Socialism from Afar, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp.23-40

Literature Review_ “Constructing The Real (E)state of Chinese Contemporary Art: Reflections on 798, in 2004” (Berghuis, 2008)

Posted: April 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

“These days, the experimental art scene is reinventing itself as a highly profitable and marketable, commercial cultural industry.”
– Berghuis, 2008

The main argument of Berghuis to the art district like Dashanzi is that he found the most fundamental and essential development occurring here is in deed the real estate industry more than a contemporary art industries. Though, the place like Dashanzi district started as an experimental art basement of artists’ initiative, but it now ends up a trendy cultural cluster and commercial district whose biggest beneficiaries are property dealers. The loser could be the artists who contributed to the reborn of 798 art factory but eventually have to be driven off by the increasingly raised residential rent. In fact, the distinct culture context or creativity brand helps promoting the real estate speculation and generates a compound economy of creative industries and commercial industries.

Using the creative industries as overwrap, and then packaging the commercial oriented industries into creative economics, such a development mode of creative industries was copied by a lot of followers. As in Ningbo area, we’ve observed Loft8, Creation harbour and Creative 3rd plant established one and another designed in similar way. In a first sight, such creative industries may bring instant benefit as it successfully promotes the real estate speculation. However, the more in-depth and profound effect should be  questioned and highlighted: how long could this mode of “fake” creative industries further go?


Berghuis, Thomas J(2008), ‘Constructing The Real (E)state of Chinese Contemporary Art: Reflections on 798, in 2004’ , Urban China 33 [Special Issue: ‘Creative China: Counter-Mapping Creative Industries’].

Below are some pictures took from Creative 3rd plant.

The Cluster Name: Creative 3rd plant

The location is formerly the No3. plant subordinate to Shanghai drawnwork import and export company

Building No1 is right now repacked to a hotel.

Some are lofts for design companies.

Insider there is a new-concept restaurant; about 100rmb per capital consumption.

The ceiling of restaurant keeps the original of old factory

Field Trip_ Maritime Industries_ 20100423

Posted: April 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: maritime industries | No Comments »

On 23rd Apr, UMN team made a third field trip. The aim of trip is to learn more about Ningbo Maritime industries and investigate the routine duties and working conditions of the involved labours. About the observation spots, we chose two companies as they are in different roles and with different environmental cultures within logistics industries. Group A including Ned, Angela, Yulin visited Ningbo branch of CMA, one of world’s largest shipping companies; Group B, Mukda and I, visited one local logistics agency named Ningbo Maoyu International Freight Agency. To briefly compare two companies, the former is obviously bigger in size and more cosmopolitan of corporate culture; CMA is a shipping company providing carrier service for transporting goods and Maoyu is a forwarding agency which in fact doesn’t have cargo but only work as a coordinator linking and smoothing the communication between shippers, carriers and other relevant links within the whole logistics network.

As located in Ningbo, Maoyu starts its business on the base of geographical advantage with local foreign trade economics and maritime economics. For one end, it has a big market of exporting customers; for the other end, the Ningbo port brings about a plenty of shipping companies to forward the products internationally. Maoyu as well as most logistics agencies find their business opportunity from connecting these links, so the communication efficiency is one of the most important tasks for them. As for routine duties, the different role in company has different job. For example, sells men to find customers, buyers to compare and negotiate forwarding prices with different shipping companies, and then, after order is placed, the documentation specialists to deal with booking, cargo trailer, customs declaration, commodity inspection and etc.

Because Maoyu is not a big company and quite a free styled privately-owned enterprise, the working environment is casual and eased. No formal dress is requested and non business talk is fine as well. Meanwhile, there is no KPI (Key Performance Indicators) or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) to systematically measure the employees’ performance but only depending on customer numbers, profit margin, workload and working behaviour. The only visible measurement on site is clocking machine. Though the physical environment seems quite informal here, the working pressure still exists everywhere. For sells man, they have to keep good relationship with existing customers and search for new ones; for buyers, they have to negotiate lower prices from shipping companies so as to compete with other forwarding agency; for documentation specialists, their job is most detailed and trivial, so intensive concentration and well-organized personality are requested. For all of them, working over-time or working outside workplace is quite normal.

Besides with social ability, computer skill is also a very important way to increase communication efficiency. Instant massager like MSN or QQ are used to not only timely report updated information to customers, but also track and trace shipment from carriers. Other software like Cargo2000 as an internal data system and communication platform can help keep the orders systematically and follow up the processing more easily.

From the field observation of Maoyu International Freight Agency Ltd, we learned that such a small but well functioned company can also do a good job in connecting logistics network and keep every shipment forwarding smoothly. The only product provided by this freight agency is service. The service suppliers themselves is also another type of logistics, more preciously, the logistics of communication. While cargo is forwarding the goods between disconnected destinations, the labour of freight agency is shipping the communication within disconnected links in maritime industries.

Below is a short video recording the working state of a documentation specialist

(while keying in the information to data system on computer, she is calling for the update on QQ)


Field Trip: Logistics (23rd April 2010)

Posted: April 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: maritime industries | No Comments »

Wu Yang and I visited Zhejiang Ningbo Maoyu International Freight Agency Ltd. The purpose of our visit was to find out more about operation in a logistic company, looking specifically at the supply chain of the company, employees’ performance measurement and working condition and the use of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) databases.

About the Company: This logistics company consist about 20 employees and the purpose of the business is to act as the middleman communication between the customer who want to ship things and the supplier who offer the shipping service. This is a domestic company, which also deals with international destinations.

The main strategy for the business to be efficient is to communicate effectively with customers and suppliers and also to be accurate with the information they are providing. This would lead to building trust with customers and maintaining business relationship with them.

Making mistakes has been a stressful issue because once mistakes are made, employees have to do enormous amount of work to correct the mistakes for both the customers and suppliers. Due to the nature of the logistics work, employees have to both key in complex data into cargo software and also communicate with customers via MSN at the same time. Therefore, high attention to detail and being attentive are main skills to be accurate in their work.

The culture of the company is very informal. As the company is small, investments on KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) databases have not been done.  Employees use traditional clocking machine to record their working hours and the Human Resource department will measure their performance based on their work, working hours and their behaviour. There is no labour union in the company and therefore employees would seek government support if they have any issues with the company.

Further thoughts: Wu Yang and I realised that communication is the main success in logistics industry and the type of communication used by a logistics company would further indicate the transformation of a company’s or a country’s development.

The use of traditional clocking machine, spreadsheet, database and cargo software measured that the company had achieved the standard of logistics operation. As the nature and culture of the company has been like this, communicating via MSN, e-mails, telephone and text messages show that work also occurs outside workplace. This is another form of company culture which employees would need to accept even though they might not be willing to work outside workplace.

Further research: In order to further understand how the type of communication has transformed or developed the company, further research should analyse and evaluate on what technology or software were use in the past, what are being used in the present and what is possible to be used in the future.

Another case study on a middle size or big size logistics company would provide a significant analysis on operation in such industry.