Date of Award

4-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Geography

Major Professor

Ronald V. Kalafsky

Committee Members

Thomas L. Bell, Shih-Lung Shaw, Sujan M. Dan

Abstract

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In recent years there has been growing consensus among academics and policy makers that cultural industries are key drivers of contemporary economic growth. For geographers and economists, the roles of agglomeration and knowledge flows are important factors that sustain the cultural industries. However, existing research focuses overwhelmingly on elite cultural industries in global cities. In addition, there has been little effort to account for new technologies that create a more complex landscape for the cultural economy by allowing cultural producers to collaborate, communicate, and operate from remote locations. This dissertation uses the independent (indie) crafting phenomenon to examine a grassroots, technologically driven alternative to elite cultural industries. In particular, the research employs mixed methods to examine agglomeration tendencies and networking in the digital age. The results of quantitative inquiry demonstrate that clustering and agglomeration are still defining features of the cultural industries in the digital age, but not in ways that are previously acknowledged. Independent cultural production clusters in second- and third-tier cities, suggesting that those places can use online resources to overcome geographic constraints to some extent. Following up with qualitative methods, this research finds that local support mechanisms such as business groups and small business resources reinforce clustering. Online communications tools also reinforce clustering. The Internet’s most important function is to help cultural producers find and organize information relevant to a local community. Although it is possible to make contacts on the other side of the world or access non-local information, the utility of those contacts and information is limited. The prevailing notion in current cultural economic literature is that technology decentralizes cultural production and increases the physical distance of market and social interactions. The dissertation argues, however, that the Internet provides a quicker, more efficient way for individuals to make contacts virtually, which then leads local connections and collaborations in “the real world.”

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