TSB report sets out creative industries strategy

If the words ‘convergence’, and ‘metadata’ don’t mean much to you at the moment, they will within the next three years – or so the Technology Strategy Board hopes.

The TSB last week launched its Creative Industries Technology Strategy 2009-2012 report, which aims to drive innovation in the creative sectors, including design, and which highlighted convergence and metadata as the two key areas to focus attention on.

In basic terms, convergence refers to releasing creative content over two or more platforms or networks at the same time – for example, publishing MP3 music files by an artist alongside a CD.

Speaking at the launch of the TSB strategy at the Design Museum last Thursday, Jon Gisby, Channel 4 director of new media and technology, pointed out that this rarely happens at the moment. He says, ‘Most efforts so far have been in taking content that has been designed for one platform and transferring it to another. This is like 1940s TV dramas, which were just plays that had one camera filming them and were then put on TV.’

He adds, ‘With cross-platform content you have to completely reimagine the content that you’re producing. For example, at the moment TV soap operas are just being taken from the TV and reshown on the Internet, but there’s no need for them to be 30 minutes long in this context. With convergence, you have to allow audiences to engage with and participate with content in a way they haven’t done before.’

In a rather handy way, the development of metadata could complement the growth of convergence as a way of protecting the intellectual property of content or designs as they are opened up to audience interaction.

Metadata is data attached to other data – for example, a book’s metadata would include the title, author and date of publication. Metadata for digital information, such as digital designs, could include rights management and licensing information. Andrew Chitty, managing director of digital consultancy Illumina, describes it as ‘librarianship applied to the Internet’.

So metadata attached to the designs you create could protect them from misuse when they go into the public domain. This is particularly important, as Sian Brereton – creative industries lead specialist for the TSB and co-author of the report – points out that developments in technology, such as convergence, are challenging the ability of the creative industries to hold on to their intellectual property.

Alicia Wise, chief executive of the Publishers Licensing Society, says, ‘The Internet needs to be transformed into a safe, rights-aware environment for the creative industries. Rights data needs to follow content across the network.’ She points to the Automated Content Access Protocol, which protects copyright in the publishing world, as a strategy that could be followed in other creative industries.

Sebastian Conran, managing director of Studio Conran and advisory board chairman for the TSB’s creative industries knowledge transfer network, says, ‘What we want is a benign environment for British creativity where it’s easy to get protection, and easy to enforce protection. Enforcing it at the moment is a complete nightmare unless you’re rich. Anything that can address that sounds like a really good idea.’

He adds, ‘[This strategy] is an opportunity for designers to have a proper dialogue with technologists and scientists, to see what they have on offer, and to give feedback on some of the stuff we are after.’

The Creative Industries Strategy:

  • The creative industries were identified as a focus area by the TSB due to the contribution they make to the UK economy, and because of the role technology plays in driving growth in the sector
  • The TSB has £1bn from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to invest in all sectors, not just the creative industries, over the next three years
  • The key focus areas identified in the strategy are/ enabling metadata development; improving convergence; promoting knowledge exchange in the creative industries; working with other organisations; taking advantage of emerging opportunities

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