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Context

In Europe, de-industrialization has created unemployment and left urban areas vacant, abandoned, and a problem for urban planning. Cities  are struggling with issues of regeneration and are tending to focus on jobs and economy, paying attention on how to use industrial abandoned spaces and how to attract the creative class (Florida 2002). This has led to the promotion of cultural and creative industries as a means to regenerate post-industrial landscapes (Comunian and Mold, 2014). Over the last five years we have seen in Europe and in France the emergence of cultural and creative third places (CCTP) however, the concept of third place (TP) is not new. In his book, The Great Good Place, Oldenburg (1999) defines gathering places that are neither work nor home, such as bars, coffee shops and barbers, as “Third Places”. Nowadays, the TP concept has evolved with the work mutations of the industrial world and society. The emergence and development of TP is part of a wider movement around participative, collaborative, economy of sharing, DIY (“do it yourself”) and the commons building movement (Le Strat, 2016). De Vaujany (2016), argues transformation in TP is the result of a radical evolution of connectivity modes, changes in the processes of sense-making and the emergence of new kinds of political consciousness. Drawing on a longitudinal study of several third places Berrebi-Hoffman et al. (2018), showed that the types of spaces and the activities that take place are not homogeneous (e.g. Fab-Lab, Living Lab, co-working spaces). Among the different types of places, a new category of third places has emerged – the cultural and creative third place (CCTP). Defined as hybrid and open space for creation and production of symbolic goods, services and shared experiences; CCTP are places in which work is based on intuition, meaning, symbols, inspiration, and typically use a much less structured ‘artistic processes’ (Bobadilla, 2014). These places employ, gather workers from the “creative class” and offer a renewed and alternative vision of work organization (Scaillerez and Tremblay, 2017).  In these CCTP, work is considered both as a job and as a militant engagement (Lallement, 2015), individuals are committed to achieve a transcendental project that has nothing to do with an ordinary job.


A processual understanding of how CCTP manage tensions arising from contextual changes

One could think that one of the potentials of CCTP is to reintroduce meaningful work and to give the conditions for creativity to be maintained over time. However, as time passes, CCTP face important contextual changes related to technologic, economic, social, geographical and political factors. For instance, new technologies transform the way users and workers interact, social media allows to extend and share an identity and the type of social activities they stimulate and support. From an economic standpoint the offer has increased making competition stronger. CCTP have to find ways to differentiate in order to attract staff members, users, resident artists and build sustainable business models. Socially, regular visitors not only shape the “tone” of a place. Instead, staff members and residents shape the places’ identity. Geographically, the proximity feature has changed. That is, location has been changed to peripheral areas raising challenges related to the relationship of the CCTP with urban contexts. Politically, CCTP face risks related to institutionalization and instrumentalization. Urban authorities and developers support the creation of these places as tools of temporary urbanism but when collectives want to perpetuate their existence there is little support. As the previous review suggest, the original features of TP have dramatically changed but existing research has failed incorporating the way CCTP manage tensions arising from these changes. Specifically, how contradictions evolve over time, how actors respond to them, and how these actions and reactions play out in the change process.

Almost 20 years ago, Menger (1999) published his seminal review article on artistic labour markets and careers, and it seems today’s existing research in CCI’s (Creative and Cultural Industries) is still marked by either celebratory discourses or more critical voices that focus on the apparent meritocratic, creative and autonomous nature of cultural and creative occupations. Leclair (2017) trying to overcome the economic tension discourse, shows creative productions are articulated around three groups: playing the game of the market, cultivating one’s uniqueness and seeking autonomy. An area of ambiguity appears called “Creative Fuzziness”, understood as the necessary space for creative actors to create while maintaining a constantly evasive position.

In his book: “work under tensions”, Lallement (2018) suggest hackerspaces, fablabs and third spaces as ways to build new work utopias. For the author, these places carry features that cannot leave anyone indifferent: combining work and passion, not opposing pleasure and productive efficiency, restoring the right to aesthetics in the evaluation of good work, experimenting new modes of regulation, giving place to democratic principles and horizontal governance. However, no empirical evidence is provided. Berrebi-Hoffman et al. (2018), pointed the existence of inequalities, highlighting precarious working conditions in TP and revealing various tensions: the working style to privilege, subversive actions versus emancipating actions, technical paradigm versus militant one, emancipation versus market compromise. Nevertheless, these perspectives reinforce either/or tensions. A process analysis to apprehend working tensions in CCTP arising from change could be more relevant. Perhaps, the way to manage tensions is an ongoing (individual-collective) process, grounded in communication, emotions, whereby organizational actors negotiate with others what change means, in different temporal and spatial contexts, drawing on broader socio-historical-cultural discourses.


A processual understanding of how CCTP manage tensions arising from contextual changes

One could think that one of the potentials of CCTP is to reintroduce meaningful work and to give the conditions for creativity to be maintained over time. However, as time passes, CCTP face important contextual changes related to technologic, economic, social, geographical and political factors. For instance, new technologies transform the way users and workers interact, social media allows to extend and share an identity and the type of social activities they stimulate and support. From an economic standpoint the offer has increased making competition stronger. CCTP have to find ways to differentiate in order to attract staff members, users, resident artists and build sustainable business models. Socially, regular visitors not only shape the “tone” of a place. Instead, staff members and residents shape the places’ identity. Geographically, the proximity feature has changed. That is, location has been changed to peripheral areas raising challenges related to the relationship of the CCTP with urban contexts. Politically, CCTP face risks related to institutionalization and instrumentalization. Urban authorities and developers support the creation of these places as tools of temporary urbanism but when collectives want to perpetuate their existence there is little support. As the previous review suggest, the original features of TP have dramatically changed but existing research has failed incorporating the way CCTP manage tensions arising from these changes. Specifically, how contradictions evolve over time, how actors respond to them, and how these actions and reactions play out in the change process.

Almost 20 years ago, Menger (1999) published his seminal review article on artistic labour markets and careers, and it seems today’s existing research in CCI’s (Creative and Cultural Industries) is still marked by either celebratory discourses or more critical voices that focus on the apparent meritocratic, creative and autonomous nature of cultural and creative occupations. Leclair (2017) trying to overcome the economic tension discourse, shows creative productions are articulated around three groups: playing the game of the market, cultivating one’s uniqueness and seeking autonomy. An area of ambiguity appears called “Creative Fuzziness”, understood as the necessary space for creative actors to create while maintaining a constantly evasive position.

In his book: “work under tensions”, Lallement (2018) suggest hackerspaces, fablabs and third spaces as ways to build new work utopias. For the author, these places carry features that cannot leave anyone indifferent: combining work and passion, not opposing pleasure and productive efficiency, restoring the right to aesthetics in the evaluation of good work, experimenting new modes of regulation, giving place to democratic principles and horizontal governance. However, no empirical evidence is provided. Berrebi-Hoffman et al. (2018), pointed the existence of inequalities, highlighting precarious working conditions in TP and revealing various tensions: the working style to privilege, subversive actions versus emancipating actions, technical paradigm versus militant one, emancipation versus market compromise. Nevertheless, these perspectives reinforce either/or tensions. A process analysis to apprehend working tensions in CCTP arising from change could be more relevant. Perhaps, the way to manage tensions is an ongoing (individual-collective) process, grounded in communication, emotions, whereby organizational actors negotiate with others what change means, in different temporal and spatial contexts, drawing on broader socio-historical-cultural discourses.