Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Economy of Experience

The Green Paper on 'economy of experience'

In the Green paper on 'Unlocking the potential of cultural and creative industries' published by the EU Commission in 2010, it is argued that "in this new digital economy, immaterial value increasingly determines material value, as consumers are looking for new and enriching 'experiences'. The ability to create social experiences and networking is now a factor of competitiveness."

Source: http://ec.europa.eu/culture/our-policy-development/doc2577_en.htm

The potential of the cultural industries to enrich the making of experiences explains why the European Commission has declared the 'economy of experience' as one of its main objectives. Naturally just as 'socialist Realism' became 'real Socialism', by now the term is reversed and the Commission speaks simply about the 'experience economy'.

Experience economy

The term 'economy of experience' was advocated according to Wikipedia already in 1999 by "B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, titled "The Experience Economy". In it they described the experience economy as the next economy following the agrarian economy, the industrial economy, and the most recent service economy.

Pine and Gilmore argue that businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product - the "experience". More advanced experience businesses can begin charging for the value of the "transformation" that an experience offers, e.g. as education offerings might do if they were able to participate in the value that is created by the educated individual. This, they argue, is a natural progression in the value added by the business over and above its inputs."



A first assessment

The Green paper can be elaborated upon as it reflects the importance the EU Commission gives to creativity and innovation. Both are needed by the knowledge economy and the creative or cultural industries. Together with the growing sectors of cultural tourism, sports, communication, media and the project of European Capital of Culture, the paper does recognize what contribution culture has been making to the economy.

However, once experience is reduced to an economic term, then everything seems connected to a new way of consuming life. As these economically induced experiences require specific services they are dealt with in non cultural terms. After all they are linked to certain economic activities. This can range from airlines to hotels and more so to all kinds of jobs which link modern communication possibilities to public diplomacy. The latter is most pronounced when huge amounts of money are spend on national pavilions at various Expos or yearly events like the Venice biennale. Such show cases become motors and instigators of new development trends. It can include new artists but as the art market begins to revolve around major museums like Guggenheim and auctions such as the ones organised by Christies, then the trend will be reflective of the money to be made off the arts and not so much what experiences go with certain expressions.

As a matter of fact in this type of economy nothing else is being produced but 'experience'. Everything shall take place in an endless hall of mirrors to evoke infinity of self reflections to lend validity to a sense of importance. What counts is the moment to be seen by all others represented by an invisible world.

Public consultation (2013)

The European Commission seeks to refine its definition of the 'experience economy' over a period from 12/07/2013 to 11/10/2013.

Reference documents




Experience economy: examples of cultural industries

Denmark: Recent policy issues and debates About Cultural industries


Culture industries: policies and programmes

Two reports published by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Business and Economic Affairs dealt with the definitions of the culture industries and the culture and experience economy. In the report "Denmark's Creative Potential" published in 2000, the Danish cultural industry is defined as including the following areas: music, theatre, literature, art, film and video, the press, radio and television, architecture and design, and entertainment parks and toys. In the report "Denmark in the Culture and Experience Economy" from 2003, this definition is widened to include: fashion, advertising and tourism.

The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs will, in the coming years, work to:

In May 2008, a new Centre for Culture and Experience Economy has been established by the government to improve the cooperation between culture, business, universities and research institutions in the field. The purpose is to stimulate the branding of Danish products in the global experience society. The Chairman of the central corporate association Danish Industry (DI), Hans Skov Christensen, was appointed as the Chairman of the Centre by the Minister of Culture.

Recent reports on behalf of the Ministry of Culture indicate that the cooperation between the cultural sector and the business sector is still strongly encouraged. In the report Reach Out!, which was issued in October 2008, the experience economy, and the Ministry's interpretation of it, is again at the forefront, as it is identified as one of three challenges to Danish cultural policy, the other two being new user groups and the question of quality. The latest "large scale" policy document issued by the Ministry of Culture called Culture for all, is likewise focused on new target groups and user-generated innovation. This report is, however, very generally phrased and inclusive, as the name itself Culture for all, indicates (see  chapter 4.1).


Tourism as integral part of the experience economy in Greece

Recent reports claim that the 'economy of experience' is being promoted mainly in Northern EU countries. It has become an integral part of their official cultural policy. However, the same trend is replicated in what both Turkey and Greece aim for by conjoining the Ministries for Tourism and Culture. It has made tourism into an integral part of the 'economy of experience' and replaces therefore any other cultural policy.

One campaign to promote tourism in Greece used the slogan: 'come to Greece and experience your myth'. Another one was an appeal to those who had grown tired for an abstract, virtual and urban life by suggesting in Greece it is possible to experience again the 'senses'. In short, 'experience' as key product has been brought to the fore by this recent development.

Already in 2002 experts advising the tourist industry in Greece spoke out in favour of valorising 'experience' to seize upon two trends: the wish to get away from mass tourism and to utilize the communication potentials offered by digital technology.

The EU Commission has picked up that advise and views by now an economy based on digital technology as having all the potential to enrich 'experiences' and to facilitate the art of networking. Both are needed to enhance the competitiveness of the new economy. Not surprisingly the EU Commission does everything to facilitate funding in this direction.

These changes at governmental and administrative level reflect recent developments. In the tourist sector, all kinds of adventure, sport or religious trips are offered to make 'specific' experiences happen. Tour operators know the value of experience even though most of the time they find it difficult to organize it. Since with 'experience' goes as well a stepping out of the convention or usual, it involves a risk taking, but of another kind not necessarily understood as it is not equivalent to the type of risk taking in the business world. Nevertheless managers tend to think so.  Above all, truly made experiences go with a kind of creativity which is not possible to plan or to organise (Bart Verschaffel). Also the seeming artificial worlds of hotel complexes and even entire compounds named 'Indian village' although on the Greek island of Rhodes, shows how remote these places have come to local and specific cultural features. Instead of swimming in the sea, people end up near or in the pools. That might be fun for a while and bring enjoyment especially when seeing how the children keep jumping in, but it remains an artificial place compared to natural places i.e. remote and untouched beaches where nothing man constructed is in sight and the 'beaches are given back to the winds once the tourists have left' (Seferis).

Definitely even the best accommodation and services will not give that added value to the tourist package, if people do not experience something worthwhile. Above all people will be impressed if they experience something they do not get very often at home, namely a smiling face as expression of hospitality. It means something to the visitors, if they meet people who are willing to go out of their way to show them the way if lost. But then a Greek couple who made this experience on a camping trip in Sicily would confess this kind of attitude based on hospitality and willingness to care about the well-being of any visitor has been all but lost in Greece itself. The loss of that greatest gift of all, namely hospitality, was already bemoaned by the mayor of Iraklion, Crete in 1995 when talked with to organize the conference 'The myth of the city'.

When Greece started an advertising campaign to promote its tourist industry with the slogan 'come to Greece and discover your myth', it was also  a clever link to the Ancient Past. The slogan has been continued in 2010 to underline that 'Greece is an experience and not just a one time visit.' As key expression of the official campaign to promote tourism in Greece, it aims to lure people to come to Greece. They should make experiences not once but come again next year to continue with similar experiences. By the same token, the city of Athens aims for people not just staying one night to see the next day the Acropolis before fleeing to one of the many islands, but remain longer to experience the city. This positive trend did pick up for a while in the wake of Athens 2004 when hosting the Olympic Games and due to such urban interventions as the unification of the archaeological sites. The latter offers to visitors and residents alike a new way to see and to experience this sprawling metropolis.

Greece follows here a certain trend. In today's world people seem to need a new kind of experiences. The monks on Mount Athos had caught onto that long before the rest of Greece. When they started in the 1980's to restore the monasteries and entered real estate business linked to very exclusive places, they anticipated that people will seek 'spiritual' experiences to offset what they miss in a materialistic world. The latter does not bring all the happiness to people even if they have success at work and the wealth which goes with it in terms of consumption.

Indeed, many face daily at home and work frustrating situations. Most things seem to be devoid of any meaning. A great majority feels a lack of the kind of experience needed to stay in tune with life. Sterile organisations are especially frustrating. The TV programmes offered are also not any better. There are shortcomings in terms of human understanding almost everywhere. Even at home no relaxation can be found when the children always fight and the relationship to the partner not working out. Many problems seem to be linked to a lack of time. Missing is above all a kind of gratitude to be alive while no one seems to appreciate what is being tried to make life a liveable, indeed a happy matter.

Not recognized is that without a culture to reflect upon the experiences made life cannot be shared with others. This leads if not to seeking every kind of distraction including taking drugs, then to self isolation and depression. Since the problems go deeper then what can be perceived at first glance the official policies appear to be at best highly superficial and ill conceived. That is especially the case when life adds up in a new kind of poverty, namely the 'poverty of experience'. That brings with it a whole set of new problems. Among them is one dubbed often as an unknown sickness. Somehow it is related to people who suffer under a lack of recognition but it is linked to human relationships not working out. To make it worse the entire world seems indifferent to them even when they tried hard to bring about some meaningful changes in their lives and in that of others. In the past one response was nihilism another believing in the end only money makes the world go round. In the modern world the experience of having to confront indifference makes a wish for transformation ever stronger. It has many go from the West East or vice versa but without changing anything in terms of a poverty of experience.

This new poverty is not the only reason why the link to 'myth' in the Greek campaign is a highly suggestive, equally a problematic one. The question is in which direction will it take Greece? More than anything else Greeks themselves suffer because they are forced to to import repeatedly their own past. To come to terms with the world, they need to be addressed by others in contemporary terms. To their disadvantage Greek culture is too readily identified with only Ancient Greece as described in an excellent way by Robert Payne. He does not problematize that the constant orientation to the past does not give sufficient space to contemporary art to express itself in the present. For instance, Aniruddha Bahal, author of a novel taking place in Ancient Greece, came to visit the country in order to re-visit the ancient places full of meanings. Unfortunately he too came to the conclusion that "the past is another country".

Reference: Aniruddha Bahal. "The past is a foreign country". Hindustan Times New Delhi, October 02, 2010 http://www.hindustantimes.com/The-past-is-a-foreign-country/Article1-607277.aspx


Experience economy within a certain time frame

Missing out from this policy initiative are those who have been hit by the austerity measures and cannot even afford to take holidays. More so, even those who still manage will have to cope with those amidst them whose dreams have been completely shattered. That means experiences can only be made in the present but if problems and worries bear down upon the psyche of the person, there shall be reproduced instead an inability to live in the present.

Individual experience is but one thing, coming together with others a matter of experiencing human relationships. Given a certain poverty level, social exclusion shall be reproduced by excluding others from life out of shame but also in thinking of having lost any social value / status, if to be found without a job or sufficient fiancial means to afford similar things as others seem to be able still despite the economic crisis. What happens is then that society no longer can be defined by a clear present in the sense of no one finding any other person to be present in one's own life. Without being able to take recourse to such institutions as family and local community, the individual will find him- or herself extremely isolated, if not helpless.

Most of the time these people can exist within the general framework of society, but they shall not find simultaneous moments of experience, in order to communicate. Of interest is that most of the time is then spend in front of the television screen with the assumed illusion of sharing some common ground with others even if remaining within the domain of one's own living room.

Hölderlin searched in vain for this 'Gleichzeitigkeit' when he tried to instigate in the wake of the French revolution a similar upsurge in Germany. Sartre said if time is divided, then no way by which persons can come together in the present. In the digital world the difference between real time and those lagging behind in dependency to some virtual flow of communication but out of step by seconds with real decisions indicates another division of time favoured by those who seek purchasing power. It makes the task to become more viable and able to face the contemporary world that much more difficult.

Hence it will take more than 'experience' to conjoin the Greek and European economy. As long as national accounting prevails despite a common currency, there will not be in place a European economic model capable of levelling with all the global challenges. Another European debate must shape the future of the European Union. For that to take place both visitors and investors alike must take up the dialogue with Greece of today and not with the past. Otherwise no viable model can be developed to take both the economy and state out of a highly regressive mode. So far the repeated emphasis of the past has distorted the perception of the present and prevented Greek society from developing the kind of cultural adaptation needed to include already now future needs of others.

Cultural adaptation is essential when developing products and services in view of marketing products in other cultural contexts. Those who understand under contemporary conditions what lies ahead shall determine the 21st century, culturally speaking. This is where the Greeks have at least one advantage since despite all uncertainties they still enjoy living in the present and that makes them be alive where others would worry too much and therefore deny the joy of the moment. But in saying this there is also a risk to create a new myth as to what can be experienced in Greece where countless demonstrations hit home because many do not like the austerity measures while a youth departs in the autumn of 2010 for other countries in the hope to find elsewhere a job.

The artificial world will become ever more pretentious if made up of people who think of themselves as the only ones with such experiences because others cannot afford it. That notion of privilege would delineate them even more from others and even worse deny human experience as being a common ground and binding element for all people. As a matter of fact, there is the danger for the world being emptied of the kind of experiences needed when trying to reach out to humanity. Everywhere can be seen in the shadows of expensive hotels and luxury cruises a new kind of poverty being produced. It can best be described as the very opposite to what this kind of economy strives for.

An indication of how the terms of reference are nearly the same everywhere once the EU Commission has adopted them as key words for the official policy, is the International Conference to be held Barcelona, 9-10 December. It is on 'Creative Tourism'. Such a term seems to offer a lot of opportunity by saying everything and nothing at all.

(For more information about the planned conference see: http://www.creativetourismnetwork.org/)

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