Image Source: Economic Innovation Group
The infrastructure needed to establish an inclusive distribution of creative and innovation-based labor has not been established. A lack of access to distribution channels for local creators and innovators contributes to society’s astonishingly high rates of geographic inequality.
Distribution is not generally related to geographic inequality in the current discourse. Generally, we take our distribution channels for granted. In the agriculture and manufacturing of goods, distribution channels, mechanisms, and processes have been established for thousands of years.
Countless public and privates dollars of investment have ultimately bolstered the distribution of physical goods across roads, railroads, and planes. But how do we package and distribute intellectual labor, creativity, or innovation?
It is helpful to use the distribution of agriculture and manufactured goods as a foundation for evaluating the types of distribution needed in the creative or innovation economy.
Distribution in Creative Economies
It is helpful to use creative economies such as the film or television industry as an example of how creative labor is packaged and distributed. In film, local cinemas have access to the release, and the license to show blockbuster new films.
I still get an otherworldly sense when I go to my local cinema for a summer movie. Individuals from a faraway land create a work of art then control how that is distributed to the rest of the world. Subsequently, to gain access to distribution, one has to be geographically located near those who control distribution.
Film is a good example because it has historically been vertically integrated. In fact, at its very inception, it was the subject of antitrust lawsuits because it owned the production, distribution, and the theatres themselves. In Erie, we still have the Warner Theatre, one of many littered throughout small-town America.
We would consider absurd a similar proposition applied to agriculture or the manufacturing of goods. Imagine a farm, far away, that owned the roads its goods were transported on and owned the local markets at which they were sold. At each point, the goods were restricted to maximize corporate profits. It’s absurd to consider because society would have revolted immediately.
However, in our current society, it is equally important for local economies to have equal access to the distribution of creative or innovation based labor. In our absurdist example, we recognize that humans need food to eat. For any organization to control production, distribution, and the marketplace of exchange seems dictatorial. While our contemporary society doesn’t require us to consume Film for nourishment, it does require the film industry to employ legions of University graduate trained in media production. Effectively, if the distribution of creative labor is restricted to certain geographies or held within a few corporate entities, we are restricting industries from forming.
In today’s political and economic discourse, one often hears how the system is rigged. There is also a distrust of the media. It’s not hard to see why, through restrictive control over production and distribution, many local economies are left out of the new economy. Individuals cannot participate unless they leave their families for a bigger city where the cost of living is prohibitive for those without family wealth to fall back on.
Unfortunately, one individual or corporation is not responsible for this geographic inequality. While it is in the corporate interest of media conglomerates, there is no media conglomerate preventing producers from establishing distribution channels outside of the coastal cities. There are challenges in doing so, such as capital. But legally we still have the right. (I’m writing without a full awareness of the outcome of Net Neutrality, which could pose an existential threat to local digital distribution channels).
Establishing Local Infrastructure For the New Economy
Each creative or innovation-based industry is complex and in many cases has its own mechanisms for distribution. In the course of Nodes World’s content, we’ll explore how communities are establishing these mechanisms. It is worth noting the other mechanisms outside of distribution that contributes to geographic inequality. These are mechanisms such as access to capital and complementary industry clusters.
Geographic inequality is happening at many levels of our society. It is happening between rural and suburban areas, and as we have discussed above, between large and small cities. The factors causing geographical inequality are only starting to be discussed let alone addressed.
One of the labors of the millennial generation is to establish local infrastructure for the new economy and solve geographic inequality. Geographic inequality is especially insidious because it undermines the basic fairness and freedoms of participation in an economic democracy. If one works and attends Universities, schools that are often publically funded obtains good grades, they should have an opportunity to participate in the economy. But geographical inequality prevents that.