The Everyday Realities of Digital Provision and Practice for Rural Creative Economies
Conceptions of ‘the rural’ are shifting to encompass a more relational understanding of rurality as a ‘multi-authored and multi-faceted space, constituted through local-global interconnections and their place specific, sometimes contested, manifestations’ (Heley and Jones 2012: 208). Rurality is increasingly framed through concepts of networks, connections, flows and mobility, and recent research explores the scalar interactions that comprise rural places, and the ‘diverse networks and flows that criss-cross rural and urban space’ (Hoggart, 1990: 43). Rural places retain a politics of location and differentiation as global connectivities are played out and negotiated through relative permanences in people’s everyday lives (Heley and Jones, 2012). Work on the rural creative economy figures this tension in terms of place distinctiveness and scales of interaction. For example, developments in internet technologies mean that rural creative practitioners have access to expanded, global markets, however, often their work can be inspired by and meaningful to consumers because of their rural location, for example as part of a tourist experience (Craft Council, 2011). The continual shaping and reshaping of the rural means that ‘careful examination of the situated and practiced connections between the global and the local’ is required (Heley and Jones 2012: 214). We explore the role of digital practices in the rural creative economy within this relational understanding of the ‘global countryside’ (Woods, 2007). Whilst much work on creative economies takes a place-based approach, often looking at a specific city, region or hub as a case study, this chapter focuses on individuals living in remote rural locations across Scotland who are engaged in different creative practices. What they have in common is that their choice of rural location means that they typically have much lower internet connectivity than the UK average. Rather than think in terms of sectors or networks, we explore the everyday practices of rural creatives. Whilst some creative economy studies note the limitations of rural internet connectivity, few have examined the realities of ICT for rural creatives: their everyday uses, desires, frustrations, or how they adapt and negotiate within competitive markets and increasingly digitised transactions. The rural creative economy literature on the whole refers in passing to the opportunities of internet technologies to have greater ‘reach’ (Herslund,
2012). This chapter adds to existing understandings by drawing lessons from indepth interviews carried out with practitioners in remote rural Scotland.