Media Clusters Brussels started its research more than one year ago. Now the first results can be downloaded from our website in the section of Publications. The research results are published as Deliverables that report the findings. The researchers are working hard on publishing more and more reports within the coming weeks. Especially, the theoretical backgrounds can now be explored that elaborate definitions and scopes of the different thematic topics that are part of the project. The reports are dedicated to the different Work Packages within the organisation of the MCB project. Today we would like to introduce some of the results of Work Package 1 that is dedicated to the conceptual coordination of mapping Brussels’ media industry.
There are various problems that usually arise when trying to research media clusters: difficulty in delineating media’s core industries; the problems in defining characteristics of media clusters; the difficulties of identifying a cluster’s geographical boundaries; the issue of which data to select; and the arbitrariness of approaches towards media cluster research. Reflecting media cluster research, many scholars and institutions tried to tackle these issues. However, the arbitrariness is reflected through the multiplicity of disciplines, schools and approaches that have converged simultaneously on media cluster research, using approaches as diverse as neoclassical economics, behavioural economics, critical Marxism, regional economics, cultural geography, evolutionary economic geography, and constructivist structuralism – fostering a formidable growth of literature.
The downside is that different research interests and different epistemological spaces have generated complexity, confusion, competition, and mutual exclusion between different research groups, thus making it difficult to understand the phenomenon. Deliverable 1.1a reviewed the complexity and the research within the concepts of media, clusters and geographic units (Brussels). However, it became apparent that none of the available definitions was perfectly suitable for use within the Media Clusters Brussels project. Using an off -the-shelf definition originally designed for specific contexts may give unreliable results when used for MCB. Additionally, there is a need for transparency when delineating the scope of media cluster research.
In developing new definitions and delineations of our three core objects, media, clusters and Brussels, our ambition has not been to reinvent the wheel but rather to develop operational definitions that build on the work and ideas of existing definitions whilst being transparent and having the research goals of the project in mind. Based on these considerations, we have delineated media, (media) cluster and Brussels as follows:
- The definition of media was based on two aspects. The first is the acknowledgement that the production of media is a complicated process and cannot be scoped easily. The second is that media is structured around a core activity, the production of “mediated content” and sectors delineate to scope entities and activities around the core (circling model). The definitions of media for this project is therefore, the following: “Media is defined as activities directly or indirectly supporting the process from production to consumption of mediated content as the core that can be differentiated into entities of four key sectors, (1) print, (2) audio-visual, (3) new media and (4) advertising.”
- The definition of media cluster should follow two aspects. First, agglomeration alone does not define a cluster, but agglomeration needs to cause mutual advantages. And second, the focus should be on all possible entities of a media cluster and not only on firms or institutions. The proposed definition is as follows: “A media cluster is defined as an agglomeration, that is involved in the process of production to consumption of mediated content, that co-locates for mutual advantages.”
- The delineation of Brussels within the MCB project was depicted through two important findings. First, the Brussels Capital Region is the core of the project and analysis based on this geographical unit will bring valuable insights. Second, media clusters’ borders can stretch far beyond Brussels towards, the Brussels metropolitan area, Belgium and even beyond Belgium and analysis will be built on the assumption that the borders of media clusters need to be found through means of research that is not limiting it within territories. The delineation of Brussels can be summarized as follows: “Brussels as host of media clusters can be delineated in two steps. The first step depicts Brussels core, which is the Brussels Capital-Region and its peripheries, the Brussels Metropolitan Area (Brussels, Halle-Vilvoorde and Walloon Brabant), Belgium and even beyond. The second step depicts Brussels as host of media clusters without predetermining borders while only looking at the real space of cluster dynamics.”
Figure: The circle model to define the geographical scope of media clusters.
The here-developed definitions and delineations based on structured methods, like the circling model to define media (see Part 2 of Deliverable 1.1a) and the two-step approach to delineate media clusters in Brussels (see Part 4 of Deliverable 1.1a) make the scope of the MCB project transparent and easy transferable (see Figure below). Within the coming course of the research project, all levels of analysis will be able to adapt the definitions and therefore streamline the future research into one common course.