— Cultural Sources of Newness

Research unit Cultural Sources of Newness @ Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB)

The WZB research unit “Cultural Sources of Newness” ran from 2008 through 2014 under the leadership of Professor Michael Hutter. The international and multidisciplinary research team addressed cultural factors that favor creativity as well as cultural conditions under which newness is recognized and valued. The research complemented the work of scholars who focus on the technical and institutional prerequisites of innovation.

In developing the research program, the team made the strategic choice to draw on multiple disciplinary perspectives, including economic sociology, cultural economics, organizational behavior, cultural anthropology, political science and urban studies. The empirical cases of the projects concentrated on technical, social, artistic or organizational innovations, and they focused on cultural configurations shaping artistic scenes, expert communities or urban quarters.

The research team undertook interviews, participant observation and action research in very diverse settings of collaboration between multiple actors in fields like automobile development, product design, business consultancy, and municipal/public issues in order to generate a deep and wide-ranging understanding of the phenomena. Such qualitative methods were supplemented with the creation of data bases, for example on artistic interventions and on architectural competitions.

The team published numerous books and journal articles primarily in English and German, but also in Spanish and French. Among the results of the research program was the identification of five performative patterns in the emergence of newness: 1) Bordering spaces and environments 2) Suspending rules and routines 3) Curating contributions and circumstances 4) Translating forms of value 5) Valuating novelties. The list of publications of the research team is available on the unit’s website.


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