From YouTube to Spotify, do digital platforms offer new opportunities for ‘creators of colour’ to break into cultural and creative industries?

This Round 1 Innovation Fund project explored the experiences of Black, Asian and other racialised people working in a range of roles and environments across the sector. 

Research questions

  • How are Black, Asian, and racialised people (‘creators of colour’*) using digital platforms to produce and circulate acts of creativity in ways that might enable them to access paid work in the cultural and creative industries (CCIs) in Britain?
  • To what degree do creators of colour intend for such uses of digital platforms to counter and combat racism in the CCIs and society (including its intersections with other forms of oppression such as sexism, misogyny, classism, homophobia, and ableism)?
  • How do the affordances of those digital communication technologies (E.g., Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, messenger apps, and websites) both enable and constrain creators of colour in their efforts to reach and build audiences, and combat racism and interconnected oppressions?

Method

30 in-depth and semi-structured online interviews with Black, Asian, and other racialised people working in the CCIs in England, Scotland, and Wales.

Key findings

  • The digital experiences of ‘creators of colour’ involve navigating the nexus of pressures to self-brand online to gain industry exposure and pressures to appear ‘professional’ in ways that are palatable to the institutionally white gaze of the CCIs.
  • Digital platforms/technologies can play a central role in forms of community-building and solidarity between ‘creators of colour’, but constraints of such technologies include their limited capacity to mitigate online racism and interconnected harms.
  • The counter-narratives and accountability practices of ‘creators of colour’ (including highlighting inequalities in the CCIs) can be aided by their use of digital platforms/ technologies in impactful ways that influence how the industry “reckons with racism”.

*Note: This project uses the term ‘creators of colour’ to refer to Black, Asian, and other racialised people who are actively involved in paid work in the cultural and creative industries. When using the terms ‘creators of colour’ and ‘people of colour’, the researchers also recognise the specific and nuanced ways that Black, Asian and other racialised people identify.

Research outputs

How Cultural Workers Address Racism in the Digital Age
Francesca Sobande, Anamik Saha and David Hesmondhalgh (2023), Digit Report

Black, Brown and Asian cultural workers, creativity and activism: The ambivalence of digital self-branding practices
Francesca Sobande, David Hesmondhalgh and Anamik Saha (2023), The Sociological Review

Feeling At Home at Work? Inequalities, Inclusiveness, and Changing Work Environments
Why “feeling at home” at work is impacted by intersecting inequalities such as racism, sexism, classism, and ableism, and shaped by workplace cultures and norms.

Researchers

Principal Investigator: Dr Francesca Sobande (Cardiff University)

Co-investigator: Professor Anamik Saha (University of Leeds)

Digit team member: Professor David Hesmondhalgh (University of Leeds)