Window on Research: Dave O’Brien on Cultural Consumption in Contemporary Society

This podcast discusses cultural consumption in contemporary British society, exploring who does what and why, against the backdrop of the ethos of creative workers. The cultural ‘omnivore’ thesis is outlined and critiqued, suggesting the importance of expertise, social status and social class to understand cultural consumption.

The podcast links consumption to production by linking creative industries to the rise of entrepreneurialism and the importance of the concept of the creative worker as a response to ongoing dilemmas within the British economy.  It unpacks the ambivalences of creative labour, outlining issues of exploitation, self-management and conceptions of failure associated with precarious labour, but contrasts these issues with the pleasures of creative work and the idea of ‘good’ work as a way to understand the emancipatory potential offered by creative work.

Running throughout the podcast is a description of the limits of social scientific attempts to measure participation and consumption of culture in Britain today, how those attempts may constitute as well as describe our understanding of cultural consumption, and the effects of the digital revolution in distribution on measuring participation.

(part 1)

(part 2)

The issue in the media

Cultural consumption and the omnivore

Cultural work:


Dr O’Brien is a Lecturer in Cultural and Creative Industries at City University London. He specialises in cultural value and urban cultural policy issues and has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Liverpool. His undergraduate degree is in history and politics, and his MA is in philosophy.


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