The second presentation on the SCOS conference (see last post) was together with Bibiana Pulido on work migration within the games industry. I’m already looking forward to SCOS 2016 in Uppsala on the theme Animal!

It is said that cultural industries require a qualified and mobile labour force. Careers in these industries are often characterised by “boundarylessness” (Arthur and Rousseau, 1996). These persons are described as having “boundaryless and protean careers” where they self-manage their own careers and move from one work place to another (Arthur and Rousseau, 1996; Briscoe and Hall, 2006). They do not have the perspective of doing a lifetime career in one work organization, but see the evolution of their career, through mobility between different firms, which enables them to work in different projects; the Silicon Valley model of personal mobility is said to be the essence in the “new economy” (Benner, 2002). Although clusters, like the Silicon Valley, have adopted this discourse it is equally important to highlight what these changing attitudes toward work have had on personal development, organising and life quality (Boltanski and Chiapello, 2007).

The idea of mobility thus presumes a constant practice in entering and leaving different organisations. Simmel’s theory of the Stranger (1908; 1950), retaken by the Chicago School, is pertinent in analyzing this mobility of persons inside, what has come to be called, a ‘creative cluster’. The stranger could be defined as the recent migrant to the system who has the freedom of coming and going. “The stranger is …not… the wanderer who comes today and goes tomorrow, but rather is the person who comes today and stays tomorrow” (Simmel, 1908; 1950). He is attached to a determined group spatially without being part of it at the beginning and without having roots. The mobility of the stranger within a bounded group is a mix of tensions between proximity and distance; or as Simmel refers as nearness and remoteness. Therefore proximity in a space is not a necessary condition of interpersonal reconciliation or a capacity to communicate. Indeed, inspired by Simmel’s work, Rogers (1995) considers the stranger to have a high degree of cosmopoliteness that refers that the stranger has a relatively high degree of communication outside of the system. In that way, the stranger perceives the system in a different light than the host and is freer to consider new ideas coming from external sources (Rogers, 1999).

In this paper we aim to construct an understanding of persons working in the video game industry. Taking into account Simmel’s framing of the stranger, we will present preliminary results of a qualitative study that has been done on Quebec and Sweden’s video game clusters concerning the mobility of these persons. Both of these clusters have been expanding and have had a success in the video game market. The video game industry is young and creative and has taken quite an expansion over the last decades. The outcome of this study will expose conditions of proximity and distance in two of the fastest growing “creative clusters” worldwide.