Insights on Creative Networks: A Social Network Analysis of Five Arts Organisations


  • Fraser Stuart Bruce University of Dundee
  • Shaleph O'Neill University of Dundee
  • Sharifa Hawari-Latter University of Dundee



Big Data, Creativity, Relationships, Value, Network Structures, Innovation


Many arts organisations can generate large amounts of value through their activities and networks, but often find it difficult to gather, analyse and evidence the data that can inform business decisions and leverage opportunities for product and service innovation. Compared to larger corporations, the creative ecosystem in which they operate depends on “quick business” and requires them to be more agile, adaptive and faster when identifying hidden potential within their networks. Moreover, their interdisciplinary and collaborative ways of working create emerging opportunities for spin-off companies and other entrepreneurial ventures. This study (part of the Arts API Project) aimed to examine the networks of arts organisations to understand some of their defining features and characteristics. The project aimed to show that by visualising and analysing relational data, it was envisioned that arts organisations would be able to operate on a more evidence-based, commercial and entrepreneurial basis, enabling better informed decision making and more defined business strategies. This paper focuses on the role and value of big data in the Arts and Humanities, provides the context and background to the Arts API Project and outlines the methodological approach, presenting one particular aspect of the larger research project. Adopting the technique of Social Network Analysis (SNA), the networks of five UK-based art organisations were visually mapped and analysed using measures such as Density, Connectivity, Centralization and Clique Participation Index. Within the limitations of the study, the findings reveal valuable insights on the effect of de/centralisation of information flow within creative networks, the importance of maintaining a balance between weak and strong network ties and mitigating risk by distributing responsibility across networks.

Author Biographies

Fraser Stuart Bruce, University of Dundee

Fraser Bruce is a senior design academic at the University of Dundee with over 20 years of teaching, research and consultancy experience. He is currently the Programme Director for the MSc Product Design course where he delivers specialist lectures and workshops on Design Thinking, service design and innovation. His research interests lie in the integration of biomimetic design with the practice of product design and innovation management. He has also conducted research that explores the impact of digital technologies and the use of big data in the creative industries.

Shaleph O'Neill, University of Dundee

Dr O’Neill is a senior lecturer and researcher at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD), University of Dundee, who has held a number of senior management roles including leading the Communication Design Group, acting as Head of Learning and Teaching, acting as Associate Dean for Research and as Unit of Assessment co-ordinator for the University of Dundee UoA32 Art, Design, History and Theory REF submission.

He has worked on a number of interaction design projects that explore user sense making processes and creative activities (BENOGO, EU Presence Initiative, IST-2001-39184; Making Sense of Creative Interactions, EPSRC F053029/1; The Arts API Project, Nesta Digital Research and Development Fund). His expertise lies in the area of semiotics and creative computing. He is Author of “Interactive Media: The Semiotics of Embodied Interaction (published by Springer, 2008). His research focus is to better understand the relationship between creative people, creative processes and creative technologies.

Sharifa Hawari-Latter, University of Dundee

Sharifa Latter is lecturer and Programme Director of the interdisciplinary MSc Design for Business at the University of Dundee. Her industry experience in business and marketing includes positions held in account management, project and campaign management for international brands in various industries. Her research in this field focuses on the exploration of user/customer-centric innovation as well as consumers’ attachments and interactions with design solutions throughout product lifecycles.