An inventory of effects | Relja Bobic | European Creative Hubs Forum publication

For the first European Creative Hubs Forum, the Belgrade based creative hub and design incubator Nova Iskra/Kulturni Kod, has prepared a collection of critical texts showcasing the shifting paradigm of work and creativity.  The publication will be available in full on the European Creative Hubs Network platform after the forum. Relja Bobic of Nova Iskra has prepared the introduction of this insightful publication.

An inventory of effects

Relja Bobić


We are at an interesting point, all of us involved in the “hub eco-system”. About twenty years have passed since the emergence of coworking as a notion, and institutions, individuals and organisations seems to finally acknowledge and understand what a hub is, or all of the things it might be.

Still, there is a long way to go, and even those of us deeply immersed in the operations of creative hubs need to develop our understanding of what is it that we are actually doing, and how are we doing it. In this regard, the term creative should not be understood as a label that characterizes a hub as simply dealing with creative disciplines.

What we are hopefully about to see and hear during this forum is that creativity as a process underlines the way in which we work, our approaches and the ways in which we think and act: – how we deal with the challenges of setting up sustainable business models, dynamic work environments, or rich and diverse communities and audiences we are serving and supporting. We will also become aware of the impressive diversity that our own eco-system has given birth to.

The subtitle of this publication is borrowed from the seminal book The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, realized with additional “coordination” by Gerome Angel. Originally published in 1967, this volume – modest in size, but lavish when it comes to the insights it offers and the speculations it sparks – has been a source of perpetual personal inspiration over the last two decades, since I first encountered it in the library of my friend’s father. As early as the late 1960s, the book predicted numerous social, technological, communicational, cognitive, and creative challenges and shifts that humanity has been facing in the meantime, and that we continue to face today, well into the 21st century.

It is one of those books that you need to come back to every once in a while, for a brief reality check and reassurance. It is made of all of the components that constitute what we regard today as a good, collaborative working process: the deep knowledge, the vision, aesthetic qualities, innovative approaches and, last but not least, humor and subversion. It is as deep as it is witty, a real collective effort of a great scholar, a designer and a multidisciplinary author. In this sense, it is a blueprint for how creativity works today.

This publication, prepared to the first European Creative Hubs Forum on How Work Works, draws inspiration from this book, and is in itself an inventory of effects of sorts. It aims to trace back some of the origins from which the state of work today came out. Working in the “creative sphere”, we too often forget that we are still working, that we are going to work, that we are involved in the system of labour, and that we are actually not as disconnected as it seems from the average factory worker in the suburbs. We might have more in common than we would ever imagine. As one of the texts in this compendium acknowledges, we need to be aware that the system, or “the machine” that we are not likely to escape from any time soon, is a highly perfidious organism that can trick us into a variety of comfort zones. But we need to remember that by being creative, or being professionally involved and highly successful in the creative field, we are not escaping anything and we are not disconnected from the processes far beyond our everyday focus.

It is a great privilege to be feeling the pulse of this new and exciting eco-system we are a part of, a world of collaborative organisations that feed on openness, creativity and multidisciplinarity, and which seem to be responding to contemporary challenges faster and better than any other type of organisations. What we need not forget is that besides the beauty, functionality and the “cool” of the amazing spaces we are lucky to be running and working in each day, besides the impressive communities that gather around these hubs and generate so much new value – we need to keep thinking. We need to be continuously aware of the fact that hubs, and everything we are involved in today, did not come out of nowhere, or just because we wanted to have a nicer, newer workspace. It all came from a real, tangible need for change and our responses to it, while that need is in itself a result of much greater shifts in the domains of society, economy or even geopolitics.

We need to keep tracing these shifts back to their origins in order to understand them well, and thus be better prepared for the challenges that are coming next. And we should not be afraid to do so. This publication is a modest contribution to this process, an inventory of effects that will hopefully raise important questions, bring about new speculations, provoke new ideas, and ultimately lead to new solutions.

The European Creative Hubs Forum in Belgrade is part of the European Creative Hubs Network project. The project is co-funded by the European Commission through the Creative Europe programme. You can read more about the project and the partners here.