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Deborah Leslie and Norma M. Rantisi

Cultural industries have seen tremendous growth in recent years as a source of revenue and employment. This growth has sparked an interest among policymakers and researchers about what constitutes cultural industries, and the socio-spatial dynamics that underpin the innovation process within such industries. In this chapter, we follow Allen J. Scott in defining cultural industries as activities that produce goods and services valued for their symbolic and aesthetic qualities relative to their utilitarian ones, and we examine the nature of innovation within these industries, given the significance of aesthetic content as a distinguishing feature. In particular, we focus on the need for symbolic knowledge – that is, the knowledge of contemporary cultural currents – as a unique element of the innovation process, and we explore the bases and challenges for the production of such knowledge. In exploring the production of symbolic knowledge, we review some of the established literature that cites the innovation process as an inherently collective one, but we also identify elements that have been, to date, under-examined in the literature in order to broaden out current analyses of the social foundations of innovation. At the same time, our chapter considers some of the key challenges that firms and workers in these industries face, particularly in light of recent structural and technological changes, and the delicate balance between aesthetic and commercial considerations that must be attained. We highlight initiatives that can help to foster more conducive settings for innovation, with particularly emphasis on forms of support and spaces that can shelter cultural workers from risk, mediating rising commercial and technological pressures and fostering experimentation and exchange.