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Patricia Ingham
Initiative for the Humanistic Study of Innovation

Steve Hinnefeld
University Communications

Last modified: Friday, February 18, 2011

Lecture to explore innovation through the 'surprising tale' of fashion

Feb. 18, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Conventional wisdom holds that, without strong copyright protections, there Is no financial incentive for people in the "creative" industries to innovate. But Johanna Blakley points to fashion design as an example of a creative endeavor that thrives without copyright protection.

Blakley, the deputy director of the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California, will speak on "Creativity & Copyright: The Surprising Tale of the Fashion Industry" at 4:30 p.m., Monday (Feb. 21) at Indiana University's Whittenberger Auditorium. The talk is sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Initiative in the Humanistic Study of Innovation and the Office of the Vice President for Engagement.

Johanna Blakley

Photo by Maggie Smith

Johanna Blakley

Blakley argues fashion is vibrant precisely because designs can be freely copied and reproduced. Cheap knock-offs of designer labels create "buzz" and give consumers a stake in watching trends. The cross-fertilization of ideas between design studios and the street helps keep the industry fresh and exciting.

"Standard definitions of innovation today too frequently oppose the 'new' or the 'original' to everything and anything that has come before," said Patricia Ingham, associate professor of English and Medieval Studies at IU Bloomington. "By showing us the enormous economic productivity of creative collaboration in nonproprietary industries like fashion, Blakley offers a more complex view of the way that innovative cultures work: frequently through collaboration, frequently by revising, reworking, engaging or rethinking an already existing tradition."

Blakley shows how "cultures of copying" can drive innovative productivity, she said -- a notion with a proud history in art, literature, drama, music, philosophy and religion dating back to classical times.

Ingham is co-founder, with Constance Furey of the Department of Religious Studies, of the Initiative for the Humanistic Study of Innovation, which seeks to enhance the capacity to innovate by bringing together IU faculty and students to investigate the narratives, history and language of innovation. Hall Bjørnstad of the Department of French and Italian, and Sonia Velasquez of the Department of Religious Studies are also partners in the initiative.

"Innovation is at the heart of the academic enterprise, in the arts and humanities as well as in the sciences," said IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Karen Hanson. "The Initiative for the Humanistic Study of Innovation is exploring the range of historical, social and cultural factors that can contribute to or hinder the discovery and production of new ideas and artifacts. I look forward to Johanna Blakley's lecture next week and to the future of this important campus initiative."

"We have been pleased to help support some of the groundbreaking research and study by our humanities faculty in matters related to innovation," said Bill Stephan, IU vice president for engagement. "This research has a direct bearing on our efforts at the university as we work across the institution to help foster innovations that impact lives."

Johanna Blakley conducts research on celebrity culture, global entertainment, and digital technology at the Norman Lear Center. She lectures frequently at USC, has two talks on ("Social Media & the End of Gender" and "Lessons from Fashion's Free Culture") and has overseen two major research initiatives about the impact of intellectual property rights on innovation and creativity. Much of her work addresses the intersection between entertainment and politics.