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Session B4
Style vs. Content in the Taiwanese Creative Industries and Taiwanese Nation Branding
司黛蕊 Teri Silvio
Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan

        In some countries style plays an important role in the project of nation branding, while in others it does not.  As Keith Murphy (2013) argues, in countries such as Sweden, “cultural geometries” have developed, in which a specific set of stylistic principles (such as no sharp edges) have become taken-for-granted habit among designers, and have also become attached to specific moral values (such as equality) by people both inside and outside the country, such that “Swedish design” conjures a coherent national brand image.  In other countries, nation branding projects rely far more on content (e.g., iconic buildings or landscapes) than on style.

In Taiwan, cultural geometries have developed within some sectors of the cultural creative industries, but not in others.  In this paper, I want to compare the practices and discourses of workers in different sectors of Taiwan’s cultural creative industries, with a view to analyzing what conditions are necessary for a cultural geometry develop.  In particular, I will be comparing the Taiwanese art cinema and character design (including both graphic design and art toys).  Both film directors and character designers express an interest in representing Taiwanese identity for both domestic and foreign audiences.  In cinema, a set of stylistic principles have developed over the past three decades and have come to be associated by international audiences with Taiwan, while, in contrast, Taiwanese character designers rely primarily on local content to impart a “Taiwanese flavor,” and styles remain widely divergent.  I argue that the development of a cultural geometry is linked to practices of mentorship and to a collectivist ideology, while the divergence of style is linked to more institutionalized training and to a neoliberal belief in individualism and intellectual property.  Although these sets of conditions may seem to be incompatible, in Taiwanese discourse, both are seen as characteristic of Taiwanese cultural tradition. 

In the final part of the paper, I will explore the implications of the cultures of different sectors of the creative industries for the project of making Taiwan visible and distinguishable to the outside world.