Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist
25 October 2010

For a while now I have been looking for information on what proportion of people write “amateur” poetry or prose (outside of a school setting) and whether there is any evidence of change now that people can ‘publish’ themselves online rather than just having to stick the results in a drawer or struggle to get published professionally. Here at last is some data:

In the UK in 1991, people who practiced activity but not as a full-time profession:
2% were writing poetry, 4% making videos, 4% writing stories

Research Surveys of Great Britain & Arts Council of Great Britain. (1991). RSGB Omnibus Arts Survey : report on a survey on arts and cultural activities in G.B. London: Arts Council of Great Britain.

In 2007 14% of people who created a web page in the UK did so (at least in part) “to publish my own writing or music”.

De Rosa, C., Cantrell, J., Havens, A., Hawk, J., & Jenkins, L. (2007). Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World.

15% of UK internet users (c. 10% of population) maintained a personal website in 2007. Ergo, perhaps 1.5% of people in the UK in 2007 were publishing their own writing or music online.

Dutton, W. H., & Helsper, E. (2007). The Internet in Britain: 2007.
Social networking is an even more interesting case because it is more widespread.

No figures are available from the OCLC report for the UK alone on social networking site use like Myspace but 22% of users from 6 countries said they used it at least somewhat “to express myself creatively with self-published materials” – and at least some of the 24% who “document my personal experiences and share with others” may be doing so more or less creatively. This was at an early stage in the diffusion of SNS use though – in 2007 only 17% of UK internet users had created an SNS profile. This has doubled since then according to Ofcom.

Ofcom. (2010). UK Adults’ Media Literacy.

So very roughly 7% of the UK adult population are using social networking sites to self-publish (though this presumably includes video and music as well as text).

I couldn’t finish without mentioning one more study about creative use of the internet – Hargittai, E., & Walejko, G. (2008). The Participation Divide: Content creation and sharing in the digital age. Information, Communication & Society, 11(2), 239 – 256. doi: 10.1080/13691180801946150

It has more detailed information about gender, SES and education and their relationship with creative activity online but is based on a survey of US undergraduates.

Pointers to further data (especially quantitative data) about creative writing on and offline would be gratefully received. This work is conducted as preparation for my next major research project on what I’m calling the “New Authorship” (more work on this will also be tagged “new authorship”).

If you like this sort of thing you will likely also like Gauntlett, D. (2011). Making is Connecting: The social meaning of creativity, from DIY and knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0. London: Polity Press. I am looking forward to reading more than just the samples available so far on the site!


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