Structure and play: rethinking regulation in the higher education sector

Erik Bohemia, Kerry Harman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores possible tactics for academics working within a context of increasing regulation and constraint. One suggested tactic is to move outside of a creativity-conformity binary. Rather than understanding creativity and conformity as separable, where one is seen as excluding the other, the authors consider the potential of examining the relationships between them. The theme of 'structure and play' illustrates the argument. In the first part of the paper, using various examples from art and design - fields generally associated with creativity - the authors explore the interrelatedness of creativity and conformity. For example, how might design styles, which are generally understood as creative outcomes, constrain creativity and lead to conformity within the design field? Is fashion producing creativity or conformity? Conversely, the ways in which conformity provides the conditions for creativity are also examined. For example, the conformity imposed by the state on artists in the former communist bloc contributed to a thriving underground arts movement which challenged conformity and state regulation. Continuing the theme of 'structure and play', the authors recount a story from an Australian university which foregrounds the ongoing renegotiation of power relations in the academy. This account illustrates how programmatic government in a university, with its aim of regulating conduct, can contribute to unanticipated outcomes. The authors propose that a Foucauldian view of distributed power is useful for academics operating in a context of increasing regulation, as it brings into view sites where power might begin to be renegotiated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-374
JournalIndustry and Higher Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


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