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We have always been Creative

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Just a quick note to say that over on the OpenDemocracy website, they very gracefully decided to publish my response to this piece by Adam Lent for the RSA. The headline argument is that the last 250 years has not seen a sudden surge in the creative spirit, it has seen the appropriation of creativity by neoliberalised capital, that is co-opting it for economic development. An old argument, but the continued hijacking of creativity for financial and profiteering objectives seems to be accelerating, and so the argument is worth reiterating. Again.

We are no more creative that we used to be; it’s just that now, hell really has broken loose because people have become very good and channeling that creativity into creating hegemony, centralised power and injustice. Perhaps that is being creative? I sincerely hope not.


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Time Lapse Urbanism

It seems a day does not pass without a new professional time lapse film of a city landing in my Google Rea…, Feedly or twitter stream. They all seem to follow a similar pattern; they’re shot at night and from an elevated position perhaps with a slow pan; they contain a collection of shooting angles that span highways, bridges or capture the throng of a pedestrian-heavy zone; some will have the seemingly ubiquitous (and simply annoying) tilt-shift effect (which seems to make everything look miniature) perhaps added to increase the visual metaphor of the ‘God’s eye view’ of the city engendered by such films (a good list of the best ones can be found here). Some of my particular favourites are from Dubai, Sydney, Melbourne, Quito and this rather Miévillian offering of New York. Time lapse films represent the vibrancy, complexity and gleaming aesthetics of urban life, or at least a particular kind of urban life. For me though, the increasing proliferation and professionalisation of these films is an interesting trend because it could be seen to represent a number of cross-cutting contexts and themes that have been debated in contemporary urban geography discourse of late, but also, the time lapse video could be viewed as part of urban entrepreneurial strategy.  Continue reading


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Will the ‘Real’ Gentrifiers please stand up?

Having given two lectures in a week that featured a long, detailed analysis of the creative class, it was perhaps with a little bit of cosmic timing that I came across this article that same week in The New Republic, on the ‘real’ problems of gentrification. The process of gentrification (and all it’s subsequent ‘real’ problems, more on that later) is obviously mechanistically linked to the inward migration of the ‘creative  class’ into any given area of the city – which is essentially any of those places that are ‘cool’ and ‘bohemian’ this week (which is, now, apparently, it would seem, the suburbs). On first reading of the New Republic article, the genuflection to Jacobs and her ideals rang true enough, the championing of street culture and the lamentation of homogenized urban development is clearly in the vein of the much lauded Jacobsian urbanism. However, while it was commendable that the article was highlighting the ‘sterility’ of contemporary urban aesthetics, this is where it’s derision toward gentrification was focused – this, the article claimed, is the ‘real’ problem of gentrification.  Continue reading


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Global Urbanist post

Another quick pointer toward Global Urbanist, for whom I have recently written an article. The post briefly discusses the Creative City concept and the problems with ranking them. This forms part of my wider writings on the city, and I will be speaking on the topic in Istanbul in November, so come along if you’re in the area and have don’t have a better offer! This concept will be the subject of my further publications in the future, so watch this space….


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GaWC Workshop and Annual Lecture, 28th April: Line up

We have finalised the line up for the Globalisation and World Cities (GaWC) ‘Cities of the Creative Economy’ workshop on  the 28th April 2010. The day includes the GaWC annual lecture by Professor Andy C Pratt of the Centre for Culture, Media and Creative Industries (CMCI), King’s College London, with his talk entitled ‘Global Cities and the Creative Economy’. The line up/flyer is here – please email me (o.m.mould (at) lboro.ac.uk) or Allan Watson (a.watson (at) staffs.ac.uk) if you want a place, although they are limited….

Hope to see you there.


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GaWC workshop and Annual lecture

Another call for papers…

The Globalization and World City Research Centre (GaWC), based in the Geography Department at Loughborough University is hosting a workshop for young researchers and postgraduates on the creative economy and the city on the 28th April 2010 at Loughborough University. We will be looking for presentations that explore the role of the creative economy in the production of cities through globalization, and the outcomes that this has on those who occupy the urban environment. Please email me (o.mould@lboro.ac.uk) to submit an abstract for presentation (no more than 250 words) and the deadline is the 5th March 2010.

On the day of the workshop, GaWC will also host their annual lecture, which this year will be delivered by Andy C Pratt, Professor of Culture, Media and the Economy from the Centre for Culture, Media and Creative Industries (CMCI) at King’s College London. Professor Pratt is a leading academic and international policy advisor on cities and the creative economy and his talk will complement the themes of the workshop.

The flyer can be found here. Please feel free to distribute it through your own networks.


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Creative Recessions: Are the Creative Industries the way out?

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The last few weeks has seen myself and other creative industry commentators share information (through Twitter, Google Reader feeds etc) about how various institutions, companies, governments and individuals are championing the cultural and creative industries (some saying ‘the arts’) as a way out of the current financial turmoil.

There is no doubt that while the financial sector has been imploding, the creative industry sectors have been steadily increasing their wealth, income generation and presence (in the UK economy at any rate) – or so the rhetoric would have you believe. NESTA’s recent report on how the creative industries will be the engine of growth in the UK suggests “between 2009 and 2013 the UK creative industries – which is responsible for films, music, fashion, TV and video games production – will grow on average at 4% – more than double the rate of the rest of the economy. By 2013, the sector is expected to employ 1.3 million people, likely to be more than the financial sector” (quote taken from here). These are bold statements, given the recent problems that have been reported in the so-called creative sectors. Forster & Partners, the global architectural firm shed 350 workers, Geary has halved its workforce, ITV is facing huge job cuts through a fall in advertising revenue, the music industry continues to battle against online innovations which limit their profits, and a particular issue of mine, the UK computer game industry is still facing a massive brain drain to Canada (also here) due to the fact that the government is still sitting on it’s hands regarding tax incentives for the industry.

However, recently, the creative evangelist himself Richard Florida has been trumpeting how the creative economy is where the US should be focusing it’s efforts, and not bailing out the stagnant and ‘old world’ industries of the banks and the automobiles. There is a sense that we should be enforcing a ‘revolution’, not ‘reseting’ the old and unworkable Fordist economy regime, by encouraging creativity and not supporting industries which got us into this mess in the first place – a message that has been echoed for the UK.

So where does this leave us? The mixed messages coming from the UK government are unhelpful, but they do point toward the fact that their is a consensus that creative and innovate workers need to be encouraged to ‘let rip’ and rebuild a different economic base to that from before. But more than this, it is the ‘atomisation’ (i.e. networked individualisation, or connected fragmentation) of the creative economy that will be crucial in the future. Architecture as an industry is so heavily linked to construction that an economic downturn, which effects the construction of major projects more acutely (one only has to remember the stationary, rusting cranes of the Asian financial crisis of 1997), will always see these firms suffer in one way or another. That is why those innovations that can make things more efficient or more environmentally friendly will win out in the end, not only politically, but economically.

Also, I believe that the problems facing ITV (and to some extent Channel 5 and 4) are indicative of a wider social media movement. Spoon-fed media is not what the majority of people are looking for in this hyper-connected, user-generated-content environment; and producing films, televisiual products, music recordings or newspapers for mass consumption is a process that will soon be redundant. Having the ability to produce and manipulate content to your own desires is the future of cultural production and the industrial policies that Mandelson is keen to operationalise will have to take note of this. How? That’s for the politicians to argue over, but encouraging risk-taking and collaborative innovation are essential facets of a creative escape from recession. For example, the success of Slumdog Millionaire at the Oscars is always going to be heralded as a British cultural achievement, but will the filmmakers actually make that much hard cash? Film4 (the funders) will see little of the huge profits generated by the film. The creative talent on show in this product is immense, but this does not always translate into financial reward, which if rectified, could  be ploughed back into the industry. This is not just the case in the UK, with Australia and other ‘inde’ producing countries and cities seeing similar problems.

With the advent of the democratisation of the production of cultural products through social media techniques (on which I blogged some thoughts on recently), investing the right people, firms and products will be crucial and will need to be an important part of future policy developments.

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