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The High Line Jumped the Shark October 26, 2012

Posted by Oli in Community Engagement, Gentrification, Human Geography, Urban Geography.
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The High Line, New York City. Photo used with CC license by Canadian Veggie

Apparently, the High Line in New York City has been quite successful. It may have passed you by as there hasn’t really been anything about it in the press or the television or all over twitter, but it seems that many people quite like it and now every city worth it’s salt is engaging in ‘blue-sky’ thinking and coming up with ever-more ‘creative’ and ‘innovate’ ideas. From ‘Lido Lines’ to ‘Low Lines’ to ‘Insert-generic-antonym-here Line’, cities are now investing in revitalising old disused infrastructures to create new public spaces that the public can engage with. ‘Re-imaging our cities for the 21st century‘ is how one article put it. This really was the straw that broke the camels back for me, and now, the High Line mania, it seems has well and truly ‘jumped the shark‘. The problems with the viral-like spread of the High Line-like phenomena are multi-faceted and I would wager than different people will have their own particular issues with it. But there are two main problems that have ‘surfaced’ because of city’s scramble to enact a High Line-like policy; first, the rush to gentrify with gimmicks, and second, the diversion of scarce public funds to do so.

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Tower Block Cinema September 28, 2012

Posted by Oli in 9/11, Films, Urban Geography, Visualising Cities.
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Verticality, claustrophobia, lawlessness, poverty. Just some of the themes that are stereotypically associated with tower block living, particular the old post-war brutalist, Le Corbusier-inspired monoliths that litter many cities not just here in the UK, but all over the world. Their architectural designs were meant to be liveable ‘streets in the sky’ but instead ended up resulting in lonely living, but with a panoptic overview of constant voyeurism from everyone else. The dystopic qualities are depressing and oppressive in equal measure, and as such make for fascinating arenas for cinematic narratives. The recent mini-wave of films set entirely in one tower block is evidence of this. The Raid, Dredd and Tower Block have all been released in recent months, and who can forgot John McClean in Nokatomi – all very good films in their own genre. What is it about these gargantuan concrete leviathans that make for such gripping viewing? This post tries to find out… (more…)

Toronto, “the World in One Place…” August 17, 2012

Posted by Oli in Creativity, Human Geography, parkour, Toronto.
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First off, an apology as I’m hideously late with this seeing as though I got back from Toronto at the end of June. But nevertheless, I felt that I should perhaps at least try to document my brief but exhausting visit to the ‘Hollywood of the North’. Thanks to the people at the Martin Prosperity Institute, I was invited over to their annual Experiencing the Creative Economy conference, and a big part of the scheduling is designed so as we get to see and experience as much of Toronto as physically possible in 4 days (short of an urban exploration tour with crowbars and manhole cover keys). Suffice to say, it was nowhere near as much as I wanted to experience, but as with any city I visit, I try to seek out as many instances of urban subversions or subcultural urbanity as I can. What follows then is a brief story of those which I saw…

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Some other posts… July 9, 2012

Posted by Oli in Breaking Bad, Creativity, Dubai, Human Geography, MediaCityUK, TV Review.
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This is a rather self-serving post (so apologies in advance), with a few links to other pieces of work in other more enlightened parts of the internet. I have been concentrating recently on my research into so-called media cities, and how they help, or indeed hinder in the formulation of the illusive ‘creative buzz’ that is so sought after by urban planners. Urban creativity, as we all know though, extends beyond these places into marginalised, subversive, subcultural and informal places, and the ‘creative city’ policy drives around the world need to recognise this – something which I hope, comes out through these articles. Enjoy. (more…)

Dubai – A City with Organs June 3, 2012

Posted by Oli in Dubai, Human Geography, Urban Geography.
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Dubai – A city rammed full of organs

Deleuze and Guattari (1987) claimed the city is the striated space par excellence. We are all aware of how urban topographies restrict and contract smooth movement and the chance to drift, and how they direct and enact a routine, a habit, a certain soporificity. The striation is well-entrenched, the city beats with life, and we often hear the city equated to the body. “The heart of the city”, “the veins and arteries of the city” – an apt metaphor for the daily rhythms of urbanity. However, cities negate such a functional and arcane definition. The body works well (most of the time); its systems are efficient, its development is planned, its functioning is central. Cities are none of these things. There exist mutliplicitous powers, confusions, desires, flows, reappropriations, smooth spaces, that lie with striation, as the Lion lies with the Lamb. This mixes, congeals, diffuses and deliquesces people, places and powers into a city without organs, a city with no commensurable life other than that of it’s own.

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Infiltrating the Shard – a philosophical reaction April 9, 2012

Posted by Oli in Badiou, Films, Poststructuralism, Urban Geography.
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There’s been somewhat of a feeding frenzy in the media today regarding the infiltration of the Shard by Bradley Garrett and others. Bradley posted the images of his climb to the top of Europe’s new tallest building on his blog and soon after, the media caught wind of them and used them to fill out their bilious pages with striking images that no photographer working for any paper would be able to achieve ever. The media coverage of this event has been, for me, unsurprising given the enormity of what Bradley’s actions do to the collective psyche of the public writ large. Whatever people feel about his actions (I happen to think they should be highly commended and applauded), the infiltration of the Shard is a philosophical Event par excellence. Let me explain why (warning – philosophical ramblings ahead). (more…)

Motorways as Lefebvrian Urbanisation March 14, 2012

Posted by Oli in Human Geography, Motorways, Urban Geography.
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Spaghetti Junction in the Midlands – a wonderful transportation palimpsest

Those of you in the know will perhaps shudder at the amount of time I spend hurtling up and down various stretches of England’s motorway network (all within the speed limit of course and always keeping left unless overtaking). The banality of the endless asphalt whizzing by with only 5live to keep me company (any other station requires constant retuning) can, at times, be infuriating when all you see is a line of sleek black snaking into the horizon punctured by red brake lights; but also simultaneously some of the most explicitly urban encounters one can ever achieve.  (more…)

Life in Pruitt-Igoe January 16, 2012

Posted by Oli in Films, Human Geography, Poststructuralism, Pruitt-Igoe.
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Pruitt-Igoe as lived experiences - Image by Michael R. Allen on Flikr, CC-license

16th of March, 1972 at 3.00pm precisely. That is when Charles Jencks proclaimed ‘the death of modenism’, as the Pruitt-Igoe housing estate in St. Louis was razed to the ground. Many commentators of architecture and city living in general claimed it was the representative ‘end’ of the Cities of the Future which were based on the Le Courbusierian ‘Machines for Living’ – the modernist utopian dream lay in ruins on the Missourian soil. It was with its iconic (dis)appearance is the beautifully esoteric film Koyaanisqatsi (1982), that the Pruitt-Igoe complex symbolised more than simply a disastrous 1950s housing policy, but a retraction of an entire philosophy for life. The Sassurian structuralist mode of thought that had influenced the modernist agenda of architecture and urban planning had given way to the heterogeneity of urban life, the ebb and flow of a Lefebvrian rhythm which was essentially un-containable by these ‘streets in the sky’. Pruitt-Igoe as the symbol of the beginning of ‘post-modernism’ is now well versed, and is part of cultural geography modules up and down the land (including, I hasten to add, my own). (more…)

CFP: Spatialities of Digital and Creative Work, RGS-IBG 2012 December 13, 2011

Posted by Oli in Creative Industries, Freelancers, Human Geography.
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Call for papers: RGS-IBG Annual Conference 2012
2-5th July, University of Edinburgh

Session convenors:
Rachel Granger, Coventry University, UK
Oli Mould, University of Salford, UK 

SPATIALITIES OF DIGITAL AND CREATIVE WORK

While research on the growing and highly influential digital and creative industries has been well-represented in recent years, this session signifies a departure from mainstream research on digital and creative industries towards more exploratory research of the social spaces in and through which, digital and creative work is occupied and shaped. As such it welcomes contributions in the form of case studies, new empirical methods, and conceptual pieces relating to networks, social spaces, urban subcultures, working practices, and even ‘underground’ spaces (Cohendet et al., 2011) relating to this group of workers – as a way of broadening our understanding about how these new economic activities operate in practice.

We particularly welcome pieces about:

  • The working practices of digital and creative workers – such as portfolio working, freelance operations
  • New working practices of professionals afforded by digital mediums – such as location independent working, and co-working
  • Unveiling subcultures and underground geographies of creative and digital workers, which are substantially different to other areas of economic activity
  • New and imaginative methods for capturing and examining creative and digital work

The broader context for the session relates to our understanding of this broad and emergent area of the economy, which continues to be dominated by traditional research methods, especially those relating to ‘sectors’, ‘occupations’, ‘places’ and ‘spaces’. Yet, there is compelling evidence that this group of activities are shaped, organized and can be better understood, through more imaginative spatial constructs. These workers, more than others, appear to be at the vanguard of a changing economy and society – with new working methods and practices – representing a break with the past, which calls for more nuanced research approaches.

The conveners welcome abstracts of approximately 250 words, which along with paper titles and full contact details should be emailed by Monday 23rd January 2012 to: Rachel  (r.granger@coventry.ac.uk) and Oli (o.m.mould@salford.ac.uk)

Cities and the Creative Industries – a quick rant… November 29, 2011

Posted by Oli in Creative Industries, MediaCityUK, Urban Geography.
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Having secured some funding to study MediaCityUK in-depth, it is a great opportunity to grapple with that old problem of the ‘spaces’ of creative industries. I have always tried to write/research/teach around the intersection of urban geographies and the creative industries, yet it seems that despite much academic literature to the contrary, there remains in the ‘real world’ (for want of a more academically-friendly term) a distinct disconnect between the importance of place (and getting that place right) and creative industry development.

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