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Who Framed Roger Rabbit as urbanist critique

rogerrabbit

Doom v Rabbit or Moses v Jacobs?

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) is no doubt a classic film. It was technologically innovate, and spliced the detective film-noir genre with the comic, slapstick animation of classic ‘toons of the 1960s and 70s. Truly, a masterpiece of Hollywood cinema, and if you are not familiar with the film, you can read a great review of it here. One aspect though that often goes unnoticed is the urbanist narrative that runs through the film’s plot. It is set in 1947, and essentially, ‘Judge Doom’, the evil protagonist of the film, is plotting to destroy ‘Toontown’ (the suburb of Los Angeles where the animated characters live) and replace with a freeway. The film therefore is very much a critique on the ‘freeway-ization’ of LA, with overt glorification of the city’s transit-orientated past. Such a mantra is signposted early on in the film with the main hero ‘Eddie’ sitting on the back of a trolley car proclaiming, “Who needs a car in L.A.? We got the best public transportation system in the world!”

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The Americana, transit-orientated history depicted in the film

In his famous villain’s speech where he reveals his dastardly plan to the heroes, he claims that the freeways will revolutionise LA, and create a vast automobile-based city that will “be beautiful”. You can see his speech in the video below.

This short segment highlights one the film’s most overt social critiques, namely that of the automobile dominated city that Los Angeles had become in 1988, and still is to this day (relatedly, you can read about my day-long trip around LA by car in search of the film locations of The Terminator films here, and my ode to UK motorways here). With this narrative in mind, it becomes extremely obvious that ‘Judge Doom’ and Toontown are simply comic metaphors for the classic urbanism argument of ‘walkability’, most readily articulated by the battle between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. Continue reading


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A city’s obsession: A commentary on the BBC’s ‘London and the Rest’

MInd the Gap: London and the Rest (Source: BBC)

The show currently on BBC2, Mind the Gap, is well worth a watch as it covers many of themes that are important to modern urban geographical studies (you can watch it on the iPlayer, but only till 17th March), notably those being taught at undergradute level, not least by me for GG2053. The first episode ‘London and the Rest’, offered a useful insight into why London is a Global City, and what this means not only for the population of London, but for the rest of the UK and indeed the world. However, despite it’s rather glossy veneer and The Apprentice-style, helicopter, Gods-eye-view aesthetics that is so ubiquitous within mainstream documentaries, the program masked just as many important issues as it did illuminate. It failed to launch the visceral critique that its presenter threatened to do at times (his conservative approach masked an obvious desire to launch a tirade against this gargantuan urban behemoth), and in so doing presented a rather polemic, but no less informative pointer to why London has become the teeming Global City it is today. So I want to map out (using the traditional scalar model for clarity’s sake) a few points of departure from the episode that will help contextualise it in the wider relevant debates about contemporary urban studies.

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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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Creative Recessions: Are the Creative Industries the way out?

moneytile

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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Video lectures worth taking the time to watch….

Trawling the internet for videos worth watching is definitely a time-consuming exercise, yet I’ve found that over the course a year or so, I’ve manged to accumulate a host of bookmarked pages of videos that I felt I would want to watch again (for differing reasons I hasten to add). So if you have some spare time (which of course in these modern, complex and chaotic days we all have loads of), then take some of it to watch these.

Bruno Latour at the Tate Modern. ‘Nature, Space, Society‘. Recorded on the 19th April, 2005. Length: 2h33m.

Steven Pinker at the RSA. ‘The Stuff of Thought: Language as a window into human nature‘. Recorded June, 2008. Length: 1h10m – (inspired my previous blog post about ‘The futility of Words’)

Richard Florida at University of Califronia. ‘The Rise of the Creative Class‘. Recorded 2003 (sometime). Length 59m

David Harvey at Lund University. ‘The Rights to the City’ Part 1. Part 2. Recorded May 28th 2008. Length 1h01m

Hans Rosling. ‘Debunking Third World Myths‘. Recorded February 2006. Length 20m. (This one is worth watching for the statistical usage)

And finally…

Clay Shirky at the RSA ‘Here Comes Everybody: the power of organising without organistions‘. Recorded Feburary 2008. Length (22m – although you’ve probably all seen this one already).

If you have any that you want to share then please do, although no more from Florida please, he tends to repeat himself alot….


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Who’s going to do the changing? Obama’s Victory and the Creative Class

First of all, congratulations to Barack, he certainly talks the talks, now lets see if he really can ‘change’ America – I think we all know what that would entail. I wanted to make a quick observation though. Watching the news this morning and seeing the cheering Obama supporters, one particularly line struck me (from the BBC) – “his supporters are mainly young, educated and urban” – which made me instantly think of Florida and his creative class.

Obama’s policies and the Democratic view in general seems to moving away from heavy manufacturing, the big pharmaceuticals, the war economy and a dependency on a post-Fordist/Milton Friedman ideology to a more high-tech, creative and innovation-led (non-linear) infrastructure. Florida, who popularised the ‘creative class’, a sentiment highly criticised (why, this blog commented on it) writes that these new types of people are footloose and are attracted to ‘cool’ cities based on the three T’s: tolerance, talent and technology.

With Obama’s victory will we see America’s cities progress down this route? Canadian cities are already highly regarded as being very desirable places for the creative class to live, so will we see the ‘Canadianisation‘ of US cities? Obama’s supporters (if they are indeed young, educated and urban) will more often than not be working in the creative industries, the service-based economy, technology-based companies, doctors, university professionals; the kind of jobs that are highly mobile and flexible. So what will this mean for the American future? Will we see the economy change so that these types of people and companies will be politically involved? We know that the likes of Google, Microsoft, News Corporation, the big Hollywood studios, they already have huge power in terms of economic might and they already have some political clout (some more than others). But the oridnary workers and the more ephemeral industy that surrounds them – we will see them grow and procude the tecnological, social and cultural innovations needed to help cure the problems currently facing the world?

The creative class, the definition of which is debated, does include those people that are beginning to have an impact on our world and way it is run and the way that it works, and if these people are encouraged, given more political support and allowed to flourish, then surely they are the people who really are able to effect ‘change’?

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