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The Rise of the Creative Class.
May 14, 2002 12:06 PM   Subscribe

The Rise of the Creative Class. The author argues that cities which meet the diverse needs of young people -- through vibrant nightlife, outdoors activities, and gay neighborhoods -- are also the ones best situated in the current economy. He has his own website, where you can look up your own city. Pretty interesting stuff.
posted by MikeB (18 comments total)

 
One of the more interesting links I've seen here. I especially liked how Chicago was exemplified as the large city that's done the best job of integrating service and creative classes. I could never articulate this, but I realize now that's what I love about Chicago -- the city embraces itself as a whole, not as a collection of types. I'm not crazy about his use of gays as a proxy for "creativity"; you could just as well count record stores, art galleries or other indices that are attracted by the creative class, as opposed to comprising it. Seems they are more an effect than a cause, but then it's a chicken-and-egg argument, except with gay chickens and eggs that work at record stores, behind the counter silently judging you on your musical taste.
posted by luser at 1:00 PM on May 14, 2002


Funny how all the creativity, vibrant nightlife, outdoor activities, and gay neighborhoods stop at the 49th parallel.
posted by timeistight at 1:10 PM on May 14, 2002


This is just one more in a long line of pop-economics articles that trots out a vague, all-encompassing classification and then tries to justify it with a mix of sociology-lite and trite personal anecdotes (see, for example, "Quarterlife Crisis," "Bobos in Paradise" and "Millenials Rising"). This guy, in any case, is way behind the curve, and overly analytical to boot. Young people move to interesting, cutting-edge communities? Creative industries are a big part of the new economy? You don't say. Plus there are lots of unexplained results in his survey. Binghamton, NY and Huntsville are not "cool" cities, and their populations are not booming; and yet they rank high on his index. And big cities - over 1 million - are at a disadvantage, because while there may be more per capita "creative" types in Manhattan, spread over NY proper of course the number will be lower than, say, Madison, which is almost all university students. Ultimately, this is the sort of catch-all briarpatch of a thesis that invites a thousand rebuttals, yet remains in play only because its core argument can be churned in a thousand different ways.
posted by risenc at 1:16 PM on May 14, 2002


timeistight: okay, okay, i'm sure you meant what you said in a sarcastic way (seeing as it's impossible to look up any canadian locations on his site), but i just have to check. canadians are awfully creative, you know.
posted by meowmix at 1:29 PM on May 14, 2002


I agree with risenc-- this seems like a good way to sell books to lap-top owners who want to hear about how important they are in society.
posted by cell divide at 1:30 PM on May 14, 2002


I don't know, I think this guy may be on to something. Certainly, ranking vibrant Madison as one of the top small cities, but not even giving a mention to yuppified but superficially similar Ann Arbor (where I live now) shows his methods give some insight into the elusive quality of 'creativity'.
posted by transona5 at 2:01 PM on May 14, 2002


And big cities - over 1 million - are at a disadvantage, because while there may be more per capita "creative" types in Manhattan, spread over NY proper of course the number will be lower than, say, Madison, which is almost all university students.

Right. It's a common mistake to use "cities" as a geopolitical divider, and in all such comparisons, New York City loses out. It would be far more accurate to use zip codes for this and other such comparisons.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:27 PM on May 14, 2002


Nonsense, dreck, simplistic, reductive--what is this with using the number of "gay couples" as an index of diversity? (Why not race, or sales of software, just to name another couple of vague statistics that can be used to "demonstrate" a fatuous arguement?) And exactly how does he measure "creativity"? What exactly does he think "creativity" is?
Splutter, splutter, deep breath, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean....
posted by jokeefe at 3:37 PM on May 14, 2002


Where beauty goes, money follows.
Case in point: Berlin, Germany.
posted by sheauga at 4:13 PM on May 14, 2002


Right on, jokeefe. From the article:

"...and diversity, measured by the Gay Index, a reasonable proxy for an area's openness to different kinds of people and ideas."

In other words: Diversity = Open to Different People & Ideas = Gay. Overly-simplistic, indeed.
posted by davidmsc at 5:12 PM on May 14, 2002


Certainly, ranking vibrant Madison as one of the top small cities, but not even giving a mention to yuppified but superficially similar Ann Arbor (where I live now) shows his methods give some insight into the elusive quality of 'creativity'.

I don't really disagree with your descriptions of the two towns (and this is from a long-time resident of A2), but I think this is just an effect of his use of the standard metropolitan areas, whatever their official name is. In that system, A2 is merely part of Detroit, whereas Madison is its own area. Check out how San Bernardino includes the Mojave Desert, or Las Vegas a huge swath of Nevada--I don't think anyone could argue those areas are homogeneous creatively.
posted by rodii at 6:18 PM on May 14, 2002


I'm from Eugene, Oregon, and the creative types here are part of the reason we have 9% unemployment in the county. It's nice to be creative, but artists aren't generally the best for economic improvement. Top universities are. The best index of up-and-coming areas would be rising universities in the area. That is, Bay Area in the 80's, NC Research Triangle in the 1990's and Boston area now.
posted by Kevs at 9:43 PM on May 14, 2002


I dunno, I was skeptical at first glance but upon reading the piece found it a useful shorthand for, yes, a gaggle of more complex and subtle issues. And Florida does have a stack of refereed publications, so I don't think he can be summarily dismissed as a simplistic hack.

That said, even on a quick glance I had some objections, including:

Major quibble: Neither Florida nor anyone else I have encountered has provided a fully satisfactory explanation of why Silicon Valley is in many ways a quite dreadful place, yet remains inimitably creative.

Minor quibble: Like many old farts*, Florida sees some pierced-and-tatooed weirdo and thinks "creativity." Maybe I hang in the wrong circles, but the majority of the most creative people I have ever known have eschewed such bizarre trappings and cultivated a bland or even "square" appearance. Don't believe the hype, Professor Florida.

* I.e., anyone over 30
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 1:17 AM on May 15, 2002


I'm surprised nobody mentions the effect artists have on revitalization of urban neighborhoods-- but I've noticed that there is considerable hostility towards artists here. Why "gay couples"? Using the presence of gay people to gauge the situation for singles makes perfect sense to me! Try being an unattached hetero in the suburbs for a few years, where every conversation begins with inquiries as to your family, why you're not married, what food you prepared for dinner. Try walking around by yourself as a woman at night in parts of the country with no gay people or students, and listening to how "it's not safe, you really shouldn't walk in the park by yourself."

Not everyone feels that desolate decaying inner city full of racial minorities surrounded by affluent suburbs full of above average children whose parents commute one hour by SUV to a high-powered job in a is the epitome of economic well-being.
posted by sheauga at 2:12 AM on May 15, 2002


What is this, Hieronymous, Logan's Run?
posted by rory at 6:35 AM on May 15, 2002


Sheauga, good point. If we're talking about the Creative Class, surely artists are a part if not the founders!

Certainly, Richard Florida's thoughts might be distilled as the latest meme, but it's time that creative, different thinkers be given more credit (oh, and we'll take more money too) than they've been given.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 7:13 AM on May 15, 2002


Artists, and especially full-time, single childless artists, who never manage to turn out a sufficient quantity of commercially saleable products are by definition parasites unworthy of medical care or welfare. Art is only acceptable as a hobby by those who can support themselves, or find a well-heeled patron. If the art was any good, it would already be in a museum or on the Hollywood screen, now wouldn't it.
posted by sheauga at 8:19 AM on May 15, 2002


Renew. Renew!
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 1:12 PM on May 15, 2002


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