The Creative Class and The City: An Explorative Inquiry in People’s Contemporary relation to Space.

Master Thesis at Copenhagen Business School. Submitted May 08

ABSTRACT

When the prophet of the Creative Class, Richard Florida, sketches the very identity of the Creative Class in terms of cities, we never get to know how these cities are and become desirable to these people. Instead, we argue, he leaves us with a distant gazing look articulated around the idea that they “validate their identity” in those cities. This is because he fails to fully engage with the very notions of identity and space and the modalities of their relation. This, in turn, means that, contra Florida’s very ambition, cities may transform into creative “non-place” as marketers around the world eagerly embrace his argument as a shortcut to showcase the city brand with the right attributes that supposedly bring about the greatest economic returns in form of creative labour force. In order to remain loyal to Florida’s intuition, we investigate informed social science’s epistemology of contemporary identity, and restate the intrinsically spatial dimension of this problematic of identity to address the shortcomings of Florida and branding’s methodological and epistemological assumptions. In order to do so, we propose to take the reader on a journey less concerned with systematic demonstration aiming at providing a definitive theory than with a conceptual exploration informed by empirical evidence where we scrutinize the status of place and identity in the context within which they emerge and where marketing, consumption and brands have become ubiquitous. We first set the scene by explaining how cities, creative class and the age of marketing have come together over the last years. We then highlight the emerging and processual nature of identity which calls for a more contextualized and interpretative approach of meaning creation and does not only question the dichotomy between self and the place but also emphasizes their continuing interrelatedness. With help from empirical study embarking in the steps of three people qualifying as creative class members, we investigate the forms this relatedness takes, the practices it nourishes and the ways meaning stems from those in their daily urban life in Helsinki. We conclude by opening-up on the potential relevance of the findings about the Creative Class’s identity quest through space to the broader marketing field.

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Let this diversity of opinions be propounded to, and laid before him; he will himself choose, if he be able; if not, he will remain in doubt. "Che non men che saver, dubbiar m' aggrata." ["I love to doubt, as well as to know."-- Dante, Inferno, xi. 93] for, if he embraces the opinions of Xenophon and Plato, by his own reason, they will no more be theirs, but become his own. Who follows another, follows nothing, finds nothing, nay, is inquisitive after nothing. "Non sumus sub rege; sibi quisque se vindicet." ["We are under no king; let each vindicate himself." --Seneca, Ep.,33]"
Montaigne - Essais I, XXVI, Of The Education of Children
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