Mark Kingwell on Toronto, justice and fauxhemian hucksterism

A harsh critique from one of Toronto’s best public intellectuals in The Walrus. [Hat tip: Joey , BlogTO and Kelly.]

Kingwell argues that there is nothing new about Toronto as a rich source of ideas and the shift “of Canada from being a resource basket to a linked series of communications nodes held together by thought”, and continues…

But the economic and social conditions of ideas have changed, here as much as elsewhere, putting the city on the brink of a certain kind of identity, and a certain kind of success: a creative-class boom town. My suggestion is that we are thinking about this possibility in exactly the wrong way. The question for Toronto now is not whether ideas can flourish in this place, because demonstrably they do, but what consequences in justice that flourishing will entail. On the edge of new identities and possibilities, what is our idea of justice?

It’s a good read. Kingwell describes the central creative era political faultline around the question “what is the city for?”. Is the city for glory or for justice? Kingwell argues,

Though a city in pursuit of glory may neglect justice, the opposite does not hold: a truly just city is always a glorious one, because it allows greatness even as it looks to the conditions of strangeness posed by the other.

Kingwell warns against a certain “hucksterism” in the creative city agenda that sees the city as a glittering entertainment space for the bohemian bourgeois. You can see this vision being realized everyday in the horrifying marketing campaigns of downtown loft condos targeted at the nouveau-hipster-doofus.

Another great quote:

Toronto is not a city in the modern sense of a unified whole. I suspect it never will be, and probably need not try. Toronto is, instead, a linked series of towns loosely held together by the gravitational force of its downtown core and the pinned-in-place effect of the surveillance rod we call the CN Tower. Like Canada in general, that triumph of communications technology in defiance of all nationalist sense, Toronto is postmodern in both its geography and its psychogeography. There is a physical centre, in the sense of a summing of vectors like a centre of gravity, but there is no normative or mythic one, no single agora or narrative. This much is obvious, and often said. But we continue to fail in grasping its political significance.

Great food for thought, the whole piece is a must read. I’m interested in your take on it.

Cocreating the Creative City Ignite @ DemoCamp

I delivered a Ignite version of Cocreating the Creative City to the DemoCamp community at DemoCampToronto16. View full screen on Slideshare if you want to be able to read the speaking notes.

If you aren’t familiar with the Ignite format, it is 20 slides, 5 minutes, 15 seconds per slide on an automatic timer. The format enforces quite a lot of discipline on you – and decisions about what to communicate with images, text and speaking notes are fun to play with. This was the first attempt, and I’d love to practice it some more to improve my delivery.

As a follow-up, I am challenging interested members of the DemoCamp community to take the open source code behind FixMyStreet and localize it for Toronto and the GTA. FixMyStreet is a bug tracker for city services that sits outside government control. Users identify, report and map local issues and the system forwards them onto the appropriate local authority for action and follow-up. If some developers in the community want to take this on, I will work with them to connect this to city halls across the region.

Vancouver TransitCamp

Well, it looks like the TransitCamp meme we launched in Toronto back in February has gone round the globe and landed right back in Canada with Vancouver TransitCamp coming up fast on December 8th. Congratulations to Karen (Quinn) for surviving the existential angst and politically charged atmosphere just getting to launch. Karen was at the first TransitCamp in Toronto and has been passionate about bringing it back to her home city of Vancouver ever since.
Vancouver Transit Camp
When David registered the transitcamp.org domain last year, we envisioned that maybe someday many city.transitcamp.org subdomains might propagate for cities around the world that wanted to look at transit and community in a new way. I’m really glad to see someone has taken the ball and run with it.

In February, TransitCamp returns to BarCamp ground zero at Bay Area TransitCamp. We heard some rumblings from Australia, Boston and Washington DC. Time will tell if they surface. If you need advice on organizing a TransitCamp in your city, just send an email. And, hopefully, Toronto TransitCamp ’08 will be bigger and better.

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Richard Florida on “Every Single Human Being is Creative”

The most recent column by Richard Florida in the Globe and Mail triggered a small storm of confusion and vitriol by commenters on Globeandmail.com. Some context from the article:

I recalled those Saturdays recently when I had my hair cut in Toronto. It turned out that the hairdresser, a stylish young man in his late 20s or early 30s, was once a resident of Birmingham, an upscale suburb of Detroit that I knew well because my wife lived there when we met. Without thinking, I said, “My wife used to get her hair done in Birmingham; what salon did you work in?” “I wasn’t a hairstylist then, man. I worked for General Motors,” he said. “Really?” I said, trying to dig myself out of a hole. “What plant did you work at?” “Plant?” came his reply. “I didn’t work in a factory — I’m a mechanical engineer and I worked on new product development.”

My jaw dropped. This man had quit a high-paying job in a good company so he could cut people’s hair. He had left the creative class because it wasn’t creative enough for him and had gone into a service industry to express his creativity.

Commenters were confused and took Florida to task for mixing the idea of a creative class with the idea that we are all creative. No question, there are tensions between these ideas and I think Florida himself would acknowledge them. The language is slippery. Many people who cite Florida haven’t read him fully, and don’t pickup on this second idea in his work at all.

It is a problem that is partially of Florida’s own making by emphasizing the word “class”. By drawing a huge circle that puts starving artists living in poverty and investment bankers in the same economic class, we lose some key distinctions that are beyond industry and occupational classifications. I argue that to understand who the creatives are, we need to look at another level of analysis: that of values.

There are a set of creative values that tend to be held by creative people. Our companies, industries, economies and societies have for too long ignored those values as frivolous – or a necessary evil when working with creative teams on ad campaigns. As the cultural/brand/design value of products and services in the economy increases relative to functional value, the values held by those that create culture are increasingly difficult to ignore. The group of people who hold this set of values (25% of the U.S. population) is the subject of The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World, by Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson. Cultural Creatives share values that distinguish them from Traditionalists and Modernists. I just picked up the book and look forward to digging deeper.

I believe further insight into what is emerging can be seen by combining Florida’s economic lens with Ray and Anderson’s values lens. It is the combination of these two ideas plus the impact of enabling web technologies that I’m interested in exploring in what I call open creative communities.

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World Cafes: Conversations with Your Creative Neighbours

Kingspadina
The Creative Convergence Project (I’m the Project Manager) is conducting four World Cafe events to engage a broad cross-section of creative people into conversations about themselves, their creative practice and their neighbourhoods. These events allow us to gather fascinating qualitative data for our research study (take the survey) and are also experiments in new ways of engaging the so-called Creative Class into a conversation that has been stuck inside policy circles for too long.

What do an artist and a software developer have in common? What are our shared dreams for our neighbourhoods and our city? We invite you to join a unique conversation, meet the creative people in your neighbourhood and hope that you will leave with new perspective and new opportunities for your own work.

Download the invitation. Join the Facebook Group.

Vancouver Speaking Gig: “Co-creating the Creative City”

UPDATE: Slides posted on SlideShare:

I will be in Vancouver this Friday, November 2nd speaking as part of the Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival. My talk will be followed by some open dialogue at Gallery Gachet Friday at 4pm:

Co-Creating the Creative City
Presenter: Mark Kuznicki (Toronto)
Friday November 2nd, 2007 4:00pm-7:00pm
Gallery Gachet, 88 E. Cordova

The creative economy and the cultural ecology of the city can be mutually supportive or at odds with one another. The creative city movement has so far failed to engage the passions, energy and values of creative people, or to unite them towards a common goal. Merging ideas from the creative city movement with emergent properties of “open creative communities�, Mark Kuznicki will explore how government and these diverse groups can engage each other towards a shared vision of an inclusive and sustainable 21st century creative city.

Presented by Gallery Gachet, DTES Community Arts Network, Stantec, CCTCA, and Fearless Media. Mark Kuznicki is a researcher, writer and strategy consultant working at the intersection of technology, culture and public policy. He has consulted to the Ontario Min. of Culture, the Dept. of Canadian Heritage, Toronto Artscape and the Ontario College of A&D.

If you are in Vancouver on Friday, please come by and say hi. I hope to see some of the Vancouver BarCamp crowd come out and mix it up with the Van-city downtown culture scene. My experience in Toronto is telling me that linking these two forces together is a powerful way to transform the sense of community and place among a diverse cross-section of creative people.

Facebook Event

Richard Florida is in ur Toronto, loving ur creatives

By now old news, but worth repeating: Richard Florida is coming to Toronto! A major coup for Roger Martin and Premier Dalton McGuinty, this is a huge development in the continuing story of Toronto’s efforts to become a world-leading creative city.

For some context, read this piece in the Globe and Mail. For a hilarious articulation of his theory, see his appearance on Monday’s Colbert Report. Introduced as Dr. Richard Florida, from University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, he did a great job keeping up with Colbert’s madness (video online until August 15th):

Stephen: So should I be following gay people around, to see where they’re living?
Rich: Absolutely!
Stephen: Ok good, because I do it already and now I have a reason.
Rich: Absolutely! Me too.
Stephen: You know what I think sir? I think that you are a gay bohemian artist that just wants to sell his house!
Rich: You know we just sold our house on Sunday, my wife and I, to move to Toronto!
Stephen: So you made a quick buck on this study!

What would draw the creative class guru to Toronto? Well sure, he loves the place. But a $120 million budget and a welcoming political leadership sure don’t hurt:

The Centre for Jurisdictional Advantage and Prosperity is a $120-million project, made possible by a $50-million donation to Rotman from the Province of Ontario. The federal government contributed an additional $10-million. The balance will be raised from the private sector.

I am looking forward to meeting Richard Florida again. My work is being drawn into the gravity well of this meteoric academic star. He comes to Toronto at a time when a critical mass of attention is being drawn to his ideas and those of like-minded leaders in creativity-driven community and economic development.

This is going to be fun!

CONCERT Entertainment/Creative R&D Network Needs a PM

My colleague Christian Buhagiar at York University is hiring a Project Manager for a really exciting project called CONCERT: “Consortium on New Media, Creative and Entertainment R&D in the Toronto Region”. See this page for background on the project.

Download the Job Description (PDF)

CONCERT is closely related to the project I am managing, the Creative Convergence Centres Project, so you will have the added pleasure of working with yours truly. 😉

Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in this position and would like some background before applying.

Creative Convergence Centres: Hubs Within the Cluster

On Wednesday of this week, I attended the announcement by the OMDC and Ontario Minister of Culture Caroline Di Cocco of the first 14 projects to be funded by the Entertainment & Creative Cluster Partnerships Fund (ECCPF). I am glad that my prior work with the Ontario Government contributed to the creation of this Fund in the first place, and Wednesday was a proud moment for me. The diversity of cool projects in the mix show what is possible when we cooperate to compete. Check out the exciting CONCERT consortium project to develop an entertainment R&D network: Full List of Funding Recipients.

I am Project Manager for one of those projects, the Creative Convergence Centres Project:

The Creative Convergence Centres Project seeks to accelerate the development of vibrant physical places that become major innovation hubs and economic engines for the creative industries cluster. The project is lead by a consortium of institutions currently involved in the development of creative convergence projects including: Artscape, Canadian Film Centre, MaRS, Evergreen, Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD), New Media Business Alliance (NMBA) and Toronto International Film Festival Group. Additional partners include Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation, TEDCO and the City of Toronto.

Canadian Film Centre is the primary partner, the project is managed through Artscape and I have been contracted to manage the project. I have been really looking forward to this, as one of my research interests is around the intersection between global innovation and local place. What can projects such as these do to anchor a cluster of firms and institutions densely interlinked with many weak ties in the Toronto region? How can these places be created with intention in order to foster collaboration and to offer the possibility of creative serendipity – the unexpected next big thing that comes from a random conversation at the cafe or at an event. It is about physical infrastructure together with social infrastructure.

I will be blogging about this project through its duration. I believe it is important that the wider community understands what the project hopes to accomplish and how they can link into these hubs, whether currently existing or proposed. The project is also not exclusive, and will be looking at other similar creative hubs currently in place or proposed.

I look forward to the day when Toronto is home to a network of vibrant interlinked creative hubs where the best content, design, science and technology in the world is developed and commercialized; important new engines of economic development and prosperity.

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Open Source Innovation Models

Ross at the MaRS blog has an interesting post on Open Source Science. He points to an interview at HBS Working Knowledge with Karim Lakhani. I agree with Ross that the most promising aspects of open-source approaches are the possibilities of collaborating between domains, at Johansson’s intersections.

I told Tom and Jevon at Enterprise2.0Camp that i think one of the most interesting applications of Enterprise 2.0 collaboration tools is to facilitate innovation networks. Innovation networks are not open-source by definition, but they lie on a continuum of closed/proprietary to open/public domain innovation approaches. In my observations of competitive social behaviour among companies, institutions and non-profit organizations, there are many structural, political and social barriers to high-levels of collaboration on such a strategically sensitive area as research, innovation and product development. There are also strong collective economic incentives for doing it: reduced risk, reduced individual capital requirements, faster innovation cycles and giving a cluster of SME’s the research capacity of a large multinational.

Back at BarCampToronto2.0, I facilitated a session where we hoped to understand the economic rationale of open-source. You can see the rough notes from the session here. (Thanks again Deb!)

  • Why do developers contribute to open-source software projects?
  • What is the exchange of value that happens within open-source projects?
  • What is the relationship between companies and open-source communities?
  • What can we learn from open-source software that can be applied to other areas of scientific, technological, business, social and policy innovation?

I hope to continue developing that line of thought, but it now sits on a back-burner with many other ideas waiting for an opportunity to develop them further. In the context of the literature on creative clusters, I believe that open-source innovation and Enterprise 2.0 collaboration are two very promising areas for further research and practice.

My thesis: the global megalopolis that can integrate new innovation models such as these into its structure and culture will, in aggregate, innovate faster and over time become more competitive in a post-industrial, post-information age global economy.

Anybody want to collaborate?

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