Co-Creating the Creative City

CITYLAB: where the City is the Classroom (Jon Pengally, Gray’s School of Art Robert Gordon University)

CITYLAB is a cross sector-teaching platform, developed in close collaboration with Aberdeen City Council, the University of Aberdeen and the Robert Gordon University. CITYLAB seeks to develop and actively promote greater levels of student creative interdisciplinary, through direct engagement with live client interactions within a public-sector context. The initiative aims to provide a tangible and engaging platform supporting student transitions to post-university experiences; whilst importantly, offering a platform for these institutions to reflect on broader issues around the City negotiating a slow transition away from its dependency on oil & gas industry towards a more diverse creatively diverse city.

CITYLAB was also initiated, as a counter point to perceived insulation and narrow disciplinary focus that students experience within subjects. With disciplines often suffering from narrow silo ‘group think’, not reflecting student wider experiences or engagement with the city. CITYLAB wanted to reflect and respond to notions of interdisciplinary, out-with ‘normal’ classroom environments, so that students might learn in a ‘safe to fail’ environment whilst developing deeper connections with the City. CITYLAB ‘where the City is the Classroom’, sought to embed and demonstrates the value of human-centered-design methodologies within a work-related-learning and problem-based-learning environment, while driving and supporting creative problem setting and entrepreneurial thinking through a series of ‘live’ student focus and business led collaborative and socially engaged projects, offered students direct experience of designing solutions and developing business models that demonstrably respond to these real world challenges and contexts.

Co-Production, Creative Placemaking and Possibility in the Neoliberal City (Nicole Foster, University of the West of England)

Cities continue to pursue culture-led development in the form of creative placemaking, creative districts and cultural sectors to encourage networking and knowledge exchange, to aestheticize the urban environment and incentivise development, as well as attract and retain creative talent who desire particular kinds of urban scenes. However, these policies are often critiqued for their complicity in neoliberal development outcomes by privatizing urban places, inscribing a particular symbolic economy onto space, and creating live/work/place spaces of consumption, often leading to gentrification and displacement.

Universities are becoming increasingly implicated in these processes. They may serve as anchor institutions for urban and regional industry clusters. They may operate as entrepreneurial real estate developers by building amenity rich campuses and student housing in urban centres. On the other hand, because of the university’s ‘third mission’ and the increased pressure to evidence ‘impact’ beyond academic audiences, universities are increasingly engaging with urban communities through service and community-engaged learning, service provision, and co-productive research, which could temper more neoliberal development agendas (Mosier 2015).

This paper explores these dynamics through a case study analysis of grassroots creative placemaking in a diverse, urban neighbourhood located in Fort Worth, Texas, USA. The research draws on in-depth field work and interview data to analyse the diverse, and at times, contradictory ways in which universities co-create cities and communities through culture-led development strategies.

Mind the Gaps (Alaine Burns Laycock, Independent Designer)

Mind the Gaps, one of three research projects funded by The Open Data Institute, is tasked with building collaborative data innovation projects across France and the UK. The aim is to explore how easy (or not) it is to share data frameworks between the countries. Mind the Gaps is a toolbox to bring citizen sensing and participation closer to policy making. It is a system in development for open data collection about well-being and inequalities in cities. It relies on citizens sharing their knowledge and feelings in order to collectively paint a more comprehensive and real time picture of the “lived experience” in cities and neighbourhoods.

The toolbox is co-designed between the twin cities of Bristol and Bordeaux, with citizens, local governments, open data influencers and community leaders. The whole project exists in the commons, free and open to all: the Toolbox (datasets and survey), our body of ethnographic research, our design development process, timetables and finances.

Using Mind the Gaps as a case study, the presentation reflects on the ways in which ethnographic research can drive more informed decision-making by generating human qualitative data. Which, in turn, can be used to complement and enrich existing quantitative datasets (cold or big data), stimulate open discussions and help policy makers build more resilient cities. In the end, it would present a more embodied and insightful picture of the city than usual quantitative datasets.

Chair: Dave Green, UWE Bristol

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