<body> Public Ad Campaign: Urban Subversion and the Creative City
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Friday, March 8, 2019

Urban Subversion and the Creative City

I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of Oli Mould's Urban Subversion and the Creative City. His explanation of The Creative City Paradigm was thorough and accessible. I learned more about how the neoliberal policies of disinvestment laid the ground work for the global competition between cites that has been at the heart of Creative City strategies and other forms of urban regeneration which privilege developers and investment over the citizens of our great metropolises. He clearly explains how culture and ultimately creativity were used to attract tourism dollars, private investment, and other forms of support that kept many cities viable as states left them for dead with austerity measures that were simply untenable. As culture grew to represent a valuable commodity amongst competing cities, new forms of urban regeneration strategies were pitched around the Creative City concept most famously championed by Richard Florida. These strategies, disguised as calls for more creativity and creative approaches to city building, provided a framework for capitalist accumulation through the development of economically depressed neighborhoods whose "regeneration" could yield huge profits as investors bought low and sold high, often with huge incentives from competing cities who had neglected these neighborhoods in the first place. It is a pretty bleak view of city development that highly favors the capitalist over the citizen, always under pressure to carve out thier own existence in a system designed to extract as much value from them as possible with the expectation that your individual tenacity will replace the ever decreasing opportunity and safety net that we once held up as a bulwark against total domination by economic precariousness.

But then again we all know this. In a society that is erected on the concept of individual competition over mutual aide, getting fleeced by your neighbor is expected behavior and those that have the capital to amplify thier con job do well. In New York we have resorted to insane tax breaks to incentivize developers to create affordable housing. Makes perfect sense. If the objective of a developer is to make money, there is no incentive to build affordable housing that makes less money than luxury housing. That's individual competition at work. If the objective is to get as many people into homes as possible so they can have stability and all of the productive benefits that go with it, then that is mutual aid. They are kind of mutually exclusive and all the incentives in the world wont change the fact that we privilege profit over people as an underlying theme to our social order. Plain and simple.

As a prescription, the second half of Oli Mould's book asks us to consider a creative city with a lower case c. One that defies the market processes of neoliberal ideologies and remakes cities for people instead of profit. It all sounds fantastic except like most other theses on the topic, the prescriptions are tactics like Derive and flanuerism, yarn bombing, and parkour, which stand as legitimate contestation to a mode of thinking that is extracting huge surplus value from our cities and communities on a daily basis. These lines of flight, it is presumed can be followed long enough that they lead us to different cities in which the neoliberal agenda is usurped by new forms of social relations based on truly creative endeavors that exist outside of capitalist imperatives. Desire production, endeavors to produce novel ideas and concepts that happen without a monetary incentive. My own anti advertising efforts are no more effective than any of the examples Oli gives, and they seem mostly to "keep the water moving" so things don't ice over and become impenetrable. It is depressing that in the face of such overwhelming forces of wealth monopolization and social inequality, our remedies (mine included) are art projects and the fanciful dreams of psychogeographers. Im not smart enough yet to see better answers but with problems as big as Oli Mould is showing us, we need better options for resistance if we are going to win the fight for better cities that serve citizens over profit and see the generation of wealth created in our great metropolises as the product of everyone that lives there.

Now don't get me wrong, read this book. I am particularly ornery as of late because I too am faced with a monumental problem that doesn't seem to have an answer. Mainly, how is my work contributing to the greater good and if it is, does the minimal effect it has warrant my time and energy. The problems Oli points out are real, but also part of a much larger system of domination that prevents the distribution of value created by humanity to the entirety of the the human population but instead offers up arguments for why some innovators should horde the majority of that value for themselves. As I looked for cracks of resistance, I saw autonomous thought as a good battleground to wage a fight. Advertising and the persuasion machine it represents not only negatively influences our behavior and increases our desire for individual competition over mutual aide, but it also drowns out any other ideas that might occupy our minds which run counter individual interest over collective interest. If we could just get control of the reigns and create more democratic civic media environments where inequality could be laid bare instead of disguised, we might have a chance. And yet that terra firma is now turning to mush under my feat. What once looked like a a clear and present danger to be confronted headlong has been usurped the behavioral modification techniques of surveillance capitalism, opaque beyond our wildest dreams because its form is too vague to outline as of yet. Unless that is Shoshana Zuboff's new publication can begin to define the edges, and the new frontier on which we can resist.



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