Buzz & The Creative City: An Introduction

The city has always been a locus for artistic and academic enquiry. As the terrain for a complex coalescence of urban life and livelihoods, the city has always attracted voices, both artistic and intellectual, each trying to decode their surroundings. From 18th Century romantic writers living and writing about their immersion within an emergent urbanity, through to creative and cultural sector workers clustered within urban ecosystems of productivity and sociality today, the city has always played host to a creative class. This thesis investigates the urban experience of today’s creative and cultural worker, concerned primarily with how the sensate and atmospheric terrains of the city impact upon them. This research is multidisciplinary; it is rooted in a historical canon of urban sociology and human geography, and is made present through a critical dialogue with more recent creative and cultural industries literature, itself composed of business, economic, geographical, cultural, and urban studies approaches. The methodological approach too crosses disciplinary boundaries, borrowing equally from ethnographic and psychogeographic practice, and enhanced through a mobile application, combining GPS mapping and audio recording, which has been developed specifically for this research.

Three areas primarily inform this thesis and shape its chapters: i) a historically rooted discussion about urban walking theories and practices, and their efficacy for generating knowledge about urban life (e.g the flaneur, psychogeography), ii) theories of the creative city, the creative and cultural industries, and the creative class as a discrete urban demographic, and iii) the impact that the sensate and atmospheric experience of the city, what is collectively here referred to as ‘Urban Buzz’, has upon creative workers, creative working, and creative cities at large. This research opens up new dialogues within the creative and cultural industries area by highlighting the importance of the intangible terrains of the city, and by establishing the academic framework with which to approach their scrutiny. Further, this research draws up new protocols for conducting psychogeographic investigation, including the introduction of a new mobile application, which enables an entirely new urban mapping process utilising embodied GPS and audio technologies. Outputs of this research include a series of ‘audio-maps’ created through combined walking and interviewing with creative workers, and presented through interactive audio-map visualisations.