Competing for the creative class, revisited

In the current build of elmcity.cloudapp.net, the statistics page for each instance of the calendar aggregator reports a line like this one for Providence, RI:

All events 910, population 48779, events/person 0.02

I’m not exactly sure where this might lead, but I’m thinking that it could evolve into a population-independent metric of what Richard Florida calls “creative class” activity. As I learned at the Cities of Knowledge conference in 2007, city planners are now thinking explicitly about how to compete on the basis of such activity.

If you’re Asheville NC or Portsmouth NH, you can’t compete in absolute terms with San Francisco or New York. But you can compete with them on a relative basis. And you can also compete with similar-sized neighbors like Greenville NC and Dover NC. Here’s an early peek at the data:

city population events/person
keene, nh 23,000 0.07
ann arbor, mi 115,000 0.04
providence, ri 48,000 0.02

It’s not surprising that Keene ranks first, because I began the experiment in that town and have been curating its events for some time. But that’s exactly what interests me about this process.

I can’t measure the actual events-per-person ratio for these cities, because there’s no way to know know that. Most events aren’t reported in a machine-processable way, and so cannot be counted.

What a curator can do, though, is help make the creative class activity that’s really going on not just visible, but countable. Suppose that city A has less activity than B, but does a good job of curating what it has. City A might thereby create the impression that it has more. And by doing so, it might kick off a virtuous cycle that makes that impression real.

Are there any city planners who are gathering and using this kind of metric?

5 Comments

  1. I don’t think the actual number quite makes sense (events per capita). There needs to also be something in favor of total events. Or you might have events per square mile. Or you might look at the distribution of events; there might be a culturally dense neighborhood, which has advantages for that neighborhood but less influence on other areas. More dispersed events seems like it would be more advantageous for the general community.

  2. > There needs to also be something in
    > favor of total events.

    Yeah, I’ll report that too.

    > Or you might have events per square mile.
    > Or you might look at the distribution of
    > events; there might be a culturally dense
    > neighborhood, which has advantages for
    > that neighborhood but less influence on
    > other areas.

    All good possibilities, thanks, I’m putting these on the todo list.

    Of course there’s the underlying key question: What is an event? Historically we regard public events as fairly heavyweight things: concerts, lectures, major sports events.

    I am really hoping to open up a long tail of more lightweight events. The group of 5 to 10 that climbs Monadnock every Sunday. The young mom’s support group. The little league game. There’s a whole universe of this stuff that never serendipitously comes to the attention of many who might be interested, but aren’t already in the know. Unless the individuals or groups transmit their information to an anointed aggregator, like the newspaper. Which, by the way, should be a feed /subscriber/ as well as publisher — i.e., the very sort of flow coordinator that this system demonstrates.

    That’s an unnecessarily high activation threshold. I want these folks to publish discoverable feeds. If they did, we’d find out about a long tail of small/specialized/niche events that collectively influence quality of life, and would do to a much greater degree if more readily discoverable.

  3. More connected communities will always be overrepresented based on online activity feeds; even as other communities catch up, the connected communities will be one step ahead. Maybe it’ll max out at some point, maybe not even that long in the future, but it hasn’t happened yet.

    Can that be corrected for? Is there something that is more uniform across communities that can be found online? I’m not sure quite what… restaurant reviews vs. number of restaurants? People have opinions everywhere, they just don’t all write them down. It’s just another crude number, but maybe it can at least identify some of the outliers.

  4. > More connected communities will always
    > be overrepresented based on online
    > activity

    > Maybe it’ll max out at some point,
    > maybe not even that long in the future,
    > but it hasn’t happened yet.

    Clearly. But as you say it /might/ tip sooner than many would imagine.

    I met a guy last week who told me that although he did not want to be a curator, he knew exactly the right folks in his town for the job. These, he said, are the kinds of civic activists who have always led the charge.

    Until very recently they weren’t leading the charge using online tools. But these are precisely the kinds of folks who are, just in the last 6 months or so, now showing up on Facebook and getting a taste of what computer-and-network-assisted civics could be.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s