THE CREATIVE COMMUNITY: FORGING THE LINKS BETWEEN ART CULTURE COMMERCE & COMMUNITY
Cyberspace and Cyberplace
The Emergence of Smart Communities
The New Urban Landscape
The Emergence of a Creative Class
A Call to Action: The Arts Imperative
Creative Communities in the Making
The Arts in Modern Education
The Marriage of Art and Science
The Role of Technology
The Message for Cities of the Future
Cities across America have been struggling to reinvent themselves for the new, post-industrial economy and society foreshadowed in the 1960s by economists Fritz Malcop and Marc Porat and by sociologist Daniel Bell.
In their efforts to prepare themselves for the 21st century, many communities focused on updating their data infrastructure to accommodate the needs of an age in which information is the most valuable commodity. San Diego, for instance, even commissioned a City of the Future committee in 1993 to make plans to build the first fiber-optic-wired city in the country in the belief that as cities of the past were built along waterways, railroads and interstate highways, cities of the future will be built along "information highways" —wired and wireless information pathways connecting every home, office, school and hospital and, through the World Wide Web, millions of other individuals and institutions around the world.
These new information infrastructures are undoubtedly important. Butthe effort to create a 21st century city is not so much about technology as it is about jobs, dollars and quality of life. In short, it is about organizing one's community to reinvent itself for the new, knowledge-based economy and society; preparing its citizens to take ownership of their community; and educating the next generation of leaders and workers to meet these global challenges and preserve America's leadership position in the entertainment, software and information industries.
At the heart of this effort is recognition of the vital role that art and culture play in enhancing economic development, and ultimately, defining a "creative community" —one that exploits the vital linkages between art, culture and commerce, and in the process consciously invests in human and financial resources to prepare its citizens to meet the challenges of the rapidly evolving post-industrial, knowledge-based economy and society.
Cyberspace and Cyberplace
In less than 10 years, between 1994 and 2003, the mammoth global network of computer systems collectively referred to as the Internet blossomed from an obscure tool used by government researchers and academics into a worldwide mass communications medium. As we enter 2003, the Internet is now recognized as the leading carrier of all communications and financial transactions affecting life and work in the 21st century.1
The growth of the Internet's now most-infamous component, the World Wide Web, has been even more spectacular. With more than 700 million users worldwide and a growth rate of 15 percent per month, it is being integrated into the marketing, information and communications strategies of almost every major corporation, educational institution, charitable and political organization, community service agency and government entity in the United States1
A brief study of electronic history demonstrates that no previous advance, not the telephone, television, cable or satellite TV, the VCR, the facsimile machine or the mobile telephone, has penetrated public consciousness and secured such widespread public adoption this rapidly1
The questions that many people are now asking are concerned with determining where this phenomenon will ultimately lead. Predictions range from so-called electronic "virtual communities," in which individuals interact socially with like-minded Internet users around the world, to fully networked dwellings in which electronic devices and other appliances respond to the spoken commands of residents.
In recent years, people have habitually begun to refer to the domain in which Internet-based communications occur as "cyberspace", an abstract communications
space that exists both everywhere and nowhere. But until flesh-and-blood humans can be digitized into electronic pulses in the same way that computer scientists have transformed images and data, the denizens of cyberspace will have to continue living in some sort of real, physical space, an environment that will continue to dominate our future in the same way that our homes, neighborhoods, and communities do today.1
The Emergence of Smart Communities
Presently, communities and nations around the globe, often without being directly conscious of it, are beginning to design the initial blueprints for the so-called "cyberplaces" of the 21st century. Singapore has implemented its "Intelligent Island Plan". Japan is working toward an electronic future known as "Technopolis" or "Teletopia".
As early as 1976, the French launched an aggressive plan called "Telematique", which sought to place computers on every desktop and in every residence in the country. In the United States in the mid-1990s, the Clinton Administration unveiled its ambitious "National Information Initiative", or Nil, with the goal of linking every school and school-age child to the Internet by the turn of the century.1
Many communities in the United States and around the world have launched similar initiatives. Sacramento, Seattle and Stockholm have built large-scale public-access networks that residents can use to find information about government activities, community events and critical social services like disaster preparedness, child abuse prevention and literacy training. Blacksburg, Virginia, the small-town home of Virginia Tech, has transformed itself into an electronic village where the majority of residents and businesses are connected to the local data network. San Diego, with its "City of the Future" project, helped the region accelerate the build-out of more sophisticated electronic infrastructures that are already beginning to allow a wide variety of local government, business and institutional transactions.1
Recognizing that electronic networks like these will play an increasingly important role in the economic competitiveness of its municipalities, the state of California in 1996 launched its statewide "Smart Communities" program, which has been managed since its inception by the International Center for Communications at San Diego State University. The program defines a smart community as "a geographical area ranging in size from a neighborhood to a multi-county region whose residents, organizations and governing institutions are using information technology to transform their region in significant, even fundamental ways."1
The underlying premise of California's Smart Community program is that smart communities are not, at their core, exercises in the deployment and use of technology, but rather in the promotion of economic development, job growth and higher living standards overall. In other words, technological propagation in smart communities is not an end in itself, but rather a means to a larger end with clear and compelling benefits for communities.1
The New Urban Landscape
We have learned a great deal since beginning this effort a decade ago to understand the challenges cities face in a new, global "information economy", an economy based not on the production of goods and services or agriculture, although these basic industries continue, but on the emerging trend toward the production, use and transfer of information and knowledge. First, many thought leaders suggest cities of the future will not be cities in the usual sense but rather powerful regional economies. As economists and pundits alike acknowledge, there is no national economy per se, only a global economy, which author Neil Pierce defines as "a constellation of regional economies with strong cities at the core."
Kenichi Ohmae, author of The Borderless Economy, suggests we are witnessing the rise and the rebirth of the age-old concept of the city-state or, as he prefers, the "region-state." The new region-state has the power and authority to take ownership of its own future and a governing process enabling a new model of government for the digital age.
Second, civic engagement and new civic "collaboratories "will be needed to help "reboot" or reinvent our great American cities to reclaim the sense of place and civic pride that these cities once possessed, as well as ensure that no one is left behind.
The key to success in building such learning and caring communities is the nonprofit sector. Management guru Peter Drucker believes, "The nonprofits have the potential to become America's 'social sector', equal in importance to the public sector of government and the private sector of business." But it is the role of business and industry and each region's philanthropic institutions to create the social fabric of the community.
According to Drucker, the challenge for business has always been, as he puts it, "not how to do things right, but how to find the right things to do." Not surprisingly, he has been consistent in urging business leaders "to do well by doing good", to find ways to invest in and support the role of the nonprofit sector in building and renewing community.
Third, cities of the future are "creative communities" in the sense that the recognize that art and culture are vital not only to a region's livability, but also to the preparedness of its work force. They understand that art-infused education is critical to producing the next generation of leaders and workers for the knowledge economy.
While art and music and all things cultural have been enjoyed and appreciated by every generation, there has been an often unspoken assumption that they were nonessential, even a frill. Today, the demand for creativity has outpaced our nation's ability to produce enough workers simply to meet the needs of Silicon Valley or the Hollywood entertainment community. Seven years ago, for example, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers asked the governor of California to declare a state of emergency to help Hollywood find digital artists. There were people who were computer literate, they claimed, but they could not draw. In the new economy, they argued, such talents are vital to all industries dependent on the marriage of entertainment to computers and telecommunications.
Filmmaker John Hughes and Director of Artist Development and Training at Warner Bros. Dave Masters, put the blame for the shortage of digital artists squarely on the shoulders of the U.S. educational system. In our nation's zeal to excel in math and science, music and art were cut out of the curriculum. Now the U.S. ranks 17th in the world in math and science, and employers are going overseas to find the digital artists they need. In reality, the burden should not be put on education's doorstep, but on the shoulders of all Americans concerned with individual and collective success in a new know-ledge-based economy.
The Emergence of a Creative Class
The new economy's demand for creativity has manifested itself in the emergence of what author Richard Florida has termed "the Creative Class." He reports that some 38 million Americans, or 30 percent of the national work force, now belong to this class. Florida uses a broad definition of the Creative Class, considering a member anyone whose work function is to produce new ideas, new technology and/or new creative content. Hence, the Creative Class includes people in engineering and science, architecture and design, education, music, arts and entertainment. This class of creative individuals, Florida says, share a common creative ethos that emphasizes individuality, creativity, difference and
merit. As far as the members of the Creative Class are concerned, every aspect and manifestation of creativity, cultural, technological and economic, is inextricably linked.2
The core of the Creative Class is surrounded by a broader group of what Florida calls "creative professionals" who work in business and finance, health care, law and other related fields. These individuals engage in complicated problem solving that is characterized by a great deal of independent judgment and that requires high levels of education or intellectual capital.
The main difference between the Creative Class and other classes is best understood through the kind of work they perform. Members of the Working and Service Classes are paid mainly to execute according to plan, while those in the Creative Class are paid mainly to create the plan and subsequently have considerably more autonomy and flexibility than do the other two classes.2
The class structure of the United States and other advanced nations has been the subject of spirited debate for more than a hundred years. For a plethora of writers and thinkers in the 1800s through the mid-1900s, the main story was the rise of the Working Class. The mid-20th century brought the decline of the Working Class, which reached its peak at roughly 40 percent of the U.S. work force between 1920 and 1950, before beginning its long erosion to roughly 25 percent of today's work force.
1. Eger, John M. “Cyberspace and Cyberplace: Building the Smart Communities Of Tomorrow.” San Diego Union-Tribune, Insight, 1997.
2. Florida, Richard. The Rise of the Creative Class. New York: Basic, 2002.