Creativity Manufactured

Digital Humanities + Asia

Jianmei Li

Creativity is an ambiguous concept. Both Richard Florida’s “The Rise of the Creative Class”[1] and Charles Landry’s “The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators”[2] explore the social aspects of creativity. Florida and Landry discuss creativity in an economic context and an urban plan context, respectively. These writers both explain creativity as a clear process that can be cultivated rather than a mystified inherent property. In addition, both focus on the promotion of creativity by establishing specific environments within communities and businesses. Besides their constructive understanding of creativity, there are also appear to be some contradictions that may arise in the implementation of their ideas that raise important questions about creativity and its use.

Reading Florida and Landry encourages viewing creativity as a non-mysterious trait that can be analyzed and cultivated. Florida discusses creativity as a property that emerges from the mundane need for food…

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The Times eyes Charleston

Architecture Here and There

Queen Street in Charleston. ( Queen Street in Charleston. (

The ship of state is famously hard to turn. One oped criticizing modern architecture does not a candidate for membership in the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art make. The New York Times remains a stalwart of the establishment on matters architectural. Evidence for this fact was abundant in its story last week by Richard Fausset, “In Stately Charleston, the New Buildings on the Block Are Struggling to Fit In.”

Bias in favor of modern architecture is baked into the story so deeply that the writer is probably unaware of it. Fact is, the new buildings proposed for Charleston are not struggling to fit in. They are trying not to fit in. The original headline was “As Its Economy Grows, Charleston Is Torn Over Its Architectural Future.” Charleston is not torn over its architectural future. Its law requires a preference for architecture that…

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# THE FUNAMBULIST PAPERS 62 /// Urban Space and the Production of Gender in Modern Iran by Alex Shams

The Funambulist

Line 1 by Niyaz Azadikhah (2010)

This 62nd Funambulist Paper is the last one of the second series dedicated to political and philosophical questions about the body, and the second volume that collects it should be published in March by Punctum Books. The following text, “Gender and the Production of Islamic Urban Space,” is written by the wonderful editor of Ajam Media Collective, Alex Shams. This text is part of a broader research he has been conducting for the last few years about gender politics in Iranian cities both before and after the 1979 revolution. This text finds its audio complement in the conversation Alex and I recently had for Archipelago. The Iranian urban space, like every other public space, inevitably influences the various body politics — whether it has been intentionally designed/built for it or not — that, in turn, influences back the organization of this…

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Power and Space in the City Conversation #1 – Powerful Urban Territories (video of UCL discussion)

Progressive Geographies

Power and Space in the City Conversation #1 – Powerful Urban Territories. The video of a UCL discussion from late last year is now available. The panellists are me, Allan Cochrane and Wendy Pullan, and it is introduced by Liza Griffin and chaired by Janet Newman.

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[new book] Zoned in the USA (Cornell UP, 2014)


Zoned in the USA

The Origins and Implications of American Land-Use Regulation

[more info at publisher site here]

Why are American cities, suburbs, and towns so distinct? Compared to European cities, those in the United States are characterized by lower densities and greater distances; neat, geometric layouts; an abundance of green space; a greater level of social segregation reflected in space; and—perhaps most noticeably—a greater share of individual, single-family detached housing. In Zoned in the USA, Sonia A. Hirt argues that zoning laws are among the important but understudied reasons for the cross-continental differences.

Hirt shows that rather than being imported from Europe, U.S. municipal zoning law was in fact an institution that quickly developed its own, distinctly American profile. A distinct spatial culture of individualism—founded on an ideal of separate, single-family residences apart from the dirt and turmoil of industrial and agricultural production—has driven much of municipal regulation, defined land-use, and, ultimately, shaped American life. Hirt explores municipal zoning from a comparative and international perspective, drawing on archival resources and contemporary land-use laws from England, Germany, France, Australia, Russia, Canada, and Japan to challenge assumptions about American cities and the laws that guide them.

Book Announcement: Kyoto: An Urban History of Japan’s Premodern Capital

What can I do with a B.A. in Japanese Studies?

KyotoKyoto: An Urban History of Japan’s Premodern Capital

by Matthew Stavros (University of Hawai’I Press, 2014)

For more information and to explore the companion web site, visit


Kyoto was Japan’s political and cultural capital for more than a millennium before the dawn of the modern era. Until about the fifteenth century, it was also among the world’s largest cities and, as the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, it was a place where the political, artistic, and religious currents of Asia coalesced and flourished. Despite these and many other traits that make Kyoto a place of both Japanese and world historical significance, the physical appearance of the premodern city remains largely unknown. Through a synthesis of textual, pictorial, and archeological sources, this work attempts to shed light on Kyoto’s premodern urban landscape with the aim of opening up new ways of thinking about key aspects of premodern Japanese…

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The granularity of cities

Architecture Here and There

instructions These superimposed maps of Cleveland now and then are easily used. (University of Oklahoma)

The University of Oklahoma’s Institute for Quality Communities has developed a website that offers superimposed maps of major American cities. The maps cover identical territory in each city, and you can slide a line in the middle to reveal the difference between now and then, then being 50 or 60 years ago at the height of the onset of urban renewal.

It is said that the phenomena of major highways cutting through cities, combined with the elimination of finely grained neighborhood fabric and its replacement with urban renewal and superprojects, has ushered in progress. I think that is debatable. Jane Jacobs, in her Death and Life of Great American Cities, makes a compelling argument that many of the changes were to the detriment of progress, at least in the livability of cities.

Small blocks…

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