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The Challenge of Suburban Cultural Research: Can we Generalize from the Australian Case? Paper presented to ACS Crossroads 2010,  Lingnan University, Hong Kong, 17-21 June 2010 Professor Terry Flew ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology Brisbane, Australia – t.flew@qut.edu.au
Australia as a Suburban Nation 60% of Australians live in five cities of 1-3m people, and 75% in 22 city-regions of >250,000 80% of Australians live within 50km of the coastline Contrast to Europe, where 70% of people live in cities of <500,000 72% of future Australian population growth expected to be in major cities Infrastructure Australia, State of Australian Cities 2010, p. 50  2
Australia as a Suburban Nation Majority of population continue to live in detached houses Size of houses in growing while number of occupants is declining 3
Australia as a Suburban Nation Australian cities remain highly car-dependent Rising house prices are seeing fast growth of lower-cost homes in outer suburbs Jobs growth is increasingly outside of CBDs 4
Australian universities are highly suburbanised Distribution of Australian university campuses shows a strong suburban presence alongside CBD campuses and “university towns” Suburban universities can struggle for recognition even among their own representatives – University of Western Sydney and “pram city”
Suburban Tropes in Australian Popular Culture Governor Arthur Philip instructed Sydney city planners in 1791 that streets be laid out  “… in such a manner as to afford free circulation of air, and when the houses are built … the land will be granted with a clause that will prevent more than one house being built on the allotment, which will be sixty feet in front and one hundred and fifty feet in depth.” The “vast suburban tundra” of Australian TV comedy (Sue Turnbull) – Dame Edna, Kath & Kim, Kylie Minogue, Eric Bana Suburban themes in Australian cultural studies (Meaghan Morris on shopping centres, Fiske, Hodge and Turner, Myths of Oz (1987) “In Australia, our houses aren't all joined together like yours to stop them from falling over.” Dame Edna Everage to Michael Parkinson, 2001.  6
7
Australia’s Creative Workforce is large and growing … 5% of total workforce In top 10 Australian industry sectors Creative Trident approach (Cunningham & Higgs) – mapping both industry sectors and occupations Large “hidden” workforce – unpaid, hobbyists, second jobs 8
… but is generally assumed not to be suburban CLUSTERING SCRIPT Stresses co-location of related firms and industries – Hollywood as exemplar Seems do-able at sub-national government levels – fits with urban redevelopment agendas Conceptually confused – conflates agglomeration with clustering Low-cost CIs generate few direct benefits from co-location Top-down urban planning approaches CREATIVITY SCRIPT Focus on the consumption activities of mobile creative workforce Low-cost sub-national cultural policy targeted at urban middle classes Neglect of production networks in amenities-based urban growth models Paradox of generic “cookie-cutter” approaches – generating sameness in search of difference 9
Creative Suburbia: Challenging the Dominant Scripts DOMINANT DISCOURSES COUNTER-PROPOSITIONS Creative industries development is best fostered in inner-urban creative clusters Creative workers locate primarily in inner-urban areas for professional networking purposes Creative workers seek an “experiential lifestyle” uniquely found in inner-urban areas  There is no clear relationship between CI development and inner cities – de-clustering of jobs and industries Creative workers are dispersed throughout cities and their numbers in outer suburban areas are comparable to other industries A range of locational ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors influence creative workers’ decisions on where to live and work 10
Creative Suburbia: Australian Research Council Discovery Project 2008-2010 Research team based at QUT (Brisbane) and Monash (Melbourne) Interviews with 130 creative industries workers across commercial CI sectors, digital media and design, arts, music and performance, policy officers, analysts and ‘animateurs’ Sites of research: Established suburbs (Frankston (VIC), Redcliffe (QLD)) Master Planned Communities (Springfield, Forest Lake (QLD)) New suburbs (Dandenong, Caroline Springs (VIC))
Research Questions How do creative workers organise and network in suburban environments? – challenge to the inner-urban sociality thesis Are creative workers living and working in the suburbs by necessity (high costs of inner-urban locations) or  choice (preferences for space, suburban amenity etc.)? What are the implications of recognising the significance of “new suburbanism” for urban cultural policy?
Preliminary Research Findings Choice features more strongly than necessity in choice of suburban locations – serenity, space, time to think Competing push and pull of digital media technologies (support decentralisation) and time/costs of getting around (support inner urban locations) Suburbs are not homogeneous Master Planned Communities struggle to develop creative workforce relative to more established suburbs Many outer suburban communities are much more ethnically diverse than inner-urban ones
Culture: a Complex Term Culture as lived and shared experience (community, identity, nation) Culture as mediated symbolic communication (media) Culture as resource for economic accumulation (George Yúdice, Expediency of Culture) Culture as policy discourse and governance  (Tony Bennett – culture as governmental) From Terry Flew, Understanding Global Media (Palgrave, 2007).
Mapping the Four Definitions of Culture 1. Culture as lived and shared experience 2. Culture as mediated symbolic communication 3. Culture as resource 4. Culture as policy discourse 15
Suburban Culture and its Representations Problem of “suburban derision” vs. “suburban realism” is that it rests upon binary oppositions between inner-urban and outer suburban zones Suburban business and community organisations remain curiously inappropriate for creative workforce
Suburbs, Creative Industries and the GFC Impact of GFC and economic recession largely understood in terms of inner-urban areas, the high-profile arts and consumption CIs performing stronger that rest of the economy in the downturn (Andy Pratt on UK CIs) – relationship between cultural production and the rest of the economy remains poorly understood Focus on the high-profile arts overstates relationship between CIs and finance capital – part of the infrastructure of modern capitalist economies, not the superstructure
Any lessons for Asia? Does it make sense to think of Asian cities as increasingly suburbanised – “suburbanisation of Hong Kong”? CIs/cities relationship being largely understood by World Bank  (East Asian Renaissance, Innovative East Asia) in terms of inner-urban creative clusters and provision for lifestyle amenities and consumption patters of urban middle classes Better mapping of creative workforce, combined with qualitative research into networking practices, likely to reveal a more small-scale and “suburban” profile

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Crossroads 2010 suburban flew

  • 1. The Challenge of Suburban Cultural Research: Can we Generalize from the Australian Case? Paper presented to ACS Crossroads 2010, Lingnan University, Hong Kong, 17-21 June 2010 Professor Terry Flew ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, Creative Industries Faculty, Queensland University of Technology Brisbane, Australia – t.flew@qut.edu.au
  • 2. Australia as a Suburban Nation 60% of Australians live in five cities of 1-3m people, and 75% in 22 city-regions of >250,000 80% of Australians live within 50km of the coastline Contrast to Europe, where 70% of people live in cities of <500,000 72% of future Australian population growth expected to be in major cities Infrastructure Australia, State of Australian Cities 2010, p. 50 2
  • 3. Australia as a Suburban Nation Majority of population continue to live in detached houses Size of houses in growing while number of occupants is declining 3
  • 4. Australia as a Suburban Nation Australian cities remain highly car-dependent Rising house prices are seeing fast growth of lower-cost homes in outer suburbs Jobs growth is increasingly outside of CBDs 4
  • 5. Australian universities are highly suburbanised Distribution of Australian university campuses shows a strong suburban presence alongside CBD campuses and “university towns” Suburban universities can struggle for recognition even among their own representatives – University of Western Sydney and “pram city”
  • 6. Suburban Tropes in Australian Popular Culture Governor Arthur Philip instructed Sydney city planners in 1791 that streets be laid out “… in such a manner as to afford free circulation of air, and when the houses are built … the land will be granted with a clause that will prevent more than one house being built on the allotment, which will be sixty feet in front and one hundred and fifty feet in depth.” The “vast suburban tundra” of Australian TV comedy (Sue Turnbull) – Dame Edna, Kath & Kim, Kylie Minogue, Eric Bana Suburban themes in Australian cultural studies (Meaghan Morris on shopping centres, Fiske, Hodge and Turner, Myths of Oz (1987) “In Australia, our houses aren't all joined together like yours to stop them from falling over.” Dame Edna Everage to Michael Parkinson, 2001. 6
  • 7. 7
  • 8. Australia’s Creative Workforce is large and growing … 5% of total workforce In top 10 Australian industry sectors Creative Trident approach (Cunningham & Higgs) – mapping both industry sectors and occupations Large “hidden” workforce – unpaid, hobbyists, second jobs 8
  • 9. … but is generally assumed not to be suburban CLUSTERING SCRIPT Stresses co-location of related firms and industries – Hollywood as exemplar Seems do-able at sub-national government levels – fits with urban redevelopment agendas Conceptually confused – conflates agglomeration with clustering Low-cost CIs generate few direct benefits from co-location Top-down urban planning approaches CREATIVITY SCRIPT Focus on the consumption activities of mobile creative workforce Low-cost sub-national cultural policy targeted at urban middle classes Neglect of production networks in amenities-based urban growth models Paradox of generic “cookie-cutter” approaches – generating sameness in search of difference 9
  • 10. Creative Suburbia: Challenging the Dominant Scripts DOMINANT DISCOURSES COUNTER-PROPOSITIONS Creative industries development is best fostered in inner-urban creative clusters Creative workers locate primarily in inner-urban areas for professional networking purposes Creative workers seek an “experiential lifestyle” uniquely found in inner-urban areas There is no clear relationship between CI development and inner cities – de-clustering of jobs and industries Creative workers are dispersed throughout cities and their numbers in outer suburban areas are comparable to other industries A range of locational ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors influence creative workers’ decisions on where to live and work 10
  • 11. Creative Suburbia: Australian Research Council Discovery Project 2008-2010 Research team based at QUT (Brisbane) and Monash (Melbourne) Interviews with 130 creative industries workers across commercial CI sectors, digital media and design, arts, music and performance, policy officers, analysts and ‘animateurs’ Sites of research: Established suburbs (Frankston (VIC), Redcliffe (QLD)) Master Planned Communities (Springfield, Forest Lake (QLD)) New suburbs (Dandenong, Caroline Springs (VIC))
  • 12. Research Questions How do creative workers organise and network in suburban environments? – challenge to the inner-urban sociality thesis Are creative workers living and working in the suburbs by necessity (high costs of inner-urban locations) or choice (preferences for space, suburban amenity etc.)? What are the implications of recognising the significance of “new suburbanism” for urban cultural policy?
  • 13. Preliminary Research Findings Choice features more strongly than necessity in choice of suburban locations – serenity, space, time to think Competing push and pull of digital media technologies (support decentralisation) and time/costs of getting around (support inner urban locations) Suburbs are not homogeneous Master Planned Communities struggle to develop creative workforce relative to more established suburbs Many outer suburban communities are much more ethnically diverse than inner-urban ones
  • 14. Culture: a Complex Term Culture as lived and shared experience (community, identity, nation) Culture as mediated symbolic communication (media) Culture as resource for economic accumulation (George Yúdice, Expediency of Culture) Culture as policy discourse and governance (Tony Bennett – culture as governmental) From Terry Flew, Understanding Global Media (Palgrave, 2007).
  • 15. Mapping the Four Definitions of Culture 1. Culture as lived and shared experience 2. Culture as mediated symbolic communication 3. Culture as resource 4. Culture as policy discourse 15
  • 16. Suburban Culture and its Representations Problem of “suburban derision” vs. “suburban realism” is that it rests upon binary oppositions between inner-urban and outer suburban zones Suburban business and community organisations remain curiously inappropriate for creative workforce
  • 17. Suburbs, Creative Industries and the GFC Impact of GFC and economic recession largely understood in terms of inner-urban areas, the high-profile arts and consumption CIs performing stronger that rest of the economy in the downturn (Andy Pratt on UK CIs) – relationship between cultural production and the rest of the economy remains poorly understood Focus on the high-profile arts overstates relationship between CIs and finance capital – part of the infrastructure of modern capitalist economies, not the superstructure
  • 18. Any lessons for Asia? Does it make sense to think of Asian cities as increasingly suburbanised – “suburbanisation of Hong Kong”? CIs/cities relationship being largely understood by World Bank (East Asian Renaissance, Innovative East Asia) in terms of inner-urban creative clusters and provision for lifestyle amenities and consumption patters of urban middle classes Better mapping of creative workforce, combined with qualitative research into networking practices, likely to reveal a more small-scale and “suburban” profile