Following up from our first blog entry on the normalisation of autonomous areas within urban centres, we embarked on a two week research trip in Slovenia and Denmark visiting the places in question, appreciating the communities that live and work in them, and engaging in fruitful discussions with them, as well as with the areas’ other stakeholders such as city representatives.
This blog entry is dedicated to the area of Metelkova Mesto, the semi-squatted cultural neighbourhood of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and the attempts of the municipality, as well as the state of Slovenia to “broaden” the cultural zone surrounding the urban squat and create a cultural space where all stakeholders can meet and contribute to the place’s brand: apart from the autonomous squatted buildings, the city of Ljubljana operates the Museum of Contemporary Art, whereas the state of Slovenia has also founded the Ethnographic museum in the same quarter. From state, to municipal, to autonomous level, the broader cultural zone of Metelkova Mesto creates the impression of a place dedicated to the promotion of arts and culture, a valuable asset to the city and to the country itself. 
This month our new Innovate project started. The project will bring big data to town and city centre decision makers, enabling them to optimise footfall whilst also improving the experience of centre users. The first stage of the project (running from now until Spring 2017) is very research focused. Because we have over 9 years of hourly footfall data, courtesy of the project lead Springboard, the research team at the Institute of Place Management (Manchester Metropolitan University) and the University of Cardiff can really start to work out how and why town and city centres perform as they do. Our findings will then be incorporated into a place management information system and a serious of dashboard products, built by our technology partners MyKnowledgeMap.
The image of a country can be perceived internationally by means of a plethora of dimensions: associations, impressions, beliefs, representations, schemes, feelings, interactions, experiences, inter alia. Dimensions of a country brand are undoubtedly multifaceted – social, cultural, economic, political, environmental, behavioural – as several participants are involved internally and externally. Additionally, the main five complexities of the country brand are the following: stakeholder-related issues; government involvement; interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary opportunities, and potential nation brand models. Furthermore, the temporal dimension plays an intrinsic role. In view of this complex scenario, research in regards to country brand image can be undertaken by two approaches – academically or by consultancy indexes. Evidently, academic research focuses on theoretical and methodological advances, creating new conceptual frameworks and appropriate philosophies. The country brand indexes developed by specialized consultancies are often based on global real-data available from worldwide institutions. Continue reading “Evolution of country brand research: Studies on Brazil’s brand image”→
The research community within the IPM is constantly challenging how we think about place and what place means. I am concerned about people (and even their non-human companions!) in places. I have long struggled, as many academics have, with the idea of place-making and the queasy notion of wading into communities and suggesting that these places can be ‘better’. My own PhD research examined communities how they shape their own identities through drawing or resisting place-imaging projects. By spending time with community groups and undertaking participant observation at official and unofficial Liverpool Capital of Culture events (both during and after 2008) I was able to understand how local people performed identities which related to their sense of belonging to their neighbourhoods and the wider city. It considered the balance between creative improvisation and the constraints of social and cultural norms in forming identities.
On the 4th July 2016 I was invited to take part in the inaugural Oxfordshire High Streets Conference. I am saying inaugural as the delegates found the day very useful so we hope there will be another one! As a place management scholar, there is nothing better than sharing place insight and debating its relevance, in a local context. As a researcher, I get to know a lot about problems and I get to know my data intimately. But, my work tends to be read by academics and other people who also focus on the data/problem side of things. This means I don’t always connect with the people who want to put our research findings into practice. To get the opportunity to present our research on footfall signatures at the event was especially rewarding. Having the chance to hear directly from representatives of towns that feel their centre’s profile is changing from one of comparison shopping to one that is more focused on community retail and services, for example, was really useful. I got a chance to take part in the important debate about what this change means ‘on the ground’, in terms of managing the offer, attracting the right type of businesses, changing opening hours and communicating all these changes in the community. Continue reading “Working together for stronger towns”→
Photo-sharing is currently becoming a huge part of social media activity. Several applications, with Instagram the most popular among them, represent people’s emotions. Such data pose new challenges for city data analysts as a lot of pictures are geo-tagged. City representation via images is not a new topic; it seems to us that Antonioni was one of the first with his “Blow-up”, who tried to catch the place by a camera click in his 1966 film Blowup. The digital era just brings new insights – as Ames and Naaman (2007) argued. Instagram covers additional aspects of this representation as sociality and functionality – we geo-tag places to give a special social signal of the places’ livability and share our emotional state-of-the-moment. Continue reading “Using data from geo-tagging to map the Happy City”→
“Squatting” in an urban context is more often than not associated with groups of people occupying a place in order to claim rights and liberties outside the realms of “mainstream” society. There is no doubt that the residents and occupiers of these places are operating outside the law, outside municipal or state regulation, and even outside the aesthetics prescribed by the “mainstream” they wish to avoid. What happens however, when the mainstream-disturbing squat acquires a “brand” of its own and moves beyond the borders of nuisance to become a well-known attraction? Continue reading “How squatted areas become ‘normalised’ city elements: place branding, place marketing, and the law”→