Tan Yigitcanlar, Kostas Metaxiotis, Francisco Carrillo. Building Prosperous Knowledge Cities: Policies, Plans and Metrics. London: Edward Elgar, 2011. 386 S. ISBN 978-0-85793-603-5; ISBN 978-0-85793-604-2.
Reviewed by Megan Campbell
Published on H-Soz-u-Kult (September, 2012)
T. Yigitcanlar u.a. (Hrsg.): Building Prosperous Knowledge Cities
Building Prosperous Knowledge Cities: Policies, Plans and Metrics delivers exactly what the title promises. The edited collection features a wide range of 19 chapters separated into three sections: policies for building knowledge cities, plans for knowledge city development, and metrics to assess and compare said development. This book is a follow-up to a similar one compiled by the same editors in 2010. Kostas Metaxiotis / Francisco X. Carillo / Tan Yigitcanlar (eds.), Knowledge Based Development for Cities and Societies. Integrated Multi-level Approaches, IGI Global/Information Science Reference, Hershey, PA, 2010. The new book espouses a consistent argument with the old: the transformative power of knowledge as an intangible resource is reshaping conventional economic activities like industrial manufacturing into knowledge based activities. Furthermore, both books stress the need to integrate multi-level approaches in policy making and planning of Knowledge Cities by involving research institutes, universities, businesses, the public, and policy makers rather than promoting strictly top-down approaches.
Though an edited collection, the book is fairly consistent between chapters in the aforementioned arguments and is coherently organized by the three sections. It is most suited as a prescriptive “how to” guide to assist policy makers based on case studies (either comparative or single cases) that relate to policies, plans, and implementations, as well as measuring the success of the latter, though, each case is city specific as “different policies should be developed for different knowledge cities” (p. 35). Additionally, it is also engaging for scholars interested in urban development, urban sociology, and socio-economic change. Unfortunately, due to the vast array of 19 chapters, not to mention the forward, preface, and afterword, it is not possible to mention each individual chapter, but rather I focus on the common themes and interesting findings.
Part I identifies various perspectives on policies and policy-making in the knowledge city context. The chapters by Asheim and Lorenzen et al. flow well together, as Asheim attempts to modify the shortcomings of Florida’s conception of the creative class, which was based on a North American economic model that indicates tolerance, technology, and talent as drawing the “creative class.” This argument is universalistic and leaves little room for cultural specificity. Asheim suggests the use of Putnam’s social capital as a “bridge” enabling a creative work environment. Lorenzen et al. then apply the creative class concept to Denmark to further remedy Florida’s research gaps and find that many different types of policies work to attract knowledge workers. A particularly relevant study for today’s economy is the investigation by Searle and O’Connor of the IT sector in Sydney and Melbourne. They find that the location of Australia is generally a disadvantage in IT exports and that the development of this industry depends strongly on the local development and demand. Thus, services are not exported in the same manner as commodities. Importantly, Wesselmann et al. examine the policies put in place by German cities to compete for the title “City of Science,” which helps in the short term to bring visibility to the city with the hope that this positioning generates growth in the long-term. Overall, the use of terminology such as knowledge worker, creative class, knowledge citizen, and social capital seem vague throughout these chapters. Due to these ambiguities, I am not convinced that the presence of a knowledge city can be positively identified but rather agree with the approach of Wesselmann et al. in that the term is a marketing label sought by cities for some perceived benefit.
Part II examines the planning side of knowledge city development. The strongest chapter here is the last; Heidemann et al. study initiatives to transform the old industrial Ruhr in Germany into a knowledge region. This chapter could serve as a strong introduction, as it is one of the few that thoroughly explains the background of the shift from industrial to knowledge based strategies for development and emphasizes that these strategies may not make a difference in short term but rather in long term development. Another thought provoking chapter by Imukuka et al. discusses the challenges of knowledge-based small businesses, though not before problematizing the terms themselves. As there is no single definition (either qualitative or quantitative) of a small business, and knowledge based business is a vague concept, how can one develop beneficial policies and/or compare these businesses and practices internationally? Other themes of this section include connecting city planning and universities (Powell; Fachinelli and Macke), and more general chapters regarding planning such as the argument by Mataxiotis and Ergazakis for the importance of developing comprehensive knowledge based development plans and tools to assist in this endeavor. A consistent argument throughout Part II is the specificity of place: “Cloned economic development strategies fail in the knowledge-based economy- in which, by definition, it is the unique combination of creativity and innovation that powers success” (p. 146).
Part III focuses on assessing planning and policy implementation. The first chapter by Johnson is quite provocative. By identifying the preferences for residential and work locations for the Knowledge Economy in Sydney, he finds, “the preference of KE workers to live close to the central city may be a stronger driver of the geography of the KE than the economic necessity for KE jobs to be thus located” (p. 303). Interestingly, he differentiates between workers who are and who are not engaged in knowledge economy work but are employed by knowledge economy businesses. Is this distinction between knowledge workers and non-knowledge workers just a contemporary way of distinguishing between white-collar and blue-collar workers in the post-industrial economy? The chapter by Carrillo and Flores would have made a better introduction to this section, as it is a review of existing indicators and methodologies. Other chapters include a comparison of knowledge based development in Boston, Vancouver, Manchester, and Melbourne (Yigitcanlar) and the application of statistical modeling based on the MAKCi framework as a quantitative index for benchmarking (Leal and Garcia). Overall this section was shorter and lacked the dynamism of the other sections.
There are several shortcomings of this collection. Firstly, though the main arguments are consistent, there is no clear consensus on the definition of “knowledge city.” Is the presence of “knowledge workers” a sufficient condition for realizing a “knowledge city” or rather does knowledge city based development necessarily entail the collaboration of research institutions and universities in city planning as suggested by Franz? Secondly, it is worth mentioning the absence of case studies that include the so-called South and East. In the preface, Yigitcanlar, Metaxiotis, and Carrillo quote The McKinsey Report: “over the next 15 years, the makeup of the group of top 600 cities will change as the center of gravity of the urban world moves south and, even more decisively, east” (pp. xix-xx). As the authors note, “‘industrialization’ and ‘development’ can no longer be treated as synonymous” (p. 46), thus chapters focusing on knowledge based development in developing or newly developed countries would be worthwhile. Thirdly, there is no real introductory chapter to the book. The preface gives a sufficient outline of all chapters, but perhaps a more thorough introduction of the themes and terminology would both help the reader and cut down on pages as each chapter repeats a similar premise in its introductory section.
Overall, the book is recommended for policy makers and specialists, though one should be aware that the editors are the president and executive directors of the World Capital Institute, the think tank responsible for the Most Admired Knowledge City (MAKCi) annual award along with many books and conferences on the subject. Therefore, scholarship may not be the only agenda. Nevertheless, specialists and non-specialists alike will find some of the chapters intriguing and highly relevant in light of the changing economic character of cities today.
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Megan Campbell. Review of Yigitcanlar, Tan; Metaxiotis, Kostas; Carrillo, Francisco, Building Prosperous Knowledge Cities: Policies, Plans and Metrics.
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