World cities act as global cultural incubators. They are characterized to a significant degree by the particular mix they achieve between local cultural activity and the intersections of that activity with national and international cultural flows and networks. These flows may be manifested in people (cultural workers such as artists, musicians, designers, etc.), products (symbolic goods such as paintings, shows, films etc.), technology (computer games and other digital artefacts), or education (resulting in the production and exchange of cultural knowledge). Culture characterises and enriches the everyday experience of those who live in world cities, providing stimulation and entertainment, as well as functioning as an important marker of individual, group and civic identities. Additionally, the cultural and creative industries are increasingly recognised as important drivers of economic growth and urban regeneration, and cultural policy is vigorously debated by both metropolitan and state politicians.
The Global Cultures group in WC2 recognises the enormous diversity of cultural activity that is found in the WC2 cities, and supports a range of projects that examines this activity from different perspectives. At present we are focused on two particular projects:
The Global University and the Production of Knowledge and Culture. This project seeks to understand better how universities themselves contribute to the production and consumption of culture in world cities. In this we recognise that literature on the global university is often largely descriptive and seldom informed by the specific social and cultural contexts in which a particular university operates, whereas literature on the world city has neglected universities as dynamic institutions that produce and transfer cultural knowledge and value, and have significant roles as cultural mediators. We intend to organise a conference on this subject in 2014.
World Cities and Creative Workers. This project asks how global cities mediate the relationship between cultural flows and forms. We recognise that world cities are particularly important cultural nodes in networks of migration, and that cultural workers, like others, are drawn to them because of the creative and economic opportunities these major urban centres offer. Global city debates too frequently provide grand narratives about the place of the cultural worker in the city. This project will offer more detailed studies, often ethnographically driven, of creative and cultural workers in a variety of WC2 global cities. We are presently assembling case studies with a view to publishing a collected edition in the near future.