To rethink of the city as knowledge capital, based on the commons and creative industries, is no longer a experimental line of thought, but rather an urgent matter accelerated by the European crisis.
One of the most interesting things about living in Bilbao is being able to see, up close, the configuration of one of the branches of the new European map of cities: From Bordeaux to Toulouse, on the one hand, and Bilbao, on the other, and from these to Zaragoza in the East and Coruña to the West. In this framework, the other day, Andoni Aldekoa, the highest director of City Hall told us about Bilbao:
We are at the moment when we can become a metropolis, or a provincial capital. And there’s nothing in between.
And I think I know exactly he meant.
While capitals are defined by series: Territory (nation), law , taxes (the capital is, first and foremost, the physical place of legislative and taxation power) and homogeneity (of the imaginary nation); the metropolises are defined by: Network(international), trust (network and trust are paramount among the values of maritime Renaissance trade, which operated without States or international legal rules), exchange (commerce, again) and difference (individual).
Like a vine, and not like a tree, 2003
What configures a metropolis?
The world tends to organize itself more and more like a free software community, and there is a profound economic reason for this: as scientific and creative components have more value with each passing day in global production, the organization of that production tends towards the work styles of academics and artists, the Academy and Republic of letters.
Like a vine, and not like a tree, 2003
But what makes a city more attractive than another when it comes time to serve as a base for industries that are creative and high-value, but also small-scale? Basically, what the consultants rather bombastically call “talent.” And if there’s one thing that isn’t talent, it’s accumulating graduates, and the same goes for managing “human resources.” Rather, it has a lot of life stories, capacity, and autonomy for people to think of interesting lives…
And how is this built and showcased?
The challenge of policies based on creative industries has many dimensions. To begin with, rethinking public infrastructure. As our friend Raul Oliván, director of “la Azucarera” of Zaragoza said the other day:
We must rethink public installations, transcend the logic of buildings as mere markets of cultural consumption, to transform them into centers of prosumption, where the citizen becomes producer and consumer at the same time. Networks have given us the keys: Exchange between peers (P2P, crowd), transparency, deliberative democracy and open culture (open source, open goverment) and bottom-up planning.
And if this sounds radical, in that it showcases knowledge capital, it still needs to go farther. To wonder things like what support the city makes to the commons, what place it occupies in its productive cycle. And let’s not even talk about municipal employment agencies: if online services change, adding functionalities and developing new architectures to incorporate the stories the people create about their lives, and to be able manage talent, can cities continue thinking of their employment agencies the way they’ve thought about INEM of all of its life?
The list of tasks doesn’t end there: there’s a lot to investigate and experiment, from rethinking self-employment with the globalist logic of the Direct Economy to promoting the city as a portfolio of talent. The possible perspective is full of beautiful challenges and incredible possibilities. The alternative is simply distressing: vegetate our way through the crisis, letting the current leave entire economic regions to chance. It’s time for a radical change of perspective.