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A tale of two towns : conflations of global and local in the new media spaces of Belltown and Yaletown Pope, Naomi Elizabeth

Abstract

Focusing on the new media districts of Belltown in Seattle, WA and Yaletown in Vancouver, BC, this 'tale of two towns' investigates the presence and patterns of the creative hightech sector in the inner city. The research question asks how employee demographics, intra and inter-firm milieu, socio-cultural aspects of firm location, and economic and socio-cultural global/local linkages in conjunction with planning and public policy implications inform the importance of place and identity in these new media spaces. These two inner city areas have been transformed from old industrial areas on the fringe of the Central Business District to centres of art, creative design, idea innovation and most recently, specialized high-tech services. Through survey work these areas emerge as distinct digital districts, dependent on the local specificities of 'place' and milieu. These areas are changing rapidly, and in different ways. Belltown has experienced partial displacement of the arts community, and Yaletown has witnessed a cultural 're-colonization' of industrial lands. The methodology is based on both quantitative and qualitative information, gathered through primary survey work, a series of interviews, as well as spatial mapping techniques. Lists of all the media firms in each area were compiled, and a random selection of 25 firms were interviewed on topics covering the (1) locational aspects of the firms, (2) firm size, (3) employee demographics, (4) the socio-cultural aspects of their location, (5) attributes of their location, (6) their global and local connectivity, and (7) the goods and service input/outputs for each firm. Planning implications for these areas include increasing levels of social polarization, a need to foster spaces of creativity in the city, increasing generational components, and a growing role for local alliances in light of increasing global pressures. Accelerated rates of change in these two areas are marked by convergence exemplified by: the new technologies used by these firms, the global/ local economic and socio-cultural linkages, and the arrival of new cohorts with a distinct corporate culture that challenges and reinforces the evolving specificities of 'place' in these areas.

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