“In this Concrete Jungle
We make our homes in city walls
You know we gotta run so wild
To keep up with this life style” Au/Ra – Concrete Jungle
This post is one of my initial attempts to structure my thoughts and (mostly anecdotal) observations about urbanizations into a research plan.
I have been writing about city branding – or in other words how cities see themselves, portray themselves, and are perceived by others – for the better part of the last decade. During the last two years, I started experimenting with the idea of focusing on the attempts of smaller towns that project an urban identity. After accepting a job in Waleska, GA – a town of less than 900 people – and moving to Woodstock, GA – the lively urban center in Cherokee County as it houses around 25,000 people and 20 restaurants/bars -, I am even more excited about the project.
I have one burning question – why do we want to live in this concrete jungle? Why are we so obsessed with cities? More importantly, why do smaller (or exurban or suburban) places act like urban centers?
My operating assumption is “sales”. We are sold on the idea of “cities”. We are excited, and to an extend proud, that more than half the world population lives in cities right now. The number is projected to keep rising.
World Health Organization reports that “even” in less developed countries, the majority of the people lives in urban centers. The word “even” shows that urbanization is good – it is an indicator for development at a macro scale. Once we accept urbanization as such a linear indicator, mid-size cities are seen as ready-to-hatch eggs as these places have evolved to the penultimate stage and are on their way to become larger cities.
(I should add this linear comparison exists at a micro level, too. Compare what comes to your mind when you hear “townsfolk” and “urban dweller”. Surprisingly, at least for me, residents in small/mid-size cities – despite their home-town pride -, share the same ideas).
If everybody wants to move to the big cities, how can small/mid-size cities convince people to choose them instead and fulfill their desire to grow larger? Given the fact that these small/mid-size cities start from a ‘worse’ point (i.e. they are not as well-known) and have considerably less resources (e.g. labor force, budget, infrastructure), how can they attract more residents, businesses, or tourists?
I look forward to a productive research project that will, hopefully, answer at least some of these research questions!