Localism and the G Word

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I just returned from a long weekend in Brooklyn. My visit inspired me to comment on the tensions between creativity and neighborhood change, and what those tensions mean for our investigation of localism.  Gentrification is a word that has been on many New Yorkers’ minds (and Instagram feeds) lately, and after considering my three visits to the borough over the past decade and a half, I can see why: each time it’s looked radically different from the previous visit.  My recent visit made me think of similar transformations in Portland, where 20 years ago the now luxurious and (arguably) hip Pearl District (then called the Northwest Industrial Triangle) was mostly comprised of abandoned and decaying industrial buildings with river views of the Portland Harbor Superfund site.

Williamsburg, a neighborhood in northwestern Brooklyn, is perhaps the epicenter of Brooklyn’s “creative crescent” transformation.  A few decades ago, an apartment in Williamsburg rented for about 30 cents per square foot.  Today, a studio in Williamsburg costs over $2800/month;  assuming 700sq ft, that’s $4 per square foot.  Rents in many Brooklyn neighborhoods – Williamsburg, Greenpoint, DUMBO, and even Bushwick – have now exceeded those of Manhattan, and people are reportedly moving back into Manhattan in search of lower rents.  This trend led one writer to ask: “So, are we done here? Is it all over?”

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The Maker’s Movement

We have addressed the problems of definitions in blog posts past; while we are currently accumulating data that will hopefully help us define aspects of the makers movement, we have been thinking about how makers and making fits into the social and economic landscapes of cities.  Making, as Chris Anderson somewhat famously put it may indeed (albeit arguably) be “democratizing the means of production.”  To be sure, there are some uplifting stories  about increased access to manufacturing equipment and artisan tools, particularly through makerspaces and FabLabs such as ADX Portland  and TechShop.

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The globalization of local, or, the localization of global

In a recent post, we discussed the research challenges of defining our subjects of interest. In seeking the answer, we have experienced a variety of related definitional challenges.  When thinking about the relation of makers to their local economies, we were presented with the challenges of thinking about what “local” means.  How do we bound our notion of local?

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New Directions in Research

Hello (again)! After some time off, the Artisan Economy Initiative has forged a new path in our research on Portland’s artisan economy.  AEI has teamed up with the Portland Made Collective to begin to investigate the relationship between the artisan economy and the larger economic “ecosystem” here in Portland.  We are interested in interrogating the (in)visibility of the artisan economy within the broader understanding of economy.

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