I was approached a few weeks back by a team of Norwegian and Austrian architects and designers who were putting together an entry for the “Shrinking Cities” competition. The competition, formally titled “Reinventing Urbanism”, is looking for “strategies and new modes of action for shrinking cities”. It’s sponsored by a bunch of German cultural institutions and is leading towards an exhibition in Leipzig next year.

The team that approached me was interested in the difference between Detroit’s physical and economic footprint, and its media and cultural footprint. In other words, while Detroit may have declined from ranks of largest US cities, it has a global cultural import beyond its size as the cool kids in Europe and Japan search the record bins for old Motown singles and Detroit techno. My european friends were interested in using some of my GAP tools to see how Detroit ranked in media attention in comparison to similarly sized cities, so we did a quick lightweight collaboration and turned out some interesting results.

[The thumbnail sketch of results: there’s lots more variance in media attention to cities than there is to nations. With national media attention, we see a reasonably strong correlation between population and attention and very strong correlation between economic indicators and attention. We only have pop. data for cities… and there’s basically no correlation to population. American cities get more attention than the capitals of the world, which get more attention than secondary cities around the world… and every city gets more attention than the dozens of large industrial Chinese cities that never get mentioned in the US media. I’ll publish this one of these days.]

Anyway, my pan-European friends incorporated our joint research into their proposal… and are one of the 12 winners of the first round of the competition. The cover page of their beautiful and fascinating proposal is here – I’ll link to the whole proposal once it’s available.

Like most cyberutopians, I’ve sung the praises of global cooperation and collaboration more than once. But it’s pretty rare that I actually find myself in such collaborations. Publishing research to my blog seems to increase the chance of this sort of serendipity… so expect to see lots more of it in the future.

Congrats, de-TRO-it – looking forward to seeing the show in Leipzig next year.

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