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Prof. C. Samuel Craig Predicts a Grim Future for Second Cities in the Cultural Hierarchy

By C. Samuel Craig

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To survive, smaller and medium-sized cities will need to carve out a particular cultural niche that cannot be easily duplicated.

In a recent article, NYU Stern Professor C. Samuel Craig explores how culture and cultural products – film, television, music, dance, opera, fashion and art – are created and consumed. Referencing more than 40 papers on the topic, he examines the role of cities, context and technology in fostering the creation of culture. He argues that rapidly changing technology is reshaping the role of cities in the creation of cultural products, reinforcing the prominence of large cities while simultaneously diminishing the cultural vitality of secondary cities.

Despite his gloomy forecasts, Craig offers some hope for small metropolitan hubs: "To survive, smaller and medium-sized cities will need to carve out a particular cultural niche that cannot be easily duplicated. Good examples are South by Southwest in Austin, Texas; the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina; and the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah."

Key insights from the paper include:
  • Cities help foster development of a wide range of cultural products (i.e., film, television, music, opera, dance, fashion or art).
  • By aggregating inputs (people, ideas and resources) in one geographic location, cities provide a fertile ground for cultural expression.
  • Technology is facilitating the consumption of cultural products over increasingly dispersed geographies. Websites that specialize in particular forms of cultural expression, such as DeviantArt.com and Artspan.com, are accelerating this trend.
  • The Metropolitan Opera simulcast of its performances worldwide can at the same time increase demand for live performances and cause opera lovers to forsake local productions.
  • These trends reinforce the dominance of major cities while diminishing secondary cities.
The article, "Creating Cultural Products: Cities, Context and Technology," is forthcoming in the journal City, Culture and Society.