Glossary or Calibration Document

The Glossary or the Calibration Document is a part of the Teaching Case.

The goal of this Glossary is to provide a sketch of key concepts and ideas that have been the basis of the current project IMAGE, including the sources from which they are drawn. The different concepts are arranged in alphabetical order. All these concepts are not independent and isolated from each other, rather are linked and interrelated. Example:


Capturing Imaginaries

Developed as a way to contribute to operationalize insights into cities’ images and reputations, Capturing Imaginaries aims to give insight into more realistic and first-hand ways of apprehending current images, beyond the city marketing communication trends emphasizing what is understood as the ‘positive’. Indeed, instead of harping on the discourse of managing and increasing the positive image of our cities we propose a methodology that can also capture the controversial and the problematic by taking into account the multi-referential and contrasting nature of images.[1] We think this approach will help to better disclose the interesting and substantiated that is already there but remains somehow invisible.[2]

According to the capturing imaginaries logic, images can be seen as the pictures in our heads,[3] the way we conceive and reflect on places, expressed in meaning-giving communication exchanges and according not only to places’ physical layout but also to who is there, when and why. In this sense, Images form constellations of what we can call Imaginaries. They express themselves in all kind of narratives as shared ideas in our minds and also in our physical environments and in our cultural production from business cases to urban planning to school books, literature, arts and the most ephemeral daily life communication.[4]


In contrast to the idea of country and nation, the city is compared to a dynamic body of ‘assemblages or collections of parts, capable of crossing the thresholds between substances to form linkages, machines, provisional and often temporary sub- or micro-groupings’,[5] a place in which newcomers can start a new life, in which various vanguards can arise, stimulated by diversity, miscegenation and the melting-pot effect. Such cities are associated with liveliness and vitality that at its best offers the ideal environment for a contemporary society to reinvent itself, as well as find ways to reconcile the antagonistic character of concepts such as cosmopolitanism and nationalism.[6]

Cities’ Creative Class

Creativity has been one of most celebrated words when positioning ‘referential cities’ of the western world during the last decades.  Especially the work of Richard Florida and his book on the Creative Class  has had an impressive influence since its release in 2002. According to Florida, cities in the postmodern era would not become prosperous anymore only because of imposing sport halls or official happenings, but because of providing a fabric for spontaneous creation and innovation, carried by actors such as designers, techies and rock bands. Ambiance was seen as crucial: It included a tolerant gay scene, cafes with original and authentic foods and beverages, a good infrastructure for public transport, bicycle lanes, work spaces and incubators, preferably in old factories that had been abandoned after the industrial crisis in the 1970s and onwards.[7][8]

Many cities have been sensitive to Florida’s argumentations and designed a wide array of specific applications to develop city spaces that could meet the wants and needs of creative residents and visitors. Amsterdam too has some specific examples of his influence as a result of his visit to the city in 2003.[9]  Florida’s ideas were surely not new , but the fact is that he managed to capture feelings and wishes of many, including influential mayors and urban policy makers. All of them were seduced by the appeal of creativity as a new economic fuel for post-industrial/late capitalist cities that would bring interesting jobs and ditto lives to all.[10]

The story, however, started to be questioned some years after by a number of authors. They observed that the high-tech sector was indeed achieving great profits. Meanwhile, most writers, painters and musicians had not been able to make enough money to earn a living. Also the workforce in the service economy were clearly not benefiting from the prosperity of creative cities.  In 2017, Richard Florida published his book New Urban Crisis , questioning his previous work and coming to a similar conclusion.[11]

City Marketing

As a denomination City Marketing was with all probability coined at first by the influential marketing professor and author Philip Kotler. Kotler intuited that cities, or at least certain parts of cities, could be promoted for investment by marketing them as a product. Hence, a marketing mix could be seen as a tool to help cities in developing spaces for renewed economies in the postindustrial years after the 1980s. Business parks and business districts emerging as products to attract investors and companies were good examples of the kind of city marketing as elaborated by Kotler.

However, and although the term city marketing had not been used before, the promotion of places to attract settlement and investment was not new.  Looking into history authors such as Ashworth and Kavaratzis pointed at the promotional activities in the United States of America to attract new population as place marketing practices avant la lettre.[12] Similar practices had been also already applied in the tourism industry while providing packages to customers for the consumption of places during a limited period of time. [13]

Creativity: Polyphonic and Polycentric

A review of literature on creativity has enabled us to reconsider interesting proposals on urban creativity and innovation by different authors. Scott, for instance, elaborated on the concept of ‘polyphony’ as being the dynamic that enables different places to come to similar ideas without per se being a copy of each other: this means that Bollywood in India is not a copy of Hollywood in the United States but rather a piece of evidence that societies express in comparable ways and create similar cultural products.[14]  Also of importance, as an eye-opener, was the claim of creative agent Frank Bures, contesting Richard Florida’s works and stating that instead of always pursuing to be in a place that is already successful it would be better to work on developing one’s own place and life as prosperously as possible. His own life biography as a member of the creative class taught him about the importance of being alert against excessive place mythification.[15]

The matter, however, is not easy to solve. Positive place reputations have proven to be magnets. The reason for moving or staying in a place are, in short, related to the prospects that the place offers to people, which is to say, the way in which a certain narrative of a place meets the expectations of one’s own projected narrative; one’s own life story. [16] But on the other hand there is also evidence that people can make a life and feel attached to their places despite the reputation those places have. In the long run, there is also enough evidence that places reputations can be reframed and that putting the interest of places on the map by telling substantiated and appealing stories can help to make them more prosperous.


[1] Beller and Leerssen.

[2] Research Group Cities & Visitors, ‘A Vivid Portrait of Versatile Amsterdam Zuidoost’, Urban Management. AUAS, 2017; Núria Arbonés Aran, ‘Capturing the Imaginary: Students and Other Tribes in Amsterdam’ (ARTES (FGw) Publisher, 2015).

[3] Beller and Leerssen.

[4] Núria Arbonés Aran, Zita Ingen-Housz, and Willem Van Winden, ‘Zuidoost Op de Kaart’, in Laboratorium Amsterdam, ed. by Stan Major and others (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij THOTH, 2017).

[5] Elisabeth A. Grosz, Space, Time and Perversion (New York: Routledge, 1995), pp. 107–8.

[6] Beck and Sznaider argue that modernity should not necessarily be a seen as a twilight, as cosmopolitan research offers us the chance to overcome dualisms in: ‘Unpacking Cosmopolitanism for the Social Sciences: A Research Agenda’, The British Journal of Sociology, 57.1 (2006), 1–23 (p. 1) <>.

[7] Richard Florida, ‘The Rise of the Creative Class’, Washington Monthly, 2002; Richard Florida, ‘The World Is Spiky. Globalization Has Changed the Economic Playing Field, but Hasn’t Leveled It’, Atlantic Monthly, 2005, pp. 48–51.

[8] Florida, ‘The World Is Spiky. Globalization Has Changed the Economic Playing Field, but Hasn’t Leveled It’.

[9] Sabine Lebesque and others, Along Amsterdam’s Waterfront. Exploring the Architecture of Amsterdam’s Southern Ij Bank (Amsterdam: Valiz, 2006).

[10] Amsterdam Economic Board, Kennis & Innovatieagenda (Amsterdam, 2011).

[11] Richard Florida and Alastair Boone, ‘Boutique Fitness Studios Are Remaking Urban Neighborhoods’, The Atlantic, 2018, 1–6. Richard Florida, The New Urban Crisis (London: One World, 2017).

[12] Mihalis Kavaratzis and Gregory Ashworth, ‘Place Marketing: How Did We Get Here and Where Are We Going?’, Journal of Place Management and Development, 1.2 (2008), 150–65 <>.

[13] Gregory Ashworth and Stephen J. Page, ‘Urban Tourism Research: Recent Progress and Current Paradoxes’, Tourism Management, 32.1 (2011), 1–15 <>.

[14] Scott.

[15] Frank Bures, ‘Still Falling: On Chickens and Eggs, Cause and Effect and the Real Problem with the Creative Class’, Bely Magazine, 2012; Frank Bures, ‘The Fall of the Creative Class’, Thirty Two Magazine, 2012, 1–11 <>.

[16] Simon Anholt, Places, Identity, Image and Reputation (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010); Arbonés Aran.