Improving high street performance by communication

As part of a town or city’s marketing communications, communication strategies need to highlight retail change and need to encourage customers to change their shopping habits in a way that will sustain such change (Kirkup & Rafiq, 1999; Warnaby, Bennison, & Davies, 2005).

A good example of this is communicating changes in opening hours. For example, late night opening initiatives can fail if shoppers are unaware of the extended opening times.

Whilst place promotion and communication strategies to shoppers are, on the whole, improving; communication between traders on the High Street is very poor. A study we undertook in 2005 showed that only 40% of
SME traders were in any sort of network to receive information about their sector or location.

There is more commentary about communication contained in our blogs on collaboration, engagement and networks.

References

Kirkup, M. H., & Rafiq, M. (1999). Marketing shopping centres: challenges in the UK context. Journal of Marketing Practice: Applied Marketing Science, 5(5), 119–133.

doi:10.1108/EUM0000000004570

Warnaby, G., Bennison, D., & Davies, B. J. (2005). Marketing communications in planned shopping centres: evidence from the UK. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 33(12), 893–904.

doi:10.1108/09590550510634620

Top 10 downloads Journal of Place Management and Development

1. My city – my brand: the different roles of residents in place branding by Erik Braun, Mihalis Kavaratzis, Sebastian Zenker.
2. My place is not your place – different place brand knowledge by different target groupsby Sebastian Zenker, Suzanne C. Beckmann.
3. Places going viral: Twitter usage patterns in destination marketing and place brandingby Efe Sevin.
4. Slum tourism, city branding and social urbanism: the case of Medellin, Colombiaby Jaime Hernandez-Garcia.
5. International positioning through online city branding: the case of Chengdu by Emma Björner.
6. A study on the delivery of city branding advertisements in China: City branding advertisement on CCTV, 2007-2010 by Wen Chunying.
7. The business of place: critical, practical and pragmatic perspectives by Ares Kalandides.
8. Developing a collective capacity for place management by Tore Omholt.
9. University students’ needs and satisfaction with their host city by Andrea Insch and Benjamin Sun.
10. “Are you happy here?”: the relationship between quality of life and place attachment by António Joaquim Araújo de Azevedo, Maria João Ferreira Custódio and Fernando Pereira Antunes Perna

Abstracts

1. My city – my brand: the different roles of residents in place branding

Erik Braun, Mihalis Kavaratzis, Sebastian Zenker

Residents are largely neglected by place branding practices and their priorities are often misunderstood, even though they are not passive beneficiaries but are active partners and co-producers of public goods, services and policies. This paper highlights that only meaningful participation and consultation can produce a more effective and sustainable place brand strengthening brand communication and avoiding the pitfall of developing “artificial” place brands.

“The paper is based on theoretical insights drawn from the combination of the distinct literatures on place branding, general marketing, tourism, human geography, and collaborative governance. To support its arguments, the paper discusses the participation of citizens in governance processes as highlighted in the urban governance literature as well as the debate among marketing scholars over participatory marketing and branding.

The paper identifies three different roles played by residents: as an integral part of the place brand through their characteristics and behavior; as ambassadors for their place brand who grant credibility to any communicated message; and as citizens and voters who are vital for the political legitimization of place branding. These three roles make the residents a very significant target group of place branding.”

2. My place is not your place – different place brand knowledge by different target groups

Sebastian Zenker and Suzanne C. Beckmann

Place branding is increasingly popular in urban management. This paper highlights the challenge of diverse target audiences in this process and discusses implication for an advanced place brand management.

“Cities increasingly compete with each other for attracting tourists, investors, companies, or residents. Marketers therefore focus on establishing the city as a brand, disregarding that the perception and knowledge of a city differ dramatically between the target audiences. Hence, place branding should emphasize much more the perceptions of the different target groups and develop strategies for advanced place brand management. The aim of this paper is to assess the important discrepancies between the city brand perceptions of different target groups with the help of network analysis.

In two empirical studies, the important discrepancies between the city brand perceptions of different target groups are assessed with the help of network analysis. Study 1 consists of 40 qualitative in-depth-interviews and study 2 uses an online qualitative open-ended-question survey with 334 participants.

Structural differences for the city brand perceptions of two different target groups and the differences between perceptions of an external and internal target group are highlighted. The results and the managerial implications for place marketers are discussed.

The study investigates the brand associations for the city of Hamburg brand with two target groups and this limits the generalizability of the results. However, the focus was on measuring for the first time the difference in the place brand perception of different target group and the results helps to understand how an advanced place brand management could deal with this challenge.”

3. Places going viral: Twitter usage patterns in destination marketing and place branding

Efe Sevin.

The findings of this research have practical and theoretical implications. On the practical side, this research sheds light on how Twitter is utilized, and creates recommendations on how destination marketing projects can widen the broadcasting of messages and reach target audiences. On the theoretical side, this research tests the explanatory powers of Kavaratzis’ influential city branding framework.

“This is a comparative study of five Twitter accounts belonging to five destination marketing offices (@enjoyillinois, @onlyinsf, @visitidaho, @texastourism, and @visitmilwaukee). This research looks at two different types of communication activities on Twitter: one-way communication (i.e. broadcasting messages), and two-way communication (i.e. conversing with other users). A total of 5,582 tweets created between October 10, 2011 and October 10, 2012 were analyzed in terms of main topics and subjects covered, and main communication activities engaged.

The research found that destination marketing projects tend to use Twitter pre-dominantly to share about events – such as festivals, concerts, and fairs – taking place in their jurisdiction with their followers. These projects do not necessarily make use of interpersonal communication and networking capabilities of Twitter. Rather, this social media platform is used to distribute information online.”

4. Slum tourism, city branding and social urbanism: the case of Medellin, Colombia

Jaime Hernandez-Garcia

The purpose of this paper is to explore the contribution of informal settlements to a tourism strategy and to city branding. It takes the case of Medellin, Colombia, which in recent years has developed several projects in their barrios using a policy called: “social urbanism”.

“The paper is based on a case study, that of “social urbanism” in Medellin, and the relationship with what is called slum tourism and city branding. After a brief theoretical exploration about informal settlements in Latin America, slum tourism and city branding; the paper presents the urban and social transformation of Medellin’s dangerous and stigmatized barrios with the “social urbanism” policy. Then the relationship between social urbanism, informal settlements and city branding is discussed.

Medellin, perhaps without noticing or anticipating, has found a role for informal settlements in branding the city, and promoting tourism to those areas. With “social urbanism”, it is also helping to build an image of the city more authentic and distinguishable from other cities in Colombia and Latin America.”

5. International positioning through online city branding: the case of Chengdu

Emma Björner

The aim of the study is to add to the existing research on online city branding by studying how metropolitan cities are internationally positioned using the internet and online branding. The focus is on objectives and strategies, method and expression (including five illustrations), and challenges in online city branding.

“The article relies on a single-case study approach, using the Chinese city of Chengdu as a case and illustration. Methods used are interviews, observations and documentation (including online material). The study illustrates how Chengdu uses online city branding in its international positioning. Chengdu’s online branding is influenced by certain imagery, as well as challenges. Collaboration and endorsement crystalize as central elements in Chengdu’s online city branding.
The study offers insights to practitioners on how online city branding is carried out in a Chinese context and in the city of Chengdu.”

6. A study on the delivery of city branding advertisements in China: City branding advertisement on CCTV, 2007-2010

Wen Chunying

The purpose of this paper is to monitor the changes of delivery of city branding advertisements in China and to try to find a tendency of city branding ads in the delivery for the future.

“The quantitative research methods used in this paper study the advertisements with city image messages in 13 China Central Television (CCTV) channels that appeared between the year of 2007 to 2010 – a total of 320,653 advertisements. This paper is based on several data sets: advertisement producers, regional distribution of producers, advertisement time slots, types of advertisings, and other such categories. In addition, they have also studied city branding advertisings from international producers in terms of channel selections, program choices, and media outlet choices and so forth.

Through an analysis of quantity and total duration of city image advertisements, it can be concluded that first-tier cities have been reducing the broadcasting of city image ads domestically yearly, and third-tier cities are proving to be a significant power in producing city branding advertisements. Significantly, the eastern littoral region has surpassed the central and west region both in the duration and in growth rate of city branding advertisements. Moreover, between 2007 and 2010, a total of nine foreign cities have produced city branding advertisements on CCTV channels. Unlike cities in China, international cities have scattered their ads widely across different periods of one day.

Finally, based on analysis of advantages and disadvantages in city image advertisements strategies applied by those advanced cities at home and abroad, this author hopes this study can offer some scientifically based reference point for other cities.”

7. The business of place: critical, practical and pragmatic perspectives

Ares Kalandides.

This editorial is available online. Please click link above.

8. Developing a collective capacity for place management

Tore Omholt

The purpose of the paper is to develop and demonstrate an integrated framework for planning and supporting place management development and practices. This paper shows how the complexities facing place development can be conceptualized and dealt with in an effective and practical manner.

“First, the paper uses social systems theory as a meta-theoretical framework to integrate various theoretical perspectives on place interventions to deal with problems of uncertainty related to place development. Second, it shows how a combination of place interventions can be organized to deal with the uncertainties and contribute to a collective capacity for action. Finally, it concludes with presenting an integrated framework for planning and supporting place development, and applies this in two cases of place development to illustrate how it works.

In summary, effective place development requires a combination of information processing interventions to deal with the uncertainties facing place stakeholders. The success of the proposed framework has been repeated in several case replications and indicates a potential for supporting practitioners but the literature on social systems theory is on a high level of abstraction and further case applications are needed to assist practitioners.”

9. University students’ needs and satisfaction with their host city

Andrea Insch and Benjamin Sun.

Tertiary student perceptions and satisfaction with their host cities have been largely ignored. This study addresses this gap by identifying which attributes of cities are important to students, gauging students’ perception of their host city according to these attributes, and identifying the city attributes driving their satisfaction with their host city.

“The purpose of this study was threefold: to identify which attributes of the host university city are important to students; to assess students’ satisfaction with the key attributes of their host university city; and to determine the drivers of students’ overall satisfaction with their host university city.

A two stage, mixed methods research design was selected for this study. Focus groups comprised the first stage and a survey of 159 full time university students attending the university of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, comprised the second stage.

The survey findings indicate that students at the university of Otago perceive accommodation, socialising and sense of community, safety and cultural scene as the most important attributes of their host university city. Alternatively, the results of the regression analysis which assessed the relative strength of city attributes in explaining their overall satisfaction with Dunedin, demonstrated that shopping and dining, appeal and vibrancy, socialising and sense of community and public transport were the key drivers of their overall satisfaction with the city.

Students’ overall satisfaction with the city is relatively positive and they are most satisfied with socialising and sense of community, community assets, and the city’s natural environment. Overall, students’ expectations of the city’s attributes were reached and exceeded. However, their satisfaction with accommodation, the attribute that they ranked as the most important, was unmet. This shortfall in expectations has the potential to negatively impact the university’s image and encourage students to transfer somewhere else for further study if their most important need is not addressed.

As an important city stakeholder for university cities, students’ perceptions and satisfaction with their host city need to be given priority. University administrators in collaboration with city place managers should put effort into maintaining the city attributes which are important to students and which drive their satisfaction with the city experience, since they represent a large proportion of residents in university host cities. The consequences of their inattention to students’ needs could be harmful in the long-term.”

10. “Are you happy here?”: the relationship between quality of life and place attachment

António Joaquim Araújo de Azevedo, Maria João Ferreira Custódio and Fernando Pereira Antunes Perna

This study aims to develop a new insight (focused on residents) into the measurement of place attachment, self-esteem, self-efficacy and perceived happiness, in order to provide public policy makers with performance indicators for place marketing strategies.

“A survey applied to 641 residents of Portimão, the second most populated city in Algarve, in the south of Portugal, was conducted to assess the quality of life attributes and place attachment measures.

Findings revealed that the city’s quality of life attributes (comprising six dimensions) influence place attachment – which is significantly correlated with self-efficacy, perceived happiness and active citizenship behaviours.

As an input for the city policy makers, this research can contribute to a better knowledge and management of the factors that influence the residents’ well-being. For residents, it provided an opportunity for participation which may influence the public planning of the city.”

High street decline – what does the management and marketing literature suggest?

Whilst the drivers of change affecting high streets are complex and cross discipline boundaries, the management and marketing literature may offer some solutions. To simplify the literature, we have reviewed potential high street interventions under the broad categories of ‘repositioning’, ‘reinventing’, ‘rebranding’ and ‘restructuring’.

Repositioning is a strategy that can be used to counteract decline (Smith, 2004). Rapid economic, political, and social changes, are most likely to lead places to repositioning strategies that will allow them to identify potential competitive advantages (Kavaratzis and Ashworth, 2008). The focus of any interventions here should be on understanding the forces of change and the value of unique responses that reposition individual high streets, through building on distinct capabilities (such as local identity, Edensor, 1998) but are accommodative of future trends (such as an ageing population or the growth of m-commerce) and are therefore more resilient (Wrigley, and Dolega, 2011).

Reinventing should focus on elements of the place product within a framework of place marketing which suggests that any new developments should be guided by the marketing principle of meeting the needs/wants of identified target audiences (Ashworth and Voogd, 1990). The “reinventing” process of urban places can be built on activities that aim to revitalise a place’s identity and image; identity and image can be seen as both static (for communicative purposes in a fixed time) and dynamic, which recognises the uniqueness of each place and the difference in each stakeholder’s view about a place (Kalandides, 2011; Warnaby, 2011; Kavaratzis and Hatch, 2013). It is the latter view that can be used as a driver for reinventing places such as high streets and city centres; a framework built on these premises can unarguably assist the development of rejuvenated, competitive retailing spaces, which will merge innovation and local place identity, and will be meaningful for all stakeholders (Coca-Stefaniak, Parker, Quin, Rinaldi and Byrom, 2009). Retailing is an important element of the urban place product, and “reinventing” this sector along with improvements on complimentary elements of place can contribute to a better understanding of the formation of the “holistic” place product (Warnaby, Bennison and Davies, 2005).

Rebranding should focus on the communication of image and identity as previous studies demonstrate that place consumers may find that the place experience meets or exceeds expectations whilst the image of the place is ‘problematic’ (Selby, 2004). Rebranding a place is mainly concerned with the application of branding, marketing communications, and public relations techniques in order to deliver a consistent place identity, which can form a sum of beliefs, ideas, and impressions in the minds of potential consumers of a place (Kotler & Gertner, 2002). It can be thought of as the ‘organising principle’ for integrating measures (e.g. events, media relations, residents’ participation). Place branding can evoke favourable place images that transfer emotional and self-expression values, as well as utilitarian attributes to individuals (Caldwell & Freire, 2004). These images are part of a place’s secondary communication efforts (Kavaratzis, 2004), which consists of various slogans, advertisements, and PR campaigns which aim to assist a place’s actions towards development. Successful place brand management can lead to positive word-of-mouth, and also assist in the transformation of negative images (Hanna & Rowley, 2011; Skinner, 2011). The need to identify how potential stakeholders can co-create the place brand is the focus of recent developments in place branding (Warnaby, 2009; Hatch and Schultz, 2010). High streets, and particularly the retail sector, with the multitude of stakeholders involved in it (users, brokers, fixers) (Pal and Sanders, 1997), can highlight the desires, needs, and views of those stakeholders, which can lead to a better understanding of how place brands are created and evolve (Kavaratzis, 2009; Hanna & Rowley, 2011; Kavaratzis & Hatch, 2013).

Finally, restructuring, should focus on forms of management and governance, including formal and informal (Coca-Stefaniak et al, 2009; Peel, 2003); regulatory, functional, and contractual (Lloyd and Peel, 2008; Peel et al, 2009) and modes of communication / knowledge exchange (Peel and Lloyd, 2008a, b). Consequently, the major point of interest is how high streets can be restructured in order to facilitate all the changes mentioned above. Place management and retail management are recognised as interdependent areas, and practices that entail both commercial and locational benefits is the best way forward (Bennison, Warnaby and Pal, 2010). Restructuring and cooperation of all place stakeholders and creation of strategic networks and transparent public-private relationships can nurture conditions for the sustainable development of a place (van den Berg and Braun, 1999; Rainisto, 2003). Physical restructuring is also another area which is encapsulated in place management and place marketing strategies; the proper use of current infrastructure (temporal) and the development of new retail spaces are major antecedents of place attractiveness and place development (Pike, 2010; Teller and Elms, 2010). In the case of retailing, the best spaces created from restructuring can enliven the high street and also shape a better image for the place which can enhance retail operations (Pal and Byrom, 2003).

This review has been written by Cathy Parker, Nikolaos-Foivos Ntounis and Mihalis Kavartzis for an Economic and Social Research Council Knowledge Exchnage Project : High Street UK 2020. The full list of references is available upon request. Please contact c.parker@mmu.ac.uk

Personification of Place – RIP Drvar

drvar-4I was interested to hear about a funeral service for a town in western Bosnia-Hercegovina called Drvar. After the closure of the last employer in the town and with unemployment running at 80% the local people have held candle-light vigils and wrote obituaries for their town. According to the BBC, Drvar’s mayor, Stevica Lukac, “appeared at the mock funeral at the local Serbian Orthodox church but urged the crowd not to lose hope”. Many branding experts study the personification of brands – in other words how customers ascribe human personality characteristics to brands. This collective ‘mourning’ certainly demonstrates a strong sense of feeling and attachment to Drvar – and also how people see the negative consequences of job losses at a town level (rather than just what it means to them or their family). This collective involvement in such a symbolic act as a funeral for a town is, to my knowledge, the first of its kind. Maybe debating whether or not towns are brands is missing the point somewhat when they can achieve anthropomorphic status.

Special Issue of Journal of Place Management and Development

Volume 6 Issue 1 is now available on early cite. This is the Special Issue: The Business of Place: Critical, Practical and Pragmatic Perspective that contains selected papers from the 3rd International Place Branding and 2nd Institute of Place Management Conference which is taking place 13th and 14th Feb. Congratulations to all our authors.

My Place is not Your Place – Different Place Brand Knowledge by Different Target Groups by Sebastian Zenker and Suzanne C. Beckmann

My City – My Brand: The Different Roles of Residents in Place Branding by Erik Braun, Mihalis Kavaratzis, and Sebastian Zenker

A Study on the Delivery of City Branding Advertisements in China: City Branding Advertisement on CCTV, 2007-2010 by Chunying Wen

Developing a Collective Capacity for Place Management by Tore Omholt

Slum Tourism, City Branding, and Social Urbanism: The Case of Medellin, Colombia by Jaime Hernandez-Garcia

The Tools for City Centre Revitalization in Portugal by Pedro Porfírio Coutinho Guimarães

Volume 5 Issue 3 of the Journal of Place Management and Development now out

The most recent issue of the JPMD is now out.  This means we have 5 years of Volumes now, so thank you very much to all our authors, reviewers, Editorial Board members and Editors. This issue contains the following articles:

Branding slums: a community-driven strategy for urban inclusion in Rio de Janeiro by I Torres, Government of Federal District, Brazil

Place marketing and phases of the image : a conceptual framework by S M Zavattaro, University of Texas at Brownsville, USA

Towards a theory of place marketing by T Niedomysl (Lund University) and M Jonasson (Halmstad University), Sweden

Unraveling the complexity of ‘city brand equity’: a three dimensional framework by A Lucarelli, Stockholm University, Sweden

Place brand equity: a model for establishing the effectiveness of place brands by B P Jacobsen, University of Dundee, UK

“We love the Gong” : a marketing perspective by G Kerr (University of Wollongong) , K Dombkins (Tourism Wollongong)and S Jelley (University of Wollongong), Australia

Members of the IPM can access the JPMD as part of their membership package.  If you would like to join the IPM then please contact me at c.parker@mmu.ac.uk

UK Retail Markets 2012

I am back at the National Association of British Market Authorities’ Annual Conference. I am listening to Krys Zasanda present the heading figures about the state of the sector.

279 markets contributed to the annual figures. 75 indoor and 204 outdoor. The survey was a traffic light system, asking Market Managers whether things had remained stable, increased or decreased with regards to stalls let, traders standing, market days, footfall, income, staff, bottom line and investment.

So, aggregating all the measures in 2012 74% of all markets replied stable or increasing 16% in decline. This was an improvement in last year.

In other news, like 2011, outdoor markets are doing better than indoor. Similarly Farmers’ Markets are doing better than traditional markets again this year.

Regionally the performance by region shows markets in The Midlands fare the worst with London ones doing the best (no surprise there).

The overall improvement could well be due to the Love Your Local Market and National Market Day initiatives, as well as the work Mary Portas did to raise awareness of markets. The Love Your Local Market national website got 14,000,000 hits!

So a bit of good news in what has been doom and gloom in terms of many retail statistics and news from The High Street.

Keynote Speech : Rob Hopkins and “the biggest urban brainwave of the century”

ImageWe are delighted to confirm Dr Rob Hopkins, co-founder of the Transition Network and Transition Town Totnes as a Keynote Speaker at the 3rd International Place Branding and 2nd Institute of Place Management Conference.

Rob Hopkins brings humour, imagination and vision to the great challenges of our time, and argues that what is needed, above all else, at this time in history, is “engaged optimism”.  The rapidly-spreading Transition movement which he was pivotal in establishing, is an embodiment of that.  Nicholas Crane, presenter of BBC2’s recent ‘Town’ series, recently referred to Transition as “the biggest urban brainwave of the century”.  Rob’s experience with community-led approaches to strategic place management and branding will be an inspiring addition to the conference.

Rob is the author of the newly-published “The Transition Companion: making your community more resilient in uncertain times”, and previously wrote the best-selling ‘Transition Handbook’.   He was the winner of the 2008 Schumacher Award, is an Ashoka Fellow and a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute, served 3 years as a Trustee of the Soil Association, and was named by the Independent as one of the UK’s top 100 environmentalists.  He is the winner of the 2009 Observer Ethical Award for the Grassroots Campaigner category, and in December 2009 was voted the Energy Saving Trust/Guardian’s ‘Green Community Hero’.  In February 2012, Rob and the Transition Network were among NESTA and The Observer’s list of ‘Britain’s 50 New Radicals’.

He blogs at transitionculture.org, tweets as robintransition, speaks widely on Transition and peak oil, holds an MSc in Social Research and recently completed a PhD at the University of Plymouth entitled ‘Localisation and resilience at the local level: the case of Transition Town Totnes’.   He recently became a Visiting Fellow at the University of Plymouth  and lives in Devon where he raises both children and various vegetables.

HS2020 research presented at Inside Government: Next Steps for Revitalising UK High Streets

A guest blog by Dr Costastas Theodoridis and Dr Amna Kahn, of the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University

Town-centre and BID managers, policy-makers, practitioners and academics were gathered in London to discuss the revitalisation of the UK High Streets. In the all-day ‘Next Steps for Revitalising UK High Streets’ event delegates had the opportunity to find out about the recent developments in digital and traditional high-street management and development. The event was chaired by Dr Fiona Ellis-Chadwick from Loughborough University who also delivered a keynote speech focused on the digital high-street health-check index developed by her and her colleagues.

A lot of attention was paid to the digitisation of the high-streets and particularly to the benefits that retail organisations will see if they develop an active digital presence. Steve Woolley, from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, highlighted the impact that the management of the personal data has to the patronage of retailers and the threats that may occur if a retailer misuse the data collected by the consumers. The Institute of Place Management was represented in the event by its Director Simon Quin who reminded to the delegates the importance of location and the physical place, and presented the findings of the High Street UK 2020 project.

Simon discussed how the evolution of the retail environment is changing, looking at various relevant trends as identified by the part-funded ESRC HSUK2020 research project. As well as talking about the 25 priorities for town/city centre vitality and viability, Simon also presented research findings relating to footfall signatures that identify different kinds of centres and provided the views of the Institute of Place Management on the emerging issues. Simon Pitkeathley’s, CEO of the Camden Town Unlimited, presentation on the use of the technology to facilitate the transformation of High Streets addressed how the visual appearance, the visionary management of the High Streets, the development of diverse anchors and stores, and the amount and quality of recreational space in a High Street – areas identified within the 25 priorities for the High Streets in the HS2020 project – provided evidence from Camden Town on how the physical place can be promoted to the consumers through the use of digital tools.

The delegates had the opportunity to ask their questions to the speakers and their answers provided valuable insight on the understanding of the instrumental role of the digital technology to place management.lower_high_street_2_670_230_84_c1_c_c_0_0_1

Sound of the city

Following from this week’s foray into smell and the city in Manchester, another city has been exploring a different sense, sound and the city.

David Byrne (Talking Heads) has been living in a temporary architectural installation (a sort of boat) perched on top of the South Bank Centre.
During his time in London he has been out and about collecting sounds.

Markets, overhead trains, bigots – they all feature, and all go into the overall sound collage which has enabled him to estimate the tempo of London (at 122.86 beats per minutes).

The positivists amongst you will be rolling your eyes (rather than dice) at this figure and the unscientific method behind its calculation. The sounds all came from around the Southbank. Would Piccadilly Circus have the same rhythm? And when did he collect the sounds? Cities have a type of circadian rhythm, representing their 24 cycle. Is 122.86 beats per minute the mean, if so what’s the standard deviation?

But viewed as a piece of qualitative research then those criticisms are irrelevant. The research explores something we don’t usually think about; the rhythm of place. It opens up this topic for further investigation. It helps us frame future research. The beat of London versus Buenos Aires, for example. Or even the relationship between the speed of a place’s ‘heartbeat’ and human heartbeats.

You can see a video of David Byrne’s work here

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