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Aaron Mo

Research subject

Thesis title: Artworks and Networks: an ethnographic study of creatives and urban spaces in Manchester and Brno

Primary supervisor: Michael Edwards

Secondary supervisor: Ger Duijzings

Starting date: 1 May 2006

Completion date: 28 September 2013

Recently, the cultural and creative industries have been hot topics in the planning field. This thesis proposes and develops a nuanced and differentiated account of 'creatives': examining the different phases of work activities and their interplay with the built environment, other people, and times of day.

The research comprises an extensive review of literatures drawn from a variety of disciplines, which then informs an empirical study using ethnographic methods. While this approach does preclude large-scale statistical generalisation, it does yield fine detail about the ‘creatives’, their practices and needs; detail which has commonly not been available to policymakers and planners.

The empirical subjects of this study are in Manchester and Brno, both second-order cities in their national contexts. This choice of cities starts to correct the bias in much of the literature towards London, New York and a few other global hubs. The choice of Brno begins to counter the dominance of Western cities in research coverage. The historical and cultural differences between the two cities help define the geographic and spatial patterns of work activities that may not coincide with similar studies on the industry done elsewhere.

The thesis finds that the more networks a creative person is part of, the better it is for the development of his or her practice. Networking is useful for most aspects of the industry, especially knowledge accumulation. The best places to network were found to be certain spaces at events that

bring many people together, and social occasions once an event finishes. However, there are two issues. First, not all people working in the cultural and creative industries want to be networked with one another. Secondly, some other activities are not compatible with a typical networking environment. The ethnography identifies methods used to combat these problems.

Biography

Aaron Mo, born and bred in a bland London suburb, spent his whole higher education at Bartlett School of Planning, UCL, reading BSc Architecture, planning, building and environmental studies (2000 to 2003); DiP Town & Country Planning, with Urban Design specialism (2003 to 2004); MSc Town & Country Planning (2004 to 2005) and PhD Planning Studies (2005 to 2013).

Between studying for his degrees, he gained practical knowledge in the planning sector, working as a planning assistant for an architect firm and as a research assistant for a pedestrian movement consultancy. Since finishing his master degree, he spent seven months as a volunteer in Rome, where he learnt about cultural difference within Europe and planning’s influence on the third sector. During the PhD, he worked for NGOs that are interested in creativity and urban development; interned for UNESCO working on the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which included roadmapping the Lao PDR cultural industries; and co-authored for the Polish city of Wrocław’s winning bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2016.

His interest in the relationship between planning and the creative industry has been an evolving one. As a result, it now ranges from understanding the spatial impact of cultural consumption through to a detailed understanding of subcultural activities (for example the discrepancy in squatting activities and the meaning behind ‘pop kitsch’ like Balkan Turbo-Folk or Baltic Disco Polo). Currently, his research focus develops around the spatial dimension of the creative industry’s social networks and mode of production and the concept of glocalisation.

Aaron’s academic understanding is based in the in British, North American, Central and Eastern European (CEE) and Southeast Asia creative industries, particularly in the visual & graphic art and music sectors.

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Publications and other work

Mo, A. (2012) ‘Why Put ‘Class’ In The Creative Class?’, Quaestiones Geographicae vol. 31, nos. 4. pages 9-17.

Contributor. In Mironowicz, I. and Ryser, J. [ed.] (2011) 'Urban Change: the prospect of transformation'.

Wrocław [Co-author] (2011) 'Spaces for Beauty revisited: Wrocław's Application for the title of European Capital of Culture 2016'.

Wrocław [Co-author] (2010) 'Spaces for Beauty: Wrocław's Application for the title of European Capital of Culture 2016'.

Mo, A. (2010) 'Shaping public participation at the local level of the English planning system/ Kształtowanie partycypacji społecznej na poziomie lokalnym w angielskim systemie planistycznym', Problemy Planistyczne Jesień 2010.

Mo, A. (2009) 'Creatives, creative production, and the creative market', International Journal of Sustainable Development, vol. 12, nos. 2-4 pages 134-143.

Buitrago, P. F., and Mo, A. (2009) 'A Tanzania for creatives: Opportunities and challenges for Tanzania’s Creative Industries'. British Council internal working paper.

Mo, A. (2007 & 2011) 'Artists and gentrification in London'. In: Die Planung / A Terv No. 25, 2011.