The language we use to discuss innovation and creativity has such a pro-urban bias that we’ve forgotten these qualities flourish outside of cities, too


Richard Sheamur Director of the School of Urban Planning at McGill University recently wrote a thought-provoking article about the language we use and how it perpetuates and reveals fundamental biases.

Sheamur wrote in his article for CityLab;

“It can be argued that urban innovation and creativity have combined, giving birth to the smart city. This new city showcases urban technological and cultural prowess, furthering the triumph of the city.”

Few people, particularly those cognizant of current writing on cities, culture, and technology, would blink at the sentence above. “Urban innovation,” the “smart city,” and the “triumph of the city”—these have become familiar as buzz phrases and even book titles.”

But what about peripheral regions, rural areas, and small towns—can’t they be smart and innovative? And what exactly is meant by “the triumph of the city”? Triumph over what?

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