Pop-Up Economies: Social Networks, Temporary Urbanism and the Creative Sector

Abstract

Contemporary scholarship across disciplines ranging from economics to communication often dwells on the impact of technology and globalization on improving communication across communities or invigorating economic markets. However, the same theories that are applied to these ends can also be turned around to focus on local settings. This paper takes as a case study several temporary urbanism events in Washington, D.C., that have combined an interest in urban development with goals of supporting the growth of the city’s creative sector. To what extent do these temporary urbanism projects provide a foundation for small-world social networks that span different areas of practice within the creative sector? Building upon literature on urban economies, small-world networks, and social capital, this study undertakes a social network analysis of participants in three temporary urbanism projects held in Washington, D.C., in 2011. The findings reveal that both shared physical spaces and social networks are crucial to the economic development of local creative sectors, and temporary urbanism projects show great potential for introducing the kinds of weak social ties that are most conducive to innovation.


Introduction

Periods of urbanization and globalization have existed throughout the world’s history. What is unique about these trends in the 21st century is their co-evolution with the expanding knowledge economy. With more people finding employment in knowledge-based work and new information and communication technologies arising to aid that work, geographic location represents less of an obstacle to individuals’ career choices. Instead, geography can be an asset as knowledge workers flock to attractive cities as part of the current wave of urbanization.

Richard Florida and others have pointed out the allure of artistic and cultural assets to knowledge workers in choosing where to live. Cities have an incentive to try to attract knowledge workers and the lucrative industries in which they are employed by creating or supporting a lively creative sector. The emphasis of city planners who subscribe to New Urbanism on the creation of vibrant public spaces has also helped to make cities more attractive places to live to white-collar workers. One way of fulfilling this interest in public space while also encouraging urban development is through temporary urbanism initiatives, projects that revitalize unoccupied or deserted public spaces for short-term (often commercial) uses. This paper’s case study will focus on several temporary urbanism events in Washington, D.C., which have combined an interest in urban development with goals of supporting the growth of the city’s creative sector.

The policy agenda laid out by the District of Columbia in “Creative Capital: The Creative D.C. Action Agenda” (District of Columbia Office of Planning and Washington, D.C. Economic Partnership) highlights the need for providing physical spaces for the production and consumption of creative products as well as the dearth of support structures within and among groups of professionals working in creative fields, which include media and communications, culinary arts, building arts, museums, visual arts, and performing arts. In light of these concerns, this paper will argue that both shared physical spaces and social networks are crucial to the economic development of local creative sectors. Specifically, this study will answer the following question: To what extent do temporary urbanism projects provide a foundation for small-world social networks that span different areas of practice within the creative sector? A review of literature on urban economies, small-world networks, social capital, and related subjects will inform the methodological approach to these questions, which is comprised of a social network analysis of participants in three temporary urbanism projects held in Washington, D.C., in 2011.

Literature Review

Understanding Urban Economies

Setting aside the current trend toward urbanization, why do urban economies deserve a closer look? In Cities and the Wealth of Nations, Jane Jacobs argues that “cities are unique in their abilities to shape and reshape the economies of other settlements” (32) within a wide geographic radius. To be more specific, smaller economies within a region respond to the external forces set into motion by larger, more distant cities (34). One key failure of these smaller, more passive economies is to neglect replacing imports from other regions with those produced in their own cities (35). Jacobs’ arguments on import replacement and the impact of far-flung regions can be looked at from a micro-level in the context of city neighborhoods, as well, inasmuch as temporary urbanism events appear to draw from social networks that span the city.

Although Jacobs argues for import replacement, she also notes that companies or industries that simply transplant themselves to a city and operate self-sufficiently are not going to impact the broader urban economy. As an example, she mentions Lockheed Aircraft’s decision to build a factory in Marietta, Georgia, far from its Los Angeles headquarters (Jacobs 95-97). The company was only able to do this once it was predominantly self-sufficient; thus, its expansion did not impact the supplier market in Georgia (ibid.). The relevant conclusion we can draw from Jacobs’ example is that neither transplanting industries nor encouraging import replacement among local producers alone will benefit the local economy. Rather, it is much more important that those who do operate in city or regional economies embed themselves within the local networks.

In a post-industrial, knowledge economy, though, growth depends on different factors than the supply chains and other manufacturing concerns Jacobs had in mind. Human or intellectual capital plays a key role, but it is a valuable input that depends in large part on the environmental context of the local economy. As Scott and Storper observe, “human capital is in part created in situ by means of education, training, on-the-job learning and broad processes of socialization” (148), a dynamic confluence of factors that still often require some amount of face-to-face or place-specific interaction. This is further complicated, as Scott and Storper note, by labor migration (ibid.). When an individual’s intellectual capital is a key part of a business, the loss of workers can, over time, reshape the way a knowledge-based industry functions at the same scale as the departure of an entire firm from a city might impact a non-knowledge-based industry. Therefore, retaining human capital is a crucial part of economic success.

Creative capital is a more specific asset than human capital, but it is not limited to the creative sector as defined by the “Creative D.C. Action Agenda.” Richard Florida has been one of the most influential scholars in this area of late with his theories about the “creative class,” but nearly a decade after he introduced this concept, his arguments deserve a critical appraisal. Florida’s characterization of the Creative Class as workers who seek “challenge and responsibility, the ability to work a flexible schedule and a secure and stable work environment” (10), does not necessarily apply to all the creative workers considered in the Washington, D.C., agenda, who may lack job security, particularly those who are self-employed. (The same is true of those who work in the arts in any other city.) In fact, Florida’s broad definition of the Creative Class, which includes scientists and lawyers, more closely aligns with what this paper has been characterizing as “knowledge workers.”

Still, Florida has some relevant observations about the significance of place. He specifically notes that in today’s society, people “seek places where we can make friends and acquaintances easily and live quasi-anonymous lives” (7). While this is still likely to be truer of metropolitan areas than of all towns across the country, we can extrapolate form this point that social ties are not formed by geographic proximity alone. At the same time, Florida agrees with the many other scholars who have noted the clustering of innovators in geographic regions, which is enabled by loose social ties and knowledge “spill-overs.” Florida does emphasize a key distinction from other scholars’ theories of this clustering and knowledge spill-overs: Rather than focus on the role of firms in this dynamic, he argues, “the real force behind this clustering is people” (Florida 220). This is especially true in the creative sector, where contingent workers abound. For our purposes, the key takeaway from Florida’s theory of the Creative Class is that its members seek relationships based on shared affinities, not just shared geography. However, I would argue that to ensure continued urban development that will sustain the cultural amenities this class desires, someone has to take an interest in geography. The presence of creative people— or even Florida’s magic formula of “technology, talent, and tolerance”— does not automatically yield economic growth, and the remainder of this paper will be concerned with enumerating the structures and other factors that contribute to the effects that Florida attributes solely to the Creative Class.

One of these structures is public policy. How can policy play a role in promoting economic development in the creative sector? Given the attractiveness of a city’s cultural opportunities to potential visitors or residents, policymakers should do all they can to ensure the continued growth of and innovation inof this sector. Scott cautions that top-down policy implementation will only hinder the development of creative industries (104). Before implementing local policies, it is important for policymakers to understand “the internal dynamics of the dense agglomerations that are one of the primary expressions of [cultural] sectors’ geographic logic” (ibid.). Scott further encourages policymakers to support collaboration among creative firms, “efficient, high-skill local labor markets,” and “local sources of industrial creativity” (ibid.). In the context of temporary urbanism initiatives, which come together only briefly, it may be best to take advantage of previously developed relationships (with the pre-existing norms and relational capital that they imply) while also creating opportunities for the establishment of new collaborations. New business partnerships have higher transactional costs and lower levels of established trust, even if they also have the weak ties that can introduce innovation. Institutional ties can lessen some of these transaction costs. North describes institutions as “the rules of the game,” and notes that they “reduce uncertainty by providing a structure to everyday life” (3). Taking all of these factors into consideration, collaborative structures or relationships that evolve out of policy-based initiatives may help provide a solid institutional framework for the diverse actors of the creative sector.

Community Building

Temporary urbanism projects in the creative sector present the opportunity to develop or strengthen communities of practice, which can provide an important foundation for social networks among creative workers. Economic geographers emphasize the importance of physical proximity for knowledge sharing. Gertler acknowledges this, but also points out that the most innovative economies process knowledge acquired from both local and distant firms. While acknowledging that geographic proximity still has a role to play in certain types of innovation, as when shared production resources are needed, Gertler ultimately concludes that many learning-oriented relationships can be sustained across physical distances. When geographic proximity is not possible, communities of practice can allow for more targeted knowledge sharing among individuals with shared expertise.

For communities of practice to become productive, Thrift emphasizes that knowledge transformation is not the only task they must perform. Rather, communities of practice also engage in a process of “worlding” that creates recursive spaces and makes explicit shared norms among a community. From both of these scholars’ observations, we can conclude that temporary urbanism projects have the potential to establish a framework for those working in the creative sector to share knowledge and build relationships that encourage learning. However, sustained geographical proximity is not necessary to maintain these relationships, only occasional opportunities to accrue social capital with one another.

The Benefits of Networks

It is the social networks created or strengthened through temporary urbanism events that can offer an alternative to the benefits of vertically integrated firms or sustained geographic proximity. Buchanan’s discussion of small world networks presents a number of salubrious characteristics that one might want to seek in networks formed among a local or regional creative sector. However, these are not necessarily characteristics that can be prescribed: Buchanan points out that “many of the most important world networks…are poised perpetually on the very edge of instability and tumultuous upheaval” (20). This is not to suggest that there is disorder among the social networks to which people belong. On the contrary, most people’s social ties exist in clusters, in which many relationships are shared among a person’s acquaintances (39). This is due, of course, in large part to shared geographic proximity and the personal and professional communities with which one is affiliated. Like many network theorists, Buchanan references Stanley Milgram’s famous experiment from the 1960s, in which the researcher asked a number of people from across the country to send a letter to someone whom they thought could help the letter reach an individual in the Boston area (25). The ability of most participants to deliver the letter to the target individual through a chain of six recipients illustrated that bridging connections exist between clusters of individuals. In the 1960s, when the economy was still oriented around the vertical firm and Americans had close-knit social ties to their geographic communities, this was an astonishing finding. I would argue that in today’s society, it seems much more likely: The rise of Richard Florida’s Creative Class has shown that Americans are more geographically mobile than before and seek social ties based around shared qualities other than physical proximity. It makes much more sense that bridging ties among clusters would span geographic territory.

These small-world networks, first defined by Duncan Watts and Steve Strogatz in 1998 and explored further by Buchanan in 2002, can offer a model for examining the social networks of the creative sector. While most social networks are highly clustered, small-world networks are characterized by a few random links that provide paths from one cluster to the next. As Buchanan describes it, the introduction of a few random links to a social network causes the average path length between individuals to plummet dramatically (54). Entire social networks, comprised of multiple tight-knit clusters, are thus made more accessible by the relationships between a few individuals who span the boundaries between these groups. Presumably, small-world networks would be ideal incubators of innovation, provided knowledge actually does flow along the ties that connect diverse clusters.

For this reason, understanding the role of the bridge is key. The bridges that span these clusters are weak ties that connect two groups who would not otherwise be connected (Buchanan 43). Granovetter underscored the value of weak ties when he found that weak ties give individuals greater access to those to whom they are not directly linked than do strong ties. In an urban creative economy, bridges could unite clusters of firms or individuals working in different neighborhoods in the same field or in different fields but the same neighborhood, for example. Because of the potential for bridges to introduce information that would not otherwise be acquired, such relationships might foster innovation through collaboration.

To make the most of these bridges, though, relationships need to accumulate social capital to facilitate and sustain the relationships in small-world and other social networks. Buchanan defines social capital as “the ability of people to work together easily and efficiently based on trust, familiarity, and understanding” (201). Social capital lowers the costs of doing business by decreasing the uncertainty about the trustworthiness of the business partner. As an example, Buchanan points out, “in a network of companies that involve people linked through networks endowed with social capital, the costs associated with forging legally binding contracts are reduced” (Buchanan 201). In the creative sector, social capital can be a valuable asset to relationships between established firms and individuals who contract their services on a freelance basis or those among self-employed creative workers who might consider arrangements to share production or performance spaces.

Even outside the scope of conducting transactions, social relationships play a crucial role in economies. Brown and Duguid demonstrate the importance of social relationships to information sharing and knowledge production. They point to the development of modern scientific communities through correspondence among scientists working across England during the Enlightenment as a way of creating open communication channels that helped disseminate knowledge (191). In this case, it is not geographic proximity that matters to knowledge production but the creation of social networks and shared information among those with shared areas of practice. For scientists, specifically, shared knowledge about new discoveries can be used directly to develop new research that builds on previous findings, which makes open communication channels among those in the field particularly useful.

In the creative sector, the application of knowledge gained from social relationships is likely to be used somewhat differently. Temporary urbanism events are not necessarily devised to influence a local painter’s art or the jewelry crafted by a local artisan. Instead of influencing the practice of creative work, the social networks formed through temporary urbanism can be uniquely situated to help embed creative workers in the regional economy by giving them access to broader community networks. As the above discussion of related literature has illustrated, small-world networks and social capital have the potential to unite self-employed and contingent actors in a local economy to provide institutional benefits in support of economic growth. To pursue this line of argument, I will turn to the case study in Washington, D.C., to determine whether temporary urbanism structures have the potential to provide these benefits.

Case Study

Setting a Local Policy Agenda

When one thinks of Washington, D.C., the city’s art scene is not typically one of the first characteristics that come to mind. Nevertheless, Washington does have a vibrant creative sector, helmed by world-class museums, internationally touring performing arts groups, and a burgeoning scene for independent visual artists and musicians. The city’s creative economy – —including museums, building arts, culinary arts, performance art, media and communications, visual arts and crafts – —accounts for 10 percent of its jobs, comprising 75,000 jobs and 10,000 local establishments (DC Office of Planning and Washington, D.C. Economic Partnership 8). The creative economy touches all of the District’s four wards in some way, and ongoing gentrification in some historic neighborhoods over the past decade has helped the visual and culinary arts, in particular, to flourish in new places. Furthermore, in an age of new technologies Washington remains a media hotbed, with local, national, and international news organizations and freelance journalists all staking a claim on the city for its political centrality.

Certainly, politics – —the District’s raison d’être – —colors all aspects of the city’s life in some way. While I have already outlined the importance of social relationships to economic activity in general, in Washington it is especially true that one’s success often depends on whom one knows. In the political sphere and in other professions with which it intersects, cultivating relationships with influential individuals are often a part of one’s job description. Thus, Washington should be a prime example to argue the case for cultivating strong social networks to support local economic activity. As it happens, local politicians may have recognized the potential for doing so – —but have they actually realized that potential?

In 2010 the District of Columbia Office of Planning and the Washington, D.C., Economic Partnership teamed up to produce an agenda to promote the growth of the District’s creative sector, “Creative Capital: The Creative D.C. Action Agenda.” The agenda defines the creative sector as “enterprises in and for which creative content drives both economic and cultural value, including businesses, individuals, and organizations engaged in every stage of the creative process” (DC Office of Planning and Washington, D.C. Economic Partnership 7), which includes the six areas defined above (culinary arts, building arts, museums, visual arts and crafts, media and communications, and performance arts). At the heart of the agenda is the goal of stimulating both the creative sector itself and neighborhoods across the city that might benefit from its economic growth. The agenda sets out to accomplish this through six goals:

  • Creative support: enhancing the support system to take better advantage of the city’s deep creative assets.
  • Creative markets: promoting the District’s creative economy and increasing the market for creative products.
  • Creative youth: enabling youth to explore and capitalize upon their creative talents.
  • Creative work: providing new career opportunities for residents and an enhanced talent pool for creative businesses and organizations.
  • Creative business: promoting new enterprise development and small business growth among creative firms and entrepreneurs.
  • Creative places: developing a diversity of creative neighborhoods and spaces throughout the District. (DC Office of Planning and Washington, D.C. Economic Partnership 11; bullet points sic)

Of particular interest to this study will be the goals related to creative places and creative support. Both of these aims require the co-location of creative sector actors in physical space, whether to situate the creative economy within a geographic neighborhood on some basis or to allow for the formation of social capital. If these are undertaken strategically, the agenda could enable the development of small-world social networks with bridges that stimulate innovation, along with the subsequent knowledge-sharing, trust, social capital, and other benefits that accrue with the establishment of institutions.

The agenda notes several challenges to Washington’s creative sector. First, there is a shortage of production space and affordable housing for artists or other start-up creative businesses (DC Office of Planning and Washington, D.C. Economic Partnership 11). In addition, although DC hosts quite a large tourism industry in the city, it does not drive visitors to a wide range of neighborhoods; similarly, the city’s international culture could be better integrated into the existing creative sector (ibid.). In the new media sphere, as Hadge observed, some collaboration exists among online media producers and other creative organizations that engages hyperlocal audiences (i.e., those at the neighborhood level or within even smaller communities) and directs significant attention to neighborhood economic development, but few of these online media efforts are financially sustainable, with most operating outside the economy. Most importantly, the report observes a relevant challenge to the problems discussed here:

While there is a strong support system that underlies the creative economy, its effectiveness has been somewhat constrained by a lack of effective coordination and leadership as well as limited cross-segment and cross-generational networking. (DC Office of Planning and Washington, D.C. Economic Partnership 11)

This is a challenge that can be tackled through strategic collaborations that provide organized opportunities for developing social capital.

Private individuals and organizations have also organized “pop-up” projects, most recently around culinary and visual arts. While the term “pop-up” is used loosely among all these projects, they all share in common a short-lived duration and/or temporary location. “*a pop-up project” (sic) is a series of mobile art exhibitions curated by Morton Fine Art, which also maintains a gallery space in the U Street area for small exhibitions (“Morton Fine Art & a pop-up project”). In the same neighborhood, Local 16, a restaurant and bar, hosts a pop-up “underground” farmer’s market, Grey DC, which provides an opportunity for local entrepreneurs who lack other venues to sell their culinary products (“Overheard Today”). Grey DC describes its mission as follows:

Grey DC is an organization dedicated to building a stronger community in Washington DC. We are a small business incubator that provides opportunities for local entrepreneurs who lack the financial capital needed to test the market. We organize markets for unlicensed/uncertified food vendors who otherwise would not have a chance to sell their wares. Our events provide opportunities for local small businesses to connect directly to potential consumers. (“About – Grey DC”)

Unlike the temporary urbanism projects included in this paper’s analysis, Grey DC holds its market indoors and charges a small admission fee. While this may at first seem less conducive to attracting people to new neighborhoods in support of local business, it is ultimately small, local businesses that benefit from this choice: A percentage of the proceeds goes to helping small businesses obtain licenses (“About – Grey DC”). Both of these private pop-ups bring groups of culinary or visual artists to new neighborhoods to put them in touch with potential new clients and provide opportunities for building social capital and organizational support structures for their respective crafts. But what happens when different industries within the creative sector are brought together at one event? The following section will turn to the three pop-ups at the heart of this case study to determine to what extent the “Creative D.C. Action Agenda” provides a foundation for small-world social networks that span different areas of practice within the creative sector.

Temporary Urbanism in Practice

This study looks at three temporary urbanism projects with start dates between February and April 2011, one of which was funded by the D.C. Office of Planning’s Temporary Urbanism Initiative and two by private organizations. The Mount Pleasant Temporium, Very Cherry Pop-Up Shop (a.k.a. AdMo Pop-Up Shop), and Marcatus were chosen for comparison because they occurred within the same time frame. Additionally, although funding structure is not a variable in the study, comparing a government-funded initiative with two that were privately organized gives a broader context within which to gauge the success of the city’s policy agenda so far.

The Mount Pleasant Temporium was held from February 18 to March 13 in an “underutilized” storefront before a local shop owner opened its business in that space (“Temporium reaches $31,000 in sales”). It featured 34 vendors and 23 special events, ranging from storytelling and readings to live music and craft-making sessions (ibid.). Gross sales from the pop-up shop exceeded $31,000, and 70 percent of the 6,800 patrons were residents of Ward 1, where the shop was located (ibid.). This high proportion of patrons from Ward 1 suggests that demand for creative industries exists in the neighborhood, and this was one goal of the D.C. Office of Planning, which stated goals of “supporting creative entrepreneurs, activating commercial corridors and highlighting their retail potential, providing residents with unique services and activities, and promoting neighborhoods” (D.C. Office of Planning 2010) in its notice of funding availability for the $15,000 Temporary Urbanism Initiative grant that was ultimately awarded to the Temporium. The Mount Pleasant Temporium had 11 sponsors from community and trade associations and the creative sector more broadly. The characteristics of these partners will be evaluated in detail in the social network analysis.

The Very Cherry Pop-Up Shop – —also referred to as the AdMo Pop-Up Shop – —was held from March 27 to April 17 to coincide with the National Cherry Blossom Festival (“AdMo Pop-Up Shop”). Located in an unused storefront, the pop-up resembled a gift-shop, with its wares set out for display on tables throughout the store. While volunteers did staff the cash register, artists and artisans who created the products for sale were not on hand to staff their tables when I visited, but did leave piles of business cards alongside their work. Therefore, a more in-depth, ethnographic approach would be necessary to determine to what extent participants had the opportunity to build social capital with one another, although I did observe a sense of rapport between customers and those staffing the shop, including conversations that shared information about local businesses to D.C. newcomers or visitors. The pop-up shop was organized by Adams Morgan Main Street, a local non-profit, with the support of five other partners (“AdMo Pop-Up Shop”).

Marcatus is a pop-up held one Sunday per month from April through August 2011 in The Yards Park on the Anacostia River, a recently developed park near the baseball stadium in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood of Southeast, which has just begun to see new waves of gentrification within the last five years. Its website describes Marcatus as “a multidimensional event different than any other to reach the District” (“marcatus”), and Marcatus does stand out in comparison with the other two examples in this case study for its outdoor location and its use of a new, rather than abandoned or underutilized, public space. The opening day of Marcatus in April featured music deejayed in conjunction with a music festival that was ending the same weekend, food and beverages, and art work and crafts for sale by their creators. For the most part, the physical arrangement of the event ensured that vendors were seated near others who practiced different crafts than theirs. Marcatus is sponsored by Art Whino, an art gallery in the up-and-coming National Harbor area that also offers art instruction, and the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District, which manages The Yards Park (“marcatus”).

Social Network Analysis Methodology

Within this case study, data about participants in each of the above three pop-up events were gathered to answer the question: To what extent do temporary urbanism projects provide a foundation for small-world social networks that span different areas of practice within the creative sector? In answering this question, I tested the following hypothesis:

H1: Temporary urbanism projects yield small-world networks that bridge organizational/artistic boundaries within the creative sector.
H0: Temporary urbanism projects do not yield small-world networks that bridge organizational/artistic boundaries within the creative sector.

For the Mount Pleasant Temporium, I gathered data from the vendor list on the website associated with that event, as I was not able to attend it in person. For Marcatus and the Very Cherry Pop-Up Shop, I gathered data from vendors who provided business cards distributed at each event. Data noted included the name of the participant and his or her area of practice within the creative sector. Additionally, because not everyone present at Marcatus provided a business card, participant information was also taken from logos that appeared on the website. Sponsors and partners were also included and were determined from written descriptions and logos available on each event website. In order to avoid the addition of extra variables, no distinction was made among different types of nodes (e.g., sponsors, partners, vendors).

The social network graph is a multimodal affiliation graph. Nodes represent the pop-up events themselves; their sponsoring organizations and partners, and individuals who exhibited, provided services, or advertised their services at one of the three pop-up events; and the participant’s area of practice within the creative sector (e.g., medium, art form, etc.). Edges therefore represent affiliations with events or creative activities. In line with the theoretical framework laid out earlier, both the events themselves (with their strategically chosen geographical locations) and the creative activities can be considered potential communities of practice. In the graph itself, diamond-shaped vertices represent pop-up events; triangles represent creative activities; and spheres represent individuals or organizations. After laying out the graph in NodeXL, I searched for clusters of connections; each automatically-generated cluster is represented by the color of its nodes.

Findings and Discussion

Clusters

The graph shown in Figure 1 indicates that we are able to reject the null hypothesis in support of the hypothesis that temporary urbanism projects result in boundary-spanning small-world networks. While the graph has nine clusters, it also features points of intersection between pop-up events and between creative industries. Because the graph was structured as a multimodal affiliation network, it is not possible to discern one single bridging connection; rather, nodes’ connections to various artistic areas serve as bridging ties between clusters. With this in mind, however, it is important to note that individuals and organizations that participated in the pop-up events are not necessarily part of the cluster for the pop-up in which they participated.

First, the lime green cluster includes the Mount Pleasant Temporium and some of its participants, as well as book art and fashion. Most of the cross-cluster ties in this group connect to vertices that are associated with to jewelry, crafts, painting or prints. The royal blue cluster is centered on the Very Cherry Pop-Up Shop, jewelry, performance art, mixed media, and photography. This cluster in turn has connections with those who are associated with crafts, painting, music, food, and drink. By looking at each of the clusters in a similar manner, we can see that by bringing together participants across the creative sector at the Temporium, Very Cherry Pop-Up, and Marcatus, opportunities are created for participants to bridge the gaps of their individual areas of practice and build social capital with others outside their area, who may in turn be able to connect them to people working in different parts of the city or in different, but complementary, fields… However, there are a few clusters that are noticeably less well connected, and to understand the role of these clusters in the network, I will turn to a discussion of graph metrics.

Betweenness Centrality

The only graph metric that showed a range of values among nodes was betweenness centrality, which measures the frequency with which a node lies on the path between two other nodes. High betweenness centrality indicates that nodes are in a position to broker information within the graph (Hansen, Shneiderman and Smith 40). Consequently, it makes sense that nodes with a high level of betweenness centrality could have many more opportunities for building social capital. Table 1 shows the 20 nodes with the highest levels of betweenness centrality.

Figure 1: Social Network Graph of Marcatus, Very Cherry Pop-Up Shop, and Mount Pleasant Temporium Participants


Because they were chosen as the schematic behind this social network graph, the pop-up events themselves have the highest betweenness centrality. However, even among the three pop-ups, it is interesting to note that the one with the first-ranked betweenness centrality was the Mount Pleasant Temporium—that is, the government-funded event. This could speak to the success of the policy agenda from which the funding for the Temporium was determined. The shared practice area of craft-making ranked fourth in betweenness centrality. Out of all the creative arts examined in this study, crafts probably have the least institutional support in the local economy, as most crafts are found not in retail stores or other brick-and-mortar institutions, but at markets and fairs and other scenarios with a similar lack of permanence. In fact, many crafters with whom I spoke at Marcatus indicated that they travel to various markets to sell their products, and they were not certain if they would participate in every weekend of Marcatus because of the demands of their schedule to attend other events. Therefore, events that facilitate the formation of social capital among crafters are particularly important, especially because their direct interaction is so rare.

Fashion and painting fell in the next two spots in terms of betweenness centrality ranking. Given that both of these areas have a strong institutional presence in the District’s boutiques and art galleries, participants in these areas have other avenues through which to build social capital. However, those individuals who are self-employed or have small businesses might benefit from the opportunities to connect with others within this network. Culinary arts were separated into food and drink categories in this graph. “Food” and one representative of the beverage industry, A. M. Wine Shoppe, have a high degree of betweenness centrality. The lack of many nodes affiliated with this area explains the high values for these two particular nodes. Because A. M. Wine Shoppe, which is located in Adams Morgan, advertised at the Very Cherry Pop-Up Shop, it had a unique advantage among others in its industry to tap into a diverse market with little competition. A. M. Wine Shoppe, in turn, is indirectly affiliated with John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey, a company that sold its products at Marcatus and is connected in the graph through the vertex “Drink.” Both A. M. Wine Shoppe and John L. Sullivan Irish Whiskey are located one step away from “Drink” and one step from their respective pop-up events. The fact that the wine shop has a higher betweenness centrality than the whiskey company (with a measure of 181.695) must suggest that the wine shop is closer to other highly connected vertices.

One of the most interesting findings, though, is that there are few participants who appeared in more than one pop-up event, but those who did rank highly in terms of betweenness centrality. These include individuals Brigid Ashwood (engaged in painting, fashion, and crafts), Bookish Lady (a book artist who appeared at two pop-ups), Cosmic Girl (a jeweler who appeared at two pop-up events), Terry Plater Jr. (a fashion and graphic designer and sculptor); businesses Snapman Design (engaged in print-making, fashion, graphic design, and street art), Lanyapi Designs (a jeweler who appeared at two pop-up events), Snowday Design (a craft-maker at Marcatus), and A. M. Wine Shoppe; and organization The Pink Line Project. The Pink Line Project would itself make an interesting subject for future study on the District’s creative sector, as its primary purpose is to collaborate with and highlight the activity of the local creative sector, and its leader appears on multiple boards of creative organizations. Additionally, the Pink Line Project supported both the Mount Pleasant Temporium and Very Cherry Pop-Up Shop in this case study. Most of these examples span different areas of the creative sector, but some also span geographies based on their participation in multiple pop-up events. With multiple types of boundary-spanners, the small-world network formed by just a few random connections within a clustered graph thus lends itself to bridging gaps in Washington’s creative sector and increasing social capital among its participants.

Conclusion

Because only three vertices were connected to two pop-up events (which were the nearby Mount Pleasant and Adams Morgan pop-ups), it is unclear how strong a role location has played for the pop-ups. On the one hand, there is an argument to be made for encouraging creative or knowledge workers based near the location of the pop-up event to participate, thus helping them build a market among their neighbors. On the other hand, in order to attract more foot traffic to the neighborhoods where the pop-ups are held, it makes sense to take advantage of the social ties of geographically diverse participants. Further research in the vein of economic geography might answer this question more strongly by surveying members of the creative sector to determine all of their geographic affiliations and those of their suppliers, distributors, collaborators, and customers. In the short-term, though, it is important to measure the success of pop-up events with respect to the aims of the “Creative D.C. Action Agenda.” The results of the social network analysis graph suggests that the D.C. Office of Planning is financially aiding the types of structures that will help to achieve its goals of enhancing the creative support system, increasing opportunities for creative businesses to grow, and strengthening creative places. However, not all areas of the creative sector are engaged in these pop-up events.For example, a stronger presence for media and communications, culinary arts, and building arts professionals would diversify the participation even further. The pop-up events organized by non-governmental groups have also achieved similar results. Thus far, this case study primarily demonstrates the potential for the growth of social capital and formation of network ties. While weak ties are vital to innovation and knowledge creation, stronger support systems and more permanent collaborations will likely be necessary to ensure the continued growth of the creative sector and its spread into new neighborhoods.

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Endnotes

The space was located at 3068 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, Washington, D.C.
The first temporium funded through the Temporary Urbanism Initiative was located on the H Street NE corridor, and saw 1,600 visitors over four weekends in July and August 2010. It included participants from local designers, arts organizations, and musicians (D.C. Office of Planning 2010).
I attended this pop-up shop and Marcatus, but did not observe the Mount Pleasant Temporium firsthand.
Organizational/artistic boundaries refer to the distinctions among different areas of practice within the creative sector, as referenced throughout this paper.
Vendor list available at http://mtptemporium.com/vendors/, accessed 5 May 2011.
I attended Marcatus on Sunday, April 3, 2011 (the opening day), and the Very Cherry Pop-Up Shop on Sunday, April 17, 2011 (the closing day).
I chose to use more specific designations than the six practice areas within the creative sector named in the policy agenda and would argue that the nuanced differences are worth a closer look by policymakers, as well.
The wine shop does, in fact, have a slightly higher closeness centrality value of 0.003 compared with the whiskey company’s 0.002.