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Owning the Zeitgeist

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20th Sep 2008

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World Pulse
December 2006

Shortly Hub Culture will release our first ever hub rankings - a list of the 20 cites in the world that own the moment, right now, and critically, in what order of influence. This idea came out of a series of conversations that began in Asia last year: Hong Kong and Bali, and which moved to London, Rome, Miami, and other places, in discussions with dozens of hub culture people. The idea was simple: Who Owns the Moment?

This idea also qualifies: owning the moment isn't just about power - New York and London and LA and Tokyo, despite their sheer power, are not always at the leading edge of CREATION - often they co-opt the real action and make it mass, but they are not always the center of authenticity in cultural development.

Throughout recent history it can be argued that certain locations have defined the spirit of the times; they are the proverbial place to be. Its the location that when you sit back and review (through rose colored glasses?) that you wish you had been. Rome with Romans, Jerusalem with Jesus. Oklahoma during the dust bowl. The hub that jumps out as the place where great things happened among people who had an idea they were onto something big, but which the wider world had not quite caught up with yet; the crucible that creates great ideas, great people, and world progress.

Of course, the very idea of a single hub defining the spirit of an epoch is a gross generalization, prone to contradiction and disagreement. It could even be argued, as many have said, that no single place now defines the age because so much happens everywhere. But it remains unsettlingly true that certain places at certain times just seem to capture it, and its our duty to call it. It is a combination of circumstance, a confluence, and very tough to put a finger on. Yes, we hear the limb we're out on cracking.

As we prepare for the release of the ranking, we thought it would be good to share our historical zeitgeist - hub culture's view of the last quarter century, to help give some context to the upcoming rankings.

Selection is based on a collection of impressions - "to own the moment" is to be on the way up but still a little underground, to be where things are being built, not already finished - to be not just part of the action but to be the action itself. It implies a dynamism and fresh, rebel outlook, but in a way that is on the verge - great, but not yet widely recognized. The white hot epicenter of the creative class.

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Warhol factory best: coloured Campbell's soup
In the same way that the hub 100s track this across culture, this list measures that vibe within hubs. We start from approx 25 years ago, with Warhol and the Factory, a spiritual wellspring of the hub view and the birth of "contemporary":

1978-1983 - New York City

The age of Andy Warhol's Factory and the heyday of New York's cultural influence on America. This time before the Disneyfication of the City, where grit and creativity, along with Wall Street's three martini lunch, laid the foundations for the predominant identity of the 80s.

1983-1988 - Tokyo

Capped by the bursting of Japan's economic bubble, this period of western geishas, SONY and the Rising Sun, a city of soaring rent prices and the emergence of Harajuku and other areas of Tokyo has global style centers. As the financial capital of Asia, it is the most international of cities and a new global capital.

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Sex Pistols and Cool Britannia
1989-1993 - London

Benefiting from the end of the Cold War, Cool Brittania takes shape in London and the City begins to bloom as a global financial center. Fashion comes to London, with London Fashion Week taking off and the emergence of Brit bad boys, from Damian Hirst to Julien Macdonald, place the moment here.

1994-1997 - Hong Kong

As Hong Kong geared up for the handover in 1997, the economic clout of Asia moves here following the bursting of Japan's bubble. An emergent China fuels growth and optimism, and everything China still flows through Hong Kong, making it the center of operations for a fascinated world. It is the global group of young people that fill the city who create its energy, opportunity is everywhere and so is the cash... even into the Asian Financial Crisis.

1997-2000 - San Francisco

As the tech boom and the internet hit full speed, San Francisco is the place to be. From outrageous rents to the dot-com of the moment, San Francisco, the sock puppet and nearby Silicon Valley own the moment.

2000-2001 - Sydney

A brief moment in the sun is bookended by the Olympics and Sydney's booming real estate markets. A growing sense that the world is small pervades, and Sydney's distance personifies this ideal. Cut short by the events of Sept. 11, when global travel shriveled. Good times and clean living extravagance dominate, and no place personified that better than down under.

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Bling does it from Vegas to Miami Beach: Nelly
2002-2005 - Las Vegas/Miami

A joint mantle? The operative word here is bling, and no place captured the rise of Britney and the shimmer of J.Lo like Vegas and Miami. World poker tours, pop trash, Hummers and gold hoops were made for South Beach and the Strip, and both locations helped make the moment.


It's safe to safe that bling is behind us, and "the eclectic" has firmly taken root in hub culture. The key influences are shifting - art is the new fashion, indie is in, and there's a darker edge to everything that vaguely reflects the coke-fueled 80s.

Any last minute suggestions for where should claim the mantle now? Email us at info at hubculture.com, and look for the rankings of the top 20 hubs for right now from January 1st, 2008.