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Hub Culture 2010 Zeitgeist Ranking

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19th Jan 2010

Hub Culture 2010 Zeitgeist Ranking

Its a new decade and with it comes new priorities. Now in its fourth year, the Hub Culture Zeitgeist Ranking opens the 'oneders' with an eye on two big themes: access to resources and the environment.

Hub Culture compiles the Zeitgeist Ranking to cast a shadow in the direction of the network's thoughts - gathered from questions, emails and outreach with Hub Culture members around the world to figure out where the tea leaves are heading and where the action is. In developing the rankings, everything from population rankings to GDP to quality of life and presence on the internet are looked at, but there is no magic formula for determining how the scene changes. Like collective wisdom, it just is, and later, always seems inevitable, at least to us.

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Shortlinks: http://hub.vg/2010zeitgeist http://hub.vg/hubzeitgeist

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1. S o Paulo (2009 Rank: 7)

Brazil suddenly seems to be everyone's darling, and gigantic S o Paulo is where everything in Brazil happens. For resources, Brazil has become one of the most important single players in the world. In energy, years of green policies and initiatives in biofuels are paying dividends. As carbon markets develop, the Amazon has the potential to become a lucrative, protected carbon gold mine. The oil is about to kick in.

S o Paulo's young, vibrant population is a consumer boom in the making, and the night life just gets better and better - DOM. With this year's Olympic win in neighboring Rio de Janeiro (a short flight away), a dynamic president, one of the world's most stable currencies, and a general sense of optimism, S o Paulo looks set to become a world power. Now is the moment of creation in the southern hemisphere's largest urban center. Sadly, even the crime and inequality feel zeitgeisty - like an omen for rising class problems in urban centers worldwide.

2. Berlin (2009 Rank: 2)

Berlin continues its grip of power in the areas that have kept it so dominant the last four years. It remains the mecca for Eastern European and other continental youth with dirty, raw ambition. It's cheap, but fantastically cultured, somehow holding onto its personality despite all the changes. Berlin becomes more diverse by the day, and is increasingly a home for startups in the diversifying web 2.0 field - creating new opportunities in an otherwise fossilized region. Still rocking.

3. San Francisco (Return, 2008 Rank: 12)

There's something odd going on in San Francisco, and its seeping into the nation. If the French concept of slow food has a home in the US, its San Francisco, and it feels like the foodie + organic + homegrown movement is about to hit a hockey stick curve. As hard times in the US grind on, Americans are re-evaluating their relationship and distance to food in new ways, creating an underground food scene that has many roots in the Bay area. Combine pending food inflation, the age of the app, web 2.0 and the Valley, and there is potential for innovation. From 'plots' to the 'crowd', San Francisco is feeling fresher than it has for a long time. Those green shoots aren't just figurative. Also see: 'broke is the new black'.

4. Los Angeles (2009 Rank: 3)

As one Hub Culture member put it, "it's where the contradictions between hyper-capitalism and eco-awareness are most dramatic." While the fascination with celebrity culture seems a bit louche in current times, this Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde aspect to the city well reflects the changing consciousness of the planet at large - and the stress that this awareness creates. We still want our Playboy Bunnies, but now, it seems they need to be free range. The economy, however, is still awful, and its hard to feel as motivated about LA when no one can afford designer yoga anymore.

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5. Shanghai (2009 Rank: 10)

Shanghai is in for a good year. The central government is pushing the city as a regional financial center, and the upcoming World Expo will put the city at the center of our visions for the future. More visitors are expected in Shanghai from May to October than ever before, and the city has been preparing for this moment for years: new metro lines, restaurants, traffic rules and more are fulfilling the Shanghai vision of 'Better City - Better Life'. 2010 is Shanghai's moment, crossing from the beta to alpha list of world cities in the minds of many.

6. Z rich (2009 Rank: New)

Why sleepy Zurich? Beneath the money sheets, Zurich is sizzling. While it may be unassuming, expensive and quiet, Zurich is at the vanguard of a major shift in the financial fortunes of Europe. Companies from the UK and other markets are relocating to Zurich to take advantage of tax and labor benefits resulting from the global economic squeeze. While its always been about big banks, now the hedge funds and private equity players are setting up shop, and technology companies like Google are creating an ICT ecosystem with legs. This is driving a quiet property boom that is driving new construction and services. Zurich is also a great place to raise kids - an increasing factor in Hub Culture as the 00's jetsetters begin to settle down.

7. Sydney: (2009 Rank: 5)

The moment feels bright eyed and bushy tailed - and a lot like Sydney. People are bored with the doldrums, and Sydney offers the prospect of a fresh start in a city that enjoys enormous quality of life. Despite growing water resource pressures, the Australian economy is benefiting greatly from its wide range of natural assets, and looks set to grow rich from these assets for a long time to come. As the world goes to China for goods, China goes to Australia for resources to produce them. With Sydney as the capital, this year is as good as any to see that things are looking up down under.

8. New York (2009 Rank: 9)

New York is creeping back to the edge. Up a spot this year, NYC is always in the top 10, never doing much to demand a move up or down. The city remains so large and so powerful that its pull on the collective perspective is indisputably overwhelming, but fails to convey a vision of excitement about the future. Even though the sterile nightlife has gotten edgier, it still feels like there is a dark cloud over the city. Layoffs continue, and the general mood is sour. With advertising, fashion, media and Wall Street all reeling, the city is waiting for Godot - and a vision of future leadership that just isn't there... yet.

9. London (2009 Rank: 10)

Like a Royal with Tanqueray at breakfast, London seems to have hit bottom, and seems to be edging back up again. The land of Sherlock Holmes is effectively broke, but everyone seems to be starting their own business. The most visited city in the world has taken its lumps with the crisis, but green is the new black in London, and the city feels like it is collectively getting back in the saddle again. The view from outside remains grim however - London has endured a drumbeat of dreary press in everything from politics to finance.

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10. Hong Kong (2009 Rank: 8)

Hong Kong remains vibrant and exciting, strong on every front. It dips not for any other reason than the fact that other places have more upward momentum. As the years pass, Hong Kong feels more and more like a perennial leader than an up-and-comer, but it lacks depth in areas of the economy and global cultural reach that can't be helped. Some feel that the city is on a path toward Monaco - a haven for the rich, while others see it as the eastern New York - a power player. In the end, it will probably be a bit of both, yet neither - which is why Hong Kong has been and always will be special.

11. Beijing (2009 Rank: 3)

Well, the Olympics are definitely over. Beijing fell in favor this year on the heels of some rather nasty developments that do not invoke a lot of confidence in zeitgeisty ideals - from the recent jailing of dissidents to internationally questioned executions to a harder line on Tibet. As the world sees a fist with less velvet and more iron, the glow flickers. On the other hand, Beijing is making great strides on pollution reduction, new green policies for the city, and innovation at large - especially with regard to the environment. This makes the city one to watch, as the world hopes for more green velvet in 2010.

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12. Washington DC (2009 Rank: 1)

The Obama moment has passed, and with it the fixation on Washington as a beacon for innovation. It has been replaced with that most Washingtonian of images: red tape. Yet the Obama factor can't be ignored, and the governmental sector still remains one of the few bright spots for those looking for a some upward career momentum. The concept of realtime celebrity is moving east, and increasingly affects the lives and images of US leaders. Yet the siren of social media is heralding the birth of more e-government, so it's not all bad, just not as exciting as before.

13. Cape Town (New)

Cape Town has always been a great place to visit, but this year it is definitely punching above its weight. A confluence of economics and sport are putting Cape Town in the spotlight - with a number of 2010 World Cup matches scheduled to be hosted in the city, and a growing infrastructure innovation explosion across the continent that is centered in South Africa. While Johannesburg is officially where the action is on both fronts, the reality is that a lot of the more subtle angles of business - especially at high levels - are done in Cape Town. Despite ever gnawing crime, the city is appealing and bright, set for a year in the sun.

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14. Singapore ( 2009 Rank: 14)

Sturdy Singapore. Increasingly synonymous with terms like private wealth, medical tourism, and resort living - this city state has big plans for the future and remains an oasis of calm in otherwise roiled global waters. The global financial services industry continues to expand into Singapore, and the city is reinventing its urban core with a serious focus on green design. From elegant, wandering plans to eco-friendly architecture, the goal of Singapore seems to be futuristic paradise - played in no small part by its lush surroundings. While other countries are creating green cities from scratch, Singapore is evolving its core in this direction - with beautiful results.

15. Tokyo (2009 Rank: 5)

Did sleeping beauty nod off again? Tokyo - one of the world's largest cities and a normally exciting spot for technology innovation - has fallen back into slumber. The economy is hurting from the lingering recession and little exciting appears on the horizon. The city remains too important to ignore, but sometimes flat is simply... flat. Yawn.

16. Copenhagen (2009 Rank: 20)

Copenhagen inched onto last year's list and managed to scoot up the rankings this year, all on the back of the UN Climate Summit. While the Summit was not a success for a new agreement, it was a great success for Copenhagen - giving it a chance to "own climate". From bicycles to windmills, Copenhagen is setting examples for civic leadership in this arena, and making bundles for Danish business in the process. Design and fashion always play a role here, but recently the city has made large strides in contemporary art - where else can you drink under Olafur Eliasson lamps and scout the hottest new artists?

17. Mexico D.F. (2009 Rank: 19)

Mexico City rattles up a couple notches on the back of anticipation: the country's economy is picking up and lots of opportunities exist as the leaders reboot climate negotiations in the new world this December. Mexico City is poised to play a unique role as a backdrop for the consequences of environmental mismanagement while setting up a story on adaptation - how the world will come to face resource and climate pressure. Shame about the murder rate, but it's a crazy city, and quietly on the rise.

18. Istanbul (2009 Rank: 18)

Its impossible not to be optimistic in Istanbul. The economy here is growing steadily and a young population seems enthusiastic about the future. Turks are beginning to return from other areas to pursue opportunities that seem better at home - and the city is simply vibrant. The surprise is design: cities like Istanbul are future-proofing their history, creating a beautiful, rich new aesthetic as they do so. From the revival of hammam to the arrival of minimalist carpet - design leadership is a new export from Istanbul impacting many areas of the global scene.

19. Buenos Aires (2009 Rank: 14)

Everything is just fine in Buenos Aires. The city is purring along like a happy feline, and for once, steady is the operative word. If anything, the whole idea of Buenos Aires as a gringo nirvana seems to be getting too much play - meaning the heat of the moment may be on the wane. Nevertheless, where else can you live like a king, with so many options, for so little? BA remains nothing short of fantastic, in nearly every way.

20. Abu Dhabi (New)

As anyone in the Middle East will tell you - the money is in Abu Dhabi. Never has that been more apparent than recently, as momentum has shifted away from flashy Dubai and toward it's more sedate cousin to the south. Dubai is bigger, brasher, and taller than its neighbor, but everyone knows who's paying for rehab. The city is making some grand statements of its own, aiming for a classy image with trophies as varied as the Grand Prix to the Guggenheim to Zaha Hadid - a taste play that is slowly paying off. It may not last, but this year, Abu Dhabi dominates.

Off this list: Paris - back to the tourists; Dubai - a temporary setback, Mumbai - just not feeling it, Toronto - close but no cigar.

New this year: Zurich, Cape Town, Abu Dhabi