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Hub Culture 2011 Zeitgeist Ranking

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3rd Feb 2011

Hub Culture 2011 Zeitgeist Ranking

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The phrase today is the action opportunity. After three years in the doldrums, where a financial crisis resulted in paralysis and a kind of pervasive deep freeze, the thaw of last year has given way to a fast moving sense of optimism about 2011 (revolutions?). We've all had time to adjust to new realities, and now everyone is waking up for some action!
This search for action dominates the 5th Annual Hub Culture Zeitgeist Ranking, which charts the landscape around hubs leading the global view. The ranking is gathered from questions, emails and conversations across the network, with a considered look at everything from population sizes to quality of life to Internet presence to general ennui. Distilling this collective wisdom can seem vague, but like a good soup, it all makes sense after you let it simmer:
Shortlinks: http://hub.vg/2011Zeitgeist http://hub.vg/HubZeitgeist

1. S o Paulo (2010 Rank: 1)

S o Paulo holds onto the top spot in 2011! Brazil is just on fire, and the South American gold rush is in full swing. From real estate to advertising, consumer society in Brazil is growing fast. Natural resources, carbon markets and green policies are converging to set the ground for financial windfalls across sectors, which are in turn fueling other investments and developments. Money is not scarce. As South America's largest population center, its really hard to argue with S o Paulo as the seat of opportunity in a region that increasingly has it all. Rising prices across emerging markets are eating away at progress, but Brazil is doing a better job than others of keeping this under control.

2. Stockholm (new)

Maybe its just the Wikileaks effect, but Stockholm is definitely more top of mind now than in some time. Sure, its pretty, environmental and a good start-up culture exists, but recent events have thrust Stockholm into a prominent position on the most important issues of our day - begging questions about collective approaches to information, justice, human rights, cross border influence, and even women's rights on a grand scale. All these issues and more are wrapped up in a conversation about the nature of who we are becoming - with freedom of information and speech weighed against the dangers of an ever more recalcitrant Internet. We struggle between protecting the individual and crushing opposition with an 'intelligent' state. Stockholm, for better or worse, symbolizes all of this as it works out these issues for itself, slightly ahead of the larger curve.

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3. Sydney (2010 Rank: 7)

Sure, its 'just so far away' - but clean, safe Sydney has its groove on. A strong economy is getting stronger, and anecdotal reports suggest everyone just bought a BMW. Sydney is all action, with Australians enjoying the fruits of a strong currency and unrivaled quality of life. It's very 2000. The city's ties to fast growing Asia Pacific continue to strengthen, and scary environmental issues reflect larger global concerns about the balance between development and protection. In many ways Sydney has it all, and the 'clean living, good times' feel suits the moment well.

4. Berlin (2010 Rank: 2)

For the first time since the ranking began, Berlin drops two notches, edged out by a lean to clean. Berlin consistently captures the attention of Europe as a cultural hotspot, and it owns the content in terms of cool factor. Germany remains an economic stalwart, and while the picture for jobs is dimming, the continued low prices and young population make Berlin an attractive bet for the Euro up-and-comer. As the city's internet and entertainment firms continue to develop, the outlook becomes more global with each passing day. Not that anyone in Berlin cares about "outlooks".

5. Los Angeles (2010 Rank: 4)

Just because 1 in 10 Angelos are unemployed, the state is nearly bankrupt and the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills redefine 'sad' with trout pout, it doesn't mean Los Angeles is all crocodile tears. The lifestyle scenario in the city's urban core remains hard to beat, and the entertainment industry continues to innovate out of TV and movies into all devices as the consumer Internet marches south from Silicon Valley. A growing eco vibe in the city has yet to bear substantial fruit, but LA is still more glisten, less grime. Nevermind the real estate, its always sunny!

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6. New York (2010 Rank: 8)

Bouncing up a few notches, New York is having a moment. Jobs are within sight again, and the city feels more close knit and social than ever. A funny thing happened on the way to the West Village: as location based social media hits its stride, we've discovered it works best in dense urban jungles where proximity plays a large role in aysmmetric social interactions. The social web is turning New York into a giant checked-in, group buying playground, and the result is a city that's beginning to feel collectively intelligent. Watch it rocket in 2011.

7. Hong Kong (2010 Rank: 10)

Is it us, or is Hong Kong seeming a little smug lately? The city is profiting handsomely from Asia's continued ascendance, and even though the actual numbers are far lower, it feels like a business and banking sector squarely on par with London and New York. A reversal has happened in financial circles - VCs and executives refer increasingly to their trips to Asia looking for finance, as if that's the primary place where money now lives. Available money, anyway. It's also the foodie capital of Asia. If only they could fix the air.

8. Shanghai (2010 Rank: 5)

Shanghai is coming off an epic year, having hosted a record number of visitors around the World's Fair, and after a sluggish start, even the locals admit they enjoyed the whole adventure. This year the vibe has turned a little more inward, as the citizens aim to fill the infrastructure left in the wake of such a major event. Cool restaurants are still popping up, and an increasing central focus on urban environmentalism (which is granted - far behind) mean new opportunities in China's principal business city. As people continue to pour in from neighboring provinces, (tamping wage pressure) the city's global citizens are set for a smooth ride ahead in a place that increasingly pampers.

9. London (2010 Rank: 9)

Still stinging from a VAT rise and the continued exodus of moneyed bankers to the rocky shores of Switzerland, London nevertheless is riding English at the derby: stiffly proud. Could it be a certain Spring Engagement that provides an expected kick to the PR belly of Europe's financial and social capital? This is a prep year for London, preparing for the spotlight in 2012. The fashion is more Berlin by the day, and the city's sloane rangers will soon have electric Range Rovers to toodle around the congestion charges. Property prices seem to have stabilized and are even creeping back up, its a student mecca (that features white-hot hostels) and Knightsbridge is set for a rejuvenation with the opening of One Hyde Park - the world's most expensive apartments, of which the 140 Million penthouse buyer has remained out of sight. If its good enough for him...

10. San Francisco (2010 Rank: 3)

The smart money is always on (or in) San Francisco, because the city's most valuable occupation is building the future. That hasn't changed, and all the great things that make San Francisco what it is remain. But like Nancy Pelosi, its easy to get taken down a few notches when you're in the spotlight. Such is the case with San Francisco, eclipsed by a global race for resources, a decidedly populist vibe in the air, and a wholesale balance of power adjustment to places that aren't America. Such is life. Maybe its just a myopic, steady as she goes kind of year.

11. Singapore (2010 Rank: 14)

Let's see here: booming urban core (check) centrally planned environmental focus (check) good for families (check), raucous casino based nightlife (really?). Yes, Singapore still has a reputation for oversized blazers and tightly buttoned, sweaty collars, but aside from the infernal, stultifying, never-ending heat, its an awesome place to be. Singapore has everything for success, and a fun community of globally minded people. Sure its still a little slower than Hong Kong, but these days, that's just another word for lifestyle, especially as you float on your back in an infinity pool, staring at the neon city below, as a DJ belts out the tunes at Ku D Ta next door. Its not Ibiza. Really. But you could forget, for a minute.

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12. Tokyo (2010 Rank: 15)

The virtualization of the Japanese population continues unabated, with a population so focused on virtual life that the real world can be described as marginally important in some areas. Japan has a funny way of going its own way, and as Korea and China continue to move up the value chain in production, its harder for Japan to seem dominant, even relevant on a global scale. Tokyo has yet to figure out the next move, but it seems likely whatever it is, it will be played out virtually, in a virtualized version of the city. A stronger yen is giving the Japanese a bigger role than in years past, and the economy looks set for a good year.

13. Zurich (2010 Rank: 6)

Rich rich rich. What can we say. All the bankers have gone to Zurich and Geneva. While Geneva is probably a little more fun and laid back, Zurich offers a nice mix of lifestyle, serious business and quality of life. Switzerland has consolidated its position as a base for the global elite, and Zurich is the place to be if you are a banker, or trying to sell anything to one. Zurich edges out Geneva largely because of transportation location - its easier to get around Switzerland from here than its sister to the south. The only problem? Everyone still hates on bankers.

14. Beijing (2010 Rank: 11)

Beijing has adjusted to its status as a global multipower hotseat. A spectacular array of development projects continue unabated, and aside from pressing environmental stresses, the city is simply building, everywhere, everyday. China's growth story of course continues, but growth is dropping to just under 10% this year. As such, the capital is doing a good job of managing real returns relative to eroding values from inflation.

15. Moscow (Returning, 2008 Rank: 15)

At what point does new money become establishment money? From Mexico to Thailand, today's affluent Russians are making their presence felt, and such influence comes home to roost in Moscow. This is especially true in contemporary art, where new respect is the word of the moment, not just for buyers but for Russian art at large (with some thanks to Dasha). While the city remains stark in architectural terms, a new spate of development in the social scene, restaurants and more is putting the city on the map. Moscow was never hit as hard by the crisis, but hasn't been a safe haven either. Even Putin seems to be in a good mood. This year's lean toward traditional influence, coupled with opportunities, makes Moscow a must.

16. Mexico DF: (2010 Rank: 17)

Mexico City keeps inching up the list, this time helped by new initiatives from the Mexican government to turn the capital into a renewable energy leader. From a plan to retrofit the entire country's lighting to low emitting compact fluorescent, and new ideas to save protected areas, its like Mexico has decided on a macro policy of leapfrog. As the Internet continues to democratize access to information, Mexico City will benefit with a faster moving collective view. Its progress.

17. Capetown: (2010 Rank: 13)

Last year was Capetown's first appearance on the list, helped by the World Cup and other factors. Africa is hot - for investment, business, and increasingly for leisure. Capetown sits at the African apex of lifestyle - nowhere on the continent compares - and its evolution into not just a South African haven, but a haven for the region, makes it well positioned for the year ahead. Watch the real estate - its on the climb once again as Africa comes more into focus.

18. Istanbul: (2010 Rank: 18)

As turmoil roils the Middle East, Turkey's secular, progressive culture is an increasingly crucial example of moderate Islam, of which there are fewer good examples. Changes in North Africa and the Gulf are diverting investment into Turkey, where the situation is still considered moderately secure. Turkey has always been its own thing - straddled between Asia and Europe and never really either. Istanbul is busy building its own future, and the more stable it stays, the more powerful it will become. And summer? The Best!

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19. Abu Dhabi (2010 Rank: 20)

Abu Dhabi continues its ascent relative to Dubai, which is still reeling from the financial crisis and experiencing something of a continued existential moment. Why does it exist? Abu Dhabi exists, and it doesn't ask the question - it just spends its way to the answer, with a set of reserves that don't show any intention of abating. Thought leadership is now firmly on the agenda. From the Zayed Future Energy Prize (gaining steam) to a continued open door to investments, Abu Dhabi is serious about building a global city for the 21st century. It may not be coolest place on Earth, but its certainly on its way toward the hottest.

20. Rio de Janeiro (New)

What would a smart city look like? What if you could reboot a city, reinventing its processes for a new century? This is just what Rio is trying to do, and it makes the list for the first time because here we see potential. Rio has enjoyed recent wins - from the Olympics to the Earth Summit, but these projects mask something bigger: Rio is moving toward a corporatized city-state, where key urban infrastructure is being handed to private companies. From IBM to Veolia, large scale intelligent systems are being developed to tackle everything from crime to water purification. Together, these developments point the way toward corporatized city states, something we should all be looking at with wary eye. The Rio model is the future, and it debuts here with a great big question mark. Will it improve the lives of its citizens, or simply enslave them to Wall Street earnings?
Falling off the list: Washington DC, Copenhagen, Buenos Aires.
New: Stockholm and Rio de Janeiro
Returning: Moscow
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