What's missing from your neighbourhood?
A picture’s worth a thousand words – Part 4 Methodology & Introduction to this Series >>
Yes, it has been a while. I had to buckle down and focus on moving from a Ph.D. student to Ph.D. candidate by completing my qualifying exam. 3 hours of questions about my proposal and on anything under my three research domains of economic geography, urban geography and place branding. I will share my reading lists for each of these domains in an upcoming post as well as more about my actual proposal. For now, this post is a great intro to my research questions which you will find below.
Part 4: The neighbourhoods: Williamsville, McBurney, Portsmouth.
A quick glimpse (below) shows a huge contrast in these three neighbourhoods (much larger than reality probably) - Portsmouth is all on the water, McBurney has a green space today that was once a spooky graveyard, and Williamsville is under construction and full of apartment buildings. We know neighbourhoods are not homogenous but the density of these topics within these neighbourhood images would tell otherwise, they have almost painted an imaginary of those places as being nothing else. Even the media suggests these categories - with McBurney proving its history with photographic evidence, while Williamsville making wider use of renderings and maps to tell of a future possibility instead of a concrete current reality.
But if we scroll a little further, past the fold on the page, the fabric of each neighbourhood starts to come through, but only ever so slightly. With McBurney appealing mainly to its current residents through speaking of local history, park use and community activities; whereas Portsmouth showing assets that would attract either tourists or residents on the move such as real estate, waterfront, and cultural activities. Williamsville takes the resident attraction to an extreme with 36% of all of the images in the real estate category, and 34% of headlines relating to housing.
McBurney gets more than its fair share of media attention, whereas a major part of the image storytelling for Williamsville comes from, no surprise - realtors, and the same for Portsmouth.
I think the big question is, is this depicting the neighbourhood you know? Is this depicting the neighbourhood you want? When I lived in McBurney, I loved the park, but I also loved the schools, the neighbours, the street art throughout the neighbourhood, the proximity to downtown, the tobogganing hill behind St. Pats. When I lived in Williamsville, I loved the Memorial Centre even before it got a cool market, proximity to Vic Park and Queen's, and now it has a brewery? And when I lived near Portsmouth and taught there, I loved the cool, old hospital, I loved the arena and the local theatre, I love the Ports because of the live music. Where are these things? Perhaps this is proof that you can't really visit a place unless you've been there!
So this is a great introduction to my dissertation. Want to know what I'm studying? Here's my research questions:
1. What is a neighbourhood brand?
2. How has place branding evolved at the neighbourhood level?
3. Has (user-generated content) UGC influenced neighbourhood brands?
4. How does place branding contribute to the growing, changing, or declining neighbourhood
Next time I will wrap up this whole series by doing the last two parts together so we can get talking about other marketing and branding musings after that.
Part 5: A student town: No one would know.
Part 6: Changing the brand – where to start by looking at image sentiment.