The City Authentic: How the Attention Economy Builds Urban America

Univ. of California. Apr. 2023. 222p. ISBN 9780520383456. pap. $26.95. SOC SCI
Banks (globalization studies, Univ. of Albany) describes how governments in formerly industrial cities publicize their historical heritage to attract residents and encourage economic growth. He focuses on efforts to brand these places as “authentic” and as sites for an urbane, hipster lifestyle. The strategy is two-fold: attract young, highly educated residents with discretionary income to create a lively downtown, and offer inexpensive land to businesses that will invest capital and create jobs. To document this dual quest, Banks draws on evidence from reports and interviews with the many “booster” organizations that exist in the Capital District region surrounding Albany, NY. His suggestion that this particular city initiative works, however, is unconvincing. Banks is more compelling when unraveling the rationale for authenticity’s presence in economic development and delving into its synergy with influencers and social media. He concludes that the best course of action is “to disperse with authenticity talk altogether” and reimagine everything about identity formation, consumption, and culture.
VERDICT An academic inquiry into the contemporary manufacturing of urban identity, best for advanced students of media and urban development.
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