Innovation Districts, Entrepreneurial Living, and the Economization of Life

Authors: Carla Maria Kayanan*, University of Michigan
Topics: Urban Geography, Economic Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: innovation districts, entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial living, production, mobile workforce, entrepreneurial turn
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: 8217, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Across the globe, economic developers and policymakers are building innovation districts, master planned developments to concentrate the actors, entities, and infrastructure considered essential to process and product innovation (Katz & Wagner, 2014). In this theoretical paper, I use the imaginary of the innovation district and the planning process to materialize it to interrogate extractive logics of contemporary capitalism. I argue that within the rhetoric of the innovation district –that of an alleged openness for talented individuals who will create new apps for the platform economy, entrepreneurs will ideate and scale, and research laboratories will propel a healthier future—a narrowness exists. First, the design of the innovation district assists in obscuring the boundary between work and home life, and between the public and private realm, making the urban fabric a cubicle for continuous on-demand work. This ‘economization of life’ (Murphy, 2017) encourages self-transformation into human capital for financial gain (McRobbie, 2016). Second, an assemblage of actors, from the state level to local growth coalitions, eagerly encourage ‘entrepreneurial living’ (Lindtner, 2017), a practice of self-provisioning that shifts risk from the state to the individual and exacerbates issues of precarity for the entrepreneur sitting squarely within the concentrated space of the live-work-laboratory ( Lindtner & Avle, 2017). And third, the economic output of the activity occurring within the innovation district prompts questions on forms of ‘rentiership’ (Birch, 2017) versus entrepreneurship, considerations of value capture versus value creation (Mazzucato, 2018), and concerns over who profits and who loses from this economic development strategy.

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