Rethinking the City: Alex Cummings on the Creative City

I spoke with Alex Cummings for Rethinking the City about his research on the creative city. For years the concept of the creative class has been at the center of how some planners and urban advocates have promoted revitalizing urban centers. In this conversation, Alex Cummings unpacks the complexity around the fallacy linked to the creative city concept. 

Dr. Cummings is a historian of law, technology, and American political culture. His work examines how the ideological transition to an “information society” reshaped American culture, economic policy, and the built environment from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first century. He earned his BA in History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and went on to receive an MA (2005) and PhD (2009) in History from Columbia University, studying with Elizabeth Blackmar and Barbara Fields.

His first book, Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright in the Twentieth Century, was published by Oxford University Press in 2013, and has been reviewed in publications such as PasteBlurtReason, Pop Matters, and Entertainment Law Review, among others. His next project, Brain Magnet: RTP and the Idea of the Idea Economy, looks at North Carolina’s Research Triangle region as a landscape of the high-tech economy of the late twentieth century. It approaches the same economic and technological shift that Democracy of Sound examined through law by looking instead at local boosterism, the role of the federal government in fostering high-technology “hubs” such as the Triangle, and the changing racial and class demographics of the prosperous, sprawling metropolitan area encompassing Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Durham. His article, “Brain Magnet: Research Triangle Park and the Origins of the Creative City, 1953-1965,” is forthcoming in the Journal of Urban History.

Dr. Cummings has been the recipient of the Torbet Prize, a Whiting Fellowship, a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, and a Dean’s Early Career Award at Georgia State University.  His work has appeared in the Journal of American HistorySouthern Cultures, and Technology and Culture, among other publications. He is also the co-editor of the history blog Tropics of Meta.