chapter  11
16 Pages

Knowledge Neighbourhoods: Urban Form and Evolutionary Economic Geography

ByGregory M. Spencer

Diversity is a central principle of evolutionary theory. Specifically, it is a central component of branching and recombination processes that tend to reinforce one another over time. Jane Jacobs (JACOBS, 1961, 1969, 2000) is often credited with making explicit the connections between evolutionary economic processes and local diversity arguing that sustained urban vitality depends on a constant churn of people and ideas. This view is often contrasted with what has become known as the Marshall-Arrow-Romer (MAR) view (MARSHALL, 1890; ARROW, 1962; ROMER, 1986) that local specialization is essential for sustained growth. Research from the emerging field of evolutionary economic geography has directly entered the Jacobs-MAR debate particularly with an effort to find a middle ground with the concept of ‘related variety’ (FRENKEN et al., 2007). Many studies have attempted to address this debate empirically but without achieving any semblance of consensus (BEAUDRY and SCHIFFAUEROVA, 2009). The majority of such research involves using structural indicators of industrial diversity/specialization at the regional scale in order to find statistical relationships with growth. This type of analysis, however, represents only half of the formulation presented by Jacobs who was at least as, if not more, concerned with how specific urban environments have a direct impact on social interaction and ultimately the production of knowledge. This paper takes a closer look at the evolutionary social processes of knowledge production by taking a closer look at the urban form of the neighbourhoods in which particular knowledgeintensive industries tend to be spatially concentrated.