Tag Archives: London

Capital Flight: Why London is Sleepwalking into Obscurity

Regular readers of this blog will by now be more than aware that we at Mediolana harbour a deep sense of attachment towards our city of incorporation. Nevertheless, we are not blind to at least some of its darker realities, and the news that the financial, legal and cultural capital of not just the United Kingdom but arguably Western Europe has suffered biological leakage to the tune of over 80,000 people in a single year does not remotely surprise us.

It is all too easy – and logical – to point the finger at the Brexit ‘decision’ and ‘process’ for this decline. But this allocation of blame is ultimately unsatisfactory, and fails to recognise the deeper, structural problems which have needlessly blighted life in London for far too long; in particular, if the following deficiencies continue to remain unaddressed, one of the most iconic urban areas anywhere in the world could slide into a permanent population recession:

  1. Bad value. The most obvious issue confronting London today is that it offers sensationally awful value for money when to comes to the bare necessities. Specifically, the cost of both public transportation and housing – neither of which are world-class, taken as a whole – is nothing less than an insult to the intelligence. Most people can only take so much of this before they begin to wonder whether there might not be a better way of doing things.
  2. Zero capitalism. Connected to (1), municipal and city-wide authorities alike have lost sight of the need of industry for reasonably-priced land and buildings. As copiously demonstrated in metropolitan units from Berlin to Barcelona, the manufacturing and creative industries of the future can flourish in unlikely locations – as long as they are not smothered by anti-competitive rent-seekers.
  3. No time this time. Compounding it all is a profound sense of time-and-motion sickness: in the insane rush to get to wherever it is they think they are going, Londoners – especially, though not exclusively, those in the professional classes – are readily exchanging quality of life for that extra bit of speed and purported glitz. Friendships, relationships and transcendence have been swapped for an even-faster smartphone. But the messages on the screen are getting increasingly contentless.

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Filed under Economics, Finance, Urban Life

Going Public: What Reinventing Paris Can Teach London

That the Internet is in the process of transforming many sectors is by now a truism, but this fact does not make the phenomenon any less real; moreover, the depth of the potential for what is ultimately just a series of networked computers to improve everyday lived experience cannot be underestimated. Reinventing Paris – a scheme to revitalise 37 acres of disused public space in one of the world’s most iconic metropolises – is emblematic of the new possibilities.

The central concept: Paris is a city with vast swathes of publically-owned land which has been lying empty for decades; these parcels include shuttered Métro stations, parking basements and nightclubs. Moreover, much of this land is located in central locations, and is aesthetically notable: perfect for being turned into restaurants, galleries and other leisure venues. Anne Hidalgo – the Parti socialiste Mayor of Paris – has, through the medium of the Web, opened an international competition to canvas ideas for the future uses of this valuable resource.

After some contemplation, we at Mediolana believe that the dual-national Paris leader is onto something, and that London needs to take note of three points from this exercise:

  1. Public Land ≠ Get Rich Quick Scheme. Over the last decade in particular, too much of London’s state-owned land has been sold off to property developers whose express purpose is to annihilate the general citizenry’s access to it. Any alternative to not constructing dehumanising residential towers – parks, lakes, sporting and cultural amenities – does not seem to have penetrated the discourse. This can and must change.
  2. Innovate. At least since the end of Ken Livingstone’s reign at the helm of London’s City Hall, the United Kingdom’s capital has been desperately short of municipal creativity. Boris Johnson – who somehow held the post of mayor for eight years – did not follow through on his one Big Idea, the New Routemaster for London, on which conductors were abandoned; while it is somewhat early to evaluate the Sadiq Khan administration, the signs on this front are not encouraging. Being a twenty-first century mayor cannot be just about overseeing longstanding infrastructure projects; it is about being brave, visionary and prolific in generating concrete ideas to improve people’s lives.
  3. Internationalise. Part of why London – despite being a genuine world capital – is often way behind cities with a fraction of its population and profile when it comes to governance is that its media culture is centralised and insular: it has just a single daily newspaper, and this title shows little if any interest in making its readers aware of urban best practice from around the globe. Given London’s extraordinarily talented international population, this is nothing short of a scandal; every step should be taken to collate, publicise and implement what cities from Istanbul to Tokyo are doing better than us – and take it to the next level.

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Filed under Creativity, Environment, Urban Life

Transparency, International: Five Reasons Why Monocle’s Annual Soft Power Survey Needs Reexamining

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Firmly entrenched as we now are in the era of emergent big data, barely a week seems to pass without some kind of new rankings list – in areas from academic attainment to public transportation system safety – being published. Many of these are indubitably worthy, but one of the great recent additions to this panoply is Monocle’s Soft Power Survey (‘MSPS’). The MSPS orders countries by their performance in the arena of soft power, a concept that encompasses fields such as culture, education and innovation, and which deserves far greater prominence, particularly when contrasted with its costly and increasingly insane military counterpart.

This being said, for any index to carry a high level of authority, its rankings have to be both comprehensible and justifiable; on reading its latest iteration (Power Play, 12/16-01/17), we at Mediolana – after some contemplation – think there are at least five reasons why Monocle’s Soft Power Survey desperately requires reexamination (and quite possibly recalibrating):

  1. We’re Number One. The United States (position: 1) has been placed at the pinnacle of the index after a year in which its political system has – after decades of decline – well-and-truly jumped the shark, with much of the rest of the world looking on in much the same way as observers to a car crash. This choice alone jeopardises the value of the entire index, and begs the question: what exactly would the US have to do to rank poorly? In truth, Brand America has arguably never quite recovered from the humanitarian and fiscal sinkhole of the present series of Middle Eastern conflicts; how Monocle can attribute more weight to a Beyoncé album than to (unmentioned) deep structural problems is a genuine mystery.
  2. Oh, Those Russians. Almost as baffling as America’s ascension to the top of the MSPS is Russia’s non-placement – it does not make the cut of 25 ranked nations. Again, this seems scarcely credible: the Russian Federation has won the hosting rights for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, arguably the most potent soft power event of all; moreover, the nation clearly punches above its weight in the news media sector, even if not all its organs are necessarily outlets of record. And in sectors as diverse as fashion (think: Irina Shayk) and education (where there is a serious, long-term plan to propel its HE sector into the elite category), Russia is enough of a player to make its exclusion from a soft power index difficult to understand.
  3. Blood on the Beachfront. Similar to the United States, Brazil (19) enjoys an augmented ranking in this year’s survey – and only Monocle knows why. 2016 saw its elected president removed from office in a manner which can charitably be described as eyebrow-raising; correspondingly massive and bitter protests; and no end in sight to the plague of senseless urban violence which casts a huge shadow over this undeniably beautiful country – and which means that Brazil at ‘peace’ rivals war-torn Syria when it comes to its annual tally of civilian murders. The ‘games’ element in the bread and games formula – soap operas, footballers and an invidious Summer Olympics – cannot paper over these these chasms.
  4. Soft Power ≠ Skiing. Austria (21) is many things – tidy, well-administered, efficient – but twenty-first century soft power giant it is not. A generally stable and functional political system aside, it is in fact a real struggle to think of any heavyweight soft power assets in this Alpine nation’s possession, so its inclusion in the MSPS – just behind China (20), but ahead of India (24) – does little to dispel the idea that this index is, at least in places, borderline arbitrary.
  5. Our Absent Friends. As well as Russia, there are other absentees from the Soft Power Survey which do not inspire confidence in the index’s criteria. Unlike Brazil (with which it shares a number of similarities), Mexico is a rapidly-developing culinary superpower; unlike Portugal (15), Turkey has both a twenty-four hour English-language international news network and a world-class airline; and unlike Poland (25), the United Arab Emirates is a country that connects the planet via Emirates and Etihad, and also contains no less than three global or regional hubs: Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Basic computational errors such as these must be remedied if the MSPS – which surely merits a much, much wider audience – is to reach its full potential.

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Making Relationships Great Again: From Disenchantment to Magic via Game Theory

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Notwithstanding the tumultuous socio-psychological state of today’s world, there is actually surprisingly little which keeps our Creative Director & CSO awake at night. One of the exceptions to this rule is the seemingly relentless march – particularly, though by far from exclusively, in technology-defined cities such as London – towards a post-human society in which human beings are increasingly perceived as disposable. Within the job market, robots are unquestioningly viewed as superior replacements; within wider society, immigrants and other out-groups are libellously demonised in a way that even two years ago would have seemed almost unthinkable.

The dating scene is not immune to this logic. People – real people with feelings, emotions, sensibilities and fragilities – are now routinely dismissed with not so much as a left swipe on a screen. And for those people who do get dates, the shadow of ritual humiliation is rarely too far from the surface.

In recent years, much of the analysis of post-modern dating’s sub-optimal outcomes has focused on this topic from male perspectives; while this is in some ways entirely understandable, these narratives have tended to marginalise or even ignore a genuinely disturbing phenomenon: that of women in consenting relationships being starved of affection, used and then unceremoniously discarded by men who seem incapable of forming attachments – or beyond this, even basic empathy.

It was therefore with great relief that we at Mediolana came across a recent item at FASHIONARTISTA – a beauty industry/lifestyle blog with a burgeoning and richly-merited following – which addresses this issue head-on. In Why We Are Losing Our Charm And How To Get It Back, game theory is used to great effect in illustrating how the dynamics of male-female dating interactions can be tipped back towards sanity by the latter adopting a classic ‘less skin, more charm’ strategy.

By metaphorically augmenting one’s character with a layer of mystery (and perhaps literally adding a layer of clothing to the evening brand), the terrain of the dating game can be changed from one which is primarily about sex to one which is about the quality of the human being you are having dinner with; sex does not disappear, but instead has a chance to occur at such a time when it can possess some metaphysical significance – and with this, a corresponding leap in quality and connection.

So far, so logical – but what if adoption of this strategy still ends in rejection? After some contemplation, this is where – at least for us at Mediolana – ‘less skin, more charm’ comes into its own. If a young lady is following the rest of the advice given at FASHIONARTISTA’s blog – which can best be summarised as counsel on the art of being more graceful – and there are still no takers in her social circle or dating market, then the course of action is clear. Change your social circle, change your location, change the religion and/or weltanschauung of the people you date (or even your own). Refuse to be stuck in a cycle of second-rate relationships – go to where the great guys are and be appreciated for being you in all your glory. Numbering the days of the disposable society requires nothing less.

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Filed under Culture, Psychology, Technology, Urban Life

New + Improved: 2017 Imminence ‘Inspires Mystery Makeover’!

As 2016 hurtles insanely towards its inevitable end, we at Mediolana are looking to the future – but with a bit of a twist. Our latest social media header is not only stylistically different from anything we have previously produced, but there is no customary advertising message – just a notation signifying the first half of next year in true corporate convention. H1/2017 may already be a meme worthy of its own fashion label, but what does it actually stand for? As usual, all will ultimately be revealed. Stay tuned!

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Filed under Education, Media, News, Technology

This Is Not Fare: Conductors Eliminated From London’s Bus Network!

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Filed under Environment, Politics, Urban Life

Eclipsing #London Fashion Week? A New Season Brings a New Digital Header!

As wet turns to wetter in what is still something of a global hub, we at Mediolana’s London HQ thought that it was high time to mark this seasonal switch with a new and glorious social media header. (The uninitiated can see it on our Twitter and Facebook pages, too.) It serves as a neat reminder that while the world may change beyond recognition, some constants remain – including that element of mystery. Let us know your thoughts via the usual channels. Forza!

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