Branding, Digital Media and Urban Atmospherics
In this paper I argue that branding is an atmospheric project. Brands create urban atmospheres that integrate the creative and affective capacities of humans, the technical power of media devices, and the material infrastructure of privileged spaces like cultural festivals, nightlife precincts and cultural precincts. I suggest a critique of branding that sets aside ideological critique of the advertising and public relations collateral of governments and urban developers. Branding is much more than the symbolic promotion of utopian visions of privileged pampering zones for the global middle class. In the era of digital media, branding is more productively understood as an engineering project. Brands engineer the interplay between the creative and the smart city, between the open-ended creativity of humans and the data processing power of media. Algorithmic brand culture imagines urban spaces as sophisticated ‘climate-control’ systems. I consider some of the intriguing logics at play here: The visions of marketers who are engineering a mode of branding that bypasses symbolic persuasion in favour of engineering the affective atmosphere of urban experience, including the creative and political possibilities of interventions that might target atmospheres and their infrastructure, rather than just the promotional rhetoric of creative and smart cities.