Chapter 2 Introduction

To date, very few academic papers - except for Campin & Marshall’s (2017) UCL Laboratory report on LGBT cultural infrastructure - have researched the impact of cultural infrastructure in London, let alone approach the debate with quantitative reasoning. In particular, there has been a dearth of geospatial analysis in the CCI as noted by Bakhshi, Lee & Mateos-Garcia (2014). Increased access to data and computational and statistical tools for econometrics and spatial data science offers a solution to articulate in more detail the value and impact of art and culture in London and, when applied to digital humanities and cultural data, is leading to a new discipline: cultural data science.

The aim of this research is to empirically capture the impact of cultural infrastructure on neighbourhoods in London by leveraging multilinear, spatial lag and geographically weighted regression models. Data from the GLA’s Cultural Infrastructure Map provides information on over 10,000 cultural venues in London and over 240,000 Airbnb data points from Inside Airbnb are used as a proxy for the supply (the number of Airbnb listings supplied by hosts) and demand (the number of reviews given by visitors) of economic activity in neighbourhoods. Furthermore, user-generated ratings and reviews from the Google Place API are utilised as proxies for sociocultural activity.

This study presents a unique way of measuring the impact of cultural infrastructure on local economies in London; although, it is acknowledged that other indicators of the local economy, such as the business density, retail stores and residential development, should be considered in future research. The initial findings of this study conclude that increased density of cultural infrastructure in a neighbourhood positively contributes to both the supply and demand of Airbnb listings. Moreover, the attractiveness of the cultural infrastructure contributes to a multiplier effect.

This study will be important for urban planners, construction companies and policy makers who want to empirically and spatially understand the effect that cultural infrastructure has on a local economy. However, the debate is much more nuanced and there are several limitations of this study that are considered and that could be overcome with additional data and further research.