The Evolution of City Labelling in the Literature

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Research purpose. Various city labels have become increasingly popular both in literature as well as in urban policy-making. It has become relatively common that cities make a proclamation that they either are or would at least like to become, smart, sustainable, digital, creative, intelligent among other things. These proclamations have become popular for the purpose of solving complex urban problems, electoral gains at the local level, and also for marketing reasons. Nevertheless, those city labels often have a blurry line, in terms of what each label represents and should stand for. It is evident that utilising appropriate city categories and labels has become a rather complex issue. Consequently, this paper would like to investigate this issue. The paper questions the dynamics how different city labels were used throughout the time and to which academic fields are specific city labels related to.

Design / Methodology / Approach. We would like to investigate the dynamics how different city labels were used throughout time and which academic fields are specifically related to labels most frequently. For this purpose, we will focus on the content analysis of topics and titles within the Web of Science Core Collection database.

Findings. The evidence suggests that the labelling depends also on the time span we are scrutinising and also on the scientific field the literature being related to. Some city labels have become popular just recently, and their appearance in specific academic fields is the differentiator. For instance, the label ‘smart city’ is currently the most important label. But it has become popular only several years ago, and this label appears most frequently in the ‘technical’ literature. The research indicates that city labelling is a rather dynamic process, since some labels are gaining and other labels are losing their popularity in time.

Originality / Value / Practical implications. The debate exists in the literature on the suitability of different city labels and terminology utilised. Some labels derive from top-down perspective, others derive from bottom-up perspective, some labels are more holistic than others, some are politically more acceptable than others, etc. Simultaneously, those city labels are often used interchangeably and sometimes they overlap. This paper would like to contribute to the scientific literature by providing additional evidence and explanations on the utilisation of particular city labels.

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