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Turk Shoaib is originally from Saudi Arabia, and joined Oxford Brookes in 2012. His thesis title is 'Globalization and Urban Development in Saudi Arabia: Place Branding in Economic Cities'.
My selection of University was based on an internet search I conducted of relevant programs in Real Estate from a development perspective with an emphasis on place identity and image.
The specialized postgraduate program in Real Estate along with the excellent staff at the University were the two main reasons for choosing Brookes. Additionally, the location and academic environment in Oxford and the proximity to London were also influencing factors.
I have a background in Architecture and a postgraduate degree in Business and Marketing from the United States. This led me to a professional career in Real Estate Development in the Middle East, Europe and Asia, specifically where it relates to Marketing, Place Branding and Image.
I think it was quite easy to integrate into the research environment as the course provides the support, resources, training and environment needed for postgraduate students to succeed.
Globalization is spatially expressed through a global network of cities. In order to be competitive, cities must have the ability to attract investment, business, and residents. A city can gain competitive advantage when its government is able to define the different elements of a city and its public image. Currently, existing city marketing frameworks are geared towards promotional strategies for existing places. However, they do not take into account the development of identity and image for planned cities that are without an existing urban fabric or population. Therefore place-branding frameworks for new cities constitute a gap in the existing literature, which can be seen as a potential contribution to new knowledge. My research aims to identify critical elements of place branding for new cities competing for investment and residents while promoting a more open socio-cultural environment.
My research will be grounded in two different areas of knowledge. The first is Globalization, specifically how it relates to cities, competition, and the economic and socio-cultural environment in the Middle East. The second is Place Branding, which will be studied to understand the theories involved in developing identity and image and the existing frameworks that identify, develop, and measure the value of a place brand in existing cities. Additionally, the research will explore theories of image representation and analysis of promotional elements through ideology and discourse analysis. Place branding frameworks are an important component of an urban area’s marketing strategy as they directly affect the economic growth of a city. These elements are mainly based on the development and promotion of the existing characteristics of a city, such as urban fabric or population. But without existing characteristics these frameworks will not yield the same type of positive branding results. As new cities are already being developed around the world, mainly for economic reasons, the success of these cities depends on attracting investment, businesses, and residents to make them viable urban areas.
My proposed research seeks to understand how different representations and perceptions of place in new economic cities in Saudi Arabia are developed and perceived across different target groups, with the ultimate goal of making these cities more attractive to investors and future residents. As each geographic, political, socio-cultural situation is different, the focus of the study will be on a specific region, the Middle East, with a focus on a single country, namely Saudi Arabia, which is presently building six new cities. Saudi Arabia’s integration into globalization from a socio-cultural perspective will be explored through an Actor–Network theoretical lens. As the situation is socially, religiously and politically unique, different human and non-human actors need to be linked together to understand the relational ties within the network that develops and controls place branding in new economic cities. To understand this complex structure we need to look at the different relationships that exist between material objects and semiotic concepts that create the city entity.
Saudi Arabia’s new economic cities embody this relationship structure more so than other places as they are limited in their spatial and urban components, being in the beginning phases of development. They are new cities that have yet to develop any substantial urban form or fabric but are being promoted through place branding to exemplify a certain identity. As these cities are a part of a larger strategic vision targeting national growth and diversification, their goals and objectives are more complex than a typical development project. The decision to use the Actor Network Theory (ANT), a material-semiotic method, reflects this unique type of development, which cannot be simplified by just exploring economic, social, or political motives alone but needs to be investigated by looking at a combination of different actors and networks and how they interact to develop identity and image for these cities.
The main thing I enjoy about being a research student is the freedom to completely focus on a topic I am passionate about. But that focus can also be a negative at times as it is easy to get bored. The best way I have found to overcome these feelings, is to have a clear structure that breaks the research into easily defined segments and to treat each one as an individual project.
I think that Brookes has a strong research support system in place, but it is up to each individual student to seek it out and take advantage of it.
I plan to work in Real Estate Development in the Middle East and Asia, in a specialized consulting role that focuses on the branding of projects and new cities.