University of California, Berkeley
Theorists of gentrification and other urban scholars have long considered the spread of upscale amenities like restaurants, cafes, and bars to be important visual indicators of gentrification in the built environment. Scholars from urban geographer Neil Smith to sociologists Sharon Zukin, Sylvie Tissot, and Richard Ocejo have demonstrated how new high-end consumption spaces can themselves become spurs to further change in an area, in an unfolding dialectic of rising cultural and real estate capital, forcing out low-income residents. In this paper, I extend this tradition to consider the role of evolving informational networks about urban consumption, from paper guidebooks like the Zagat Survey to mobile location-based service (LBS) and web mapping applications like Yelp, Foursquare, and Google Local, and their interaction with broader trends in urban inequality and sociospatial segmentation. In my research, I argue that changes in the production and distribution of spatial data about urban amenities help to accelerate gentrification and residential displacement, as the use value of local businesses like gourmet restaurants and bars is quickly inscribed into digital databases and realized as exchange value in real estate and tourist markets. This paper looks at the period from 1990-2015, using data from New York’s pioneer “user-generated” restaurant guide the Zagat Survey to trace the contours of “gourmet gentrification” over time, with special attention to the accelerating rate of change in Brooklyn neighborhoods.