By Joel Kotkin
From one of America’s most credible and visionary forecasters the first look at how the digital revolution is changing where and how we live and work in the bricks-and-mortar world. Historically unprecedented forces are at work buffeting cities, suburbs, and towns across the country. In The New Geography, internationally renowned economic and social-trend forecaster Joel Kotkin takes their first full measure. Kotkin focuses on the digital revolution’s surprising impact on cities: their traditional role as the centers of creativity and the crossroads for trade and culture is becoming ever more essential in a globalized information-age economy.
But there will be big winners and big losers among them, and Kotkin explains which cities are best equipped to thrive and which are fated to decline. He also identifies new species of communities: Nerdistans—high-end, self-contained, office park-oriented suburbs, built to be attractive to a certain class of techie, and Valhallas, wealthy rural enclaves for information-age plutocrats.
The New Geography is a brilliant beachhead onto a subject that affects us all.
Now that the information industry—from media and entertainment to telecommunications and computers—has become a critical source of wealth, Kotkin explores how it has affected this country’s human geography. By its very mobility, the industry frees both homes and businesses from the tyranny of past requirements to be near ports, roads, rails, or raw materials. “Companies and people now locate not where they must but where they will,” Kotkin concludes reasonably.
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For years we’ve been hearing about how the Internet would revolutionize the way people live and work. Now Joel Kotkin gives us a book about the Internet’s influence on where people live and work. The New Geography highlights what makes some locations more attractive than others in this digital age. Using easy to understand terms, quotes from people in the know, and page after page of demographic data and examples, Kotkin separates the modern and desirable “nerdistans” from the overbuilt and decaying cities that were so often associated with success. Because today’s connected workers can live anywhere they want, they will live anywhere they want.
If city leaders are serious about attracting new businesses and the affluent citizens those businesses bring, Kotkin’s book is a must read. I found it particularly valuable because I am a newly transplanted resident in an up and coming nerdistan. Having recently attended a lecture by Kotkin, I can say I know what he’s talking about. Other readers will too. The New Geography is a little scholarly and dry for five stars, but a very informative book indeed.