Saturday, August 04, 2012

Creative Class Flat World Geography

A feature of Creative Class migration is the agglomeration of talent in a few cities. The world is spiky, not flat. (Read an academic paper that digs into the debate between Richard Florida (Spiky) and Thomas Friedman (Flat) here.) High rent be damned. You must live in New York City or even Austin, Texas.

A few exceptions do not undermine the rule. But if we could establish a pattern to those anecdotes, such as why an artist would leave Toronto or Austin, then we would begin to build a case that the world is flat. Katherine Losse's journey after leaving the Hotel California (i.e. Facebook):

After quitting in summer 2010, Losse decided to move to Austin, known for its vibrant cultural scene and lefty sensibilities. But on the way, she stopped over in Marfa, a cow-town-turned-artists-colony on an austere desert plateau three hours from the nearest city.

After Austin proved too crowded and expensive for Losse’s taste, she returned to Marfa and bought an adobe house. And she got a shiny aluminum Airstream trailer that let her get even farther away when the mood struck.

There, away from the clamor of her former life, she would write her book — something she called “an act of resistance.” She took it as an unexpected blessing that Marfa’s weak cellphone coverage could not sustain enough data flow for her to Tweet directly from her iPhone.

Marfa was just a dusty ranching town when minimalist artist Donald Judd moved here in the 1970s, drawn by the entrancing landscape and the chance to escape the hectic, claustrophobic New York art scene. Other artists gradually followed, many on fellowships from the foundations that set up here, and Marfa developed into a bustling, if unlikely, cultural center.

By the time Losse came around in January 2011, Marfa featured fine dining, its own NPR station and more than its share of digital connections.

Emphasis added. In Marfa, Losse could have the best of Austin without the crowds and expense. The world is flat, not spiky. For artists, there are a bunch of places like this, where you don't give up anything to get away from it all. If you prefer the urban experience, you can live in Hamilton or Pittsburgh instead of Toronto or New York City. Mesofacts help keep the world looking spiky, which opens up tremendous geographic arbitrage opportunities.

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