OT: Who's Your City?

22 Mar 2008 - 11:41am
6 years ago
4 replies
528 reads
Dan Saffer
2003

For those of you in the "I can work anywhere" camp, here's Richard
Florida's counterargument:

<http://www.newsweek.com/id/124550>

NEWSWEEK: The conventional wisdom is that, with technologies that
allow us to work from anywhere, place is mattering less and less. Why
is that not the case, and how are we getting it wrong?

FLORIDA: What I realized after studying this for a couple of decades
is that no one's ever really given advice about how important the
place you choose to live is. We now know that place is really
important. It's part of a triangle of career, family, and the place
you live. You know, people said the same thing about trade and
technology making place less important when the telegraph was
invented. But what we found in our research is that 40 million
Americas move each year, and 15 million make really significant moves
50 to 100 miles out of the county they live in. That's a lot. And
young people with high levels of education are the most likely to
move. I call this the "brain migration" or the "means migration." In
the past, mostly every city had the same profile of people: some
college graduates, some graduate school graduates, some high school
graduates, some high school dropouts. But now more and more highly
educated people are moving to a smaller number of cities.

What does that mean for a given city?

In a place like San Francisco or Washington, D.C., about 50 percent of
the total population in those regions is composed of people with a
college degree or more. A place like Detroit might have 10 or 12
percent. And it's not just educational profile. What we're also seeing
is a migration of people with a certain personality type. They want to
have a new thrill, experience new things, and be in an interesting
neighborhood. They're also the kind of people most likely to create
new innovations, whether that's in music or film or high technology.
Those people are seeking out a certain number of places, like greater
New York, greater Washington, greater Boston, San Francisco, Los
Angeles. So from a technology point of view, there's a link between
where people migrate and the psychology of those people, and where
people innovate and create new ventures.

Sounds like this is all due to those very same technological
innovations—teleconferencing, Internet access, etc.—that led people to
the "world is flat" idea that you're refuting.

Technology makes the world smaller, but it also makes the world
spikier. I'm not arguing against Thomas Friedman, but saying there's
this additional force. I think he and others are aware of it, but I
think people have glossed over it. Economic activity is not only
becoming more concentrated but also more specialized. New York is
great in fashion design and investment banking. San Francisco's great
in software. L.A.'s great in entertainment technology. And Nashville
is the epicenter of music production. So if you want to pursue a given
career, it's not just that you can make it in any big city, because
now there is a smaller number of big cities that will be the key
places for you.

Comments

24 Mar 2008 - 8:05am
.pauric
2006

My day job is working for a software & hardware OEM with both in-house
design centers in the UK, India & China as well as ODM relationships
in places like Israel & Taiwan.

The level of overhead introduced with time-zone & distance has proven
highly detrimental to many of the programs I've worked on. There are
tricks & techniques to communicating design over distances &
languages, however, in the end its an extra constraint at the cost of
producing the best design possible.

After 12 years of designing within an increasingly 'outsourced'
business model I've concluded that flat-world thinking cannot be
applied within a particular silo, in my case development. It will
work when manufacturing is in one country, finance in another
location etc... it does not work when you have 'low cost'
implementers following high level architecture from 7500 miles away,
everyone under the banner of development.

Also, somewhat anecdotal as I dont have too much experience
consulting, I have worked from a wed 2.0 company on the west coast,
I'm in Boston, and that too has proved difficult at times. At a
high level its quite easy to wade in to a design and make progress,
but when it comes to crossing the t's and dotting the i's there is
nothing better than being in the same room as those who implement.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=27477

24 Mar 2008 - 8:59am
Dave Malouf
2005

I think there are a lot of issues that are related to locale. I think
the "world is flat" is both true and false. I think that Pauric's
insights from his experience match my own, but I have seen/heard of
groups like Slideshare.net that have been really successful with
distributed teams as well. I've been struggling myself to try to
figure out why I'm failing at my attempts thus far. My #1 conclusion
so far has been cultural differences around communication styles.

But this is NOT what Florida is talking about. What he is alluding to
is more about creating cultural loci around different types of
creatives, and how these loci in and of themselves create critical
masses that permeate the entire geographical area where they exist.
They are also not exclusionary. The example of NYC being both finance
and advertising (and I'll throw in there media) is a great example of
this.

To Dan's implied point about SF being an all important area for
interaction design, one cannot disagree with the overall premise, but
having done my share of SF Bay living, I have to say that it is
technological in nature and not design oriented. As a designer, NYC
offers access to the broadest array of design disciplines.

I do not think that Florida's work is suggesting that these loci
lead to limited opportunities based on geography. This to me is very
separate.

I would also point out how different types of co-located loci lead to
an intermingling of culture. The high pressure of finance in NYC mixes
into the advert and media worlds which in turn mix into the culture of
other non loci industries that are embedded in NYC. The Advertising
concept of "summer fridays" permeates into the not-for-profit world
for example, as families are effected when one spouse has the perk and
another doesn't. I have never heard of "summer fridays" in any
other city I have lived in or visited or have peers working in.

Anyway, lots of food for thought.

BTW, there were other things besides "professional" that Florida
was discussing in the interview that are also very important that
effect the total lifestyle of an individual.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=27477

24 Mar 2008 - 9:31am
Dan Saffer
2003

On Mar 23, 2008, at 11:59 PM, David Malouf wrote:

> To Dan's implied point about SF being an all important area for
> interaction design, one cannot disagree with the overall premise, but
> having done my share of SF Bay living, I have to say that it is
> technological in nature and not design oriented. As a designer, NYC
> offers access to the broadest array of design disciplines.

I wasn't suggesting that SF is all-important to our industry (and
neither, I think, would Florida). Rather that certain "hubs" like SF,
NYC, London, Bangalore, and probably a handful of others that I bet
are very overly-represented on this list, contain a high proportion of
both talent and opportunity.

> I do not think that Florida's work is suggesting that these loci
> lead to limited opportunities based on geography. This to me is very
> separate.

Actually, I think that is exactly what he is saying. Place--physical,
geographic location--matters. If you aren't in one of these hubs, your
opportunities will be much more limited. Making the choice to live in
a place other than one of the hubs for your industry likely means
choosing another aspect of your life over your career. (Which in turn,
could be detrimental to other aspects of your life later on, but
that's another thread.)

> I would also point out how different types of co-located loci lead to
> an intermingling of culture. The high pressure of finance in NYC mixes
> into the advert and media worlds which in turn mix into the culture of
> other non loci industries that are embedded in NYC. The Advertising
> concept of "summer fridays" permeates into the not-for-profit world
> for example, as families are effected when one spouse has the perk and
> another doesn't. I have never heard of "summer fridays" in any
> other city I have lived in or visited or have peers working in.

This is one of the reasons place matters. In NYC and London, you get a
mingling of ideas from advertising and finance. In Los Angeles or
Mumbai, film and television. Etc.

Dan

24 Mar 2008 - 9:53am
jrrogan
2005

I have experienced and basically completely agree with Florida, on this
concept of "spikier=successful" locations of work, where the team proximity
is directly related to success.

I have some disagreement with Dave's notes that "cultural" issues cause lack
of success, as if this was the case, almost every job I have worked on would
have been a complete disaster.

For example, I now work in an office, day in day out, directly with Indians,
Canadians, Chinese, Russians, Israelis, Arabs, Americans - (which are barely
the cultural majority), French, South Africans, South Americans, and a
smattering of other nationals. If homogeneous culture was the determinant
factor for success, we would be totally lost.

I have found, (almost always), that proximity overcomes many obstacles. We
just had a design issue/session, which had multiple POV's, 6 proposed
solutions and an optimal outcome, all in the period of 20 mins. If the team
was dispersed, I don't believe we could have even framed the problem in a
way all stakeholders understood all nuances, in an entire morning.

I would also say that working in a "spiky" city, NYC, brings like minds
together and this mindset of people who desire to live in these "spiky
places, along with proximity, overcomes many obstacles.

Rich

On Mon, 24 Mar 2008 06:59:44, David Malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:
>
> My #1 conclusion
> so far has been cultural differences around communication styles.
>
>
>
> --
> Joseph Rich Rogan
> President UX/UI Inc.
> http://www.jrrogan.com

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