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The New Geography: How the Digital Revolution Is Reshaping the American Landscape Hardcover – November 14, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

There's a belief that the rise of technology will make cities obsolete, as more people live where they choose and telecommute to work. The advent of portable cell phones, easy air travel, and hotel time-sharing encourages a sense of "placelessness"--and that bodes ill for urban clusters. But Joel Kotkin thinks this conventional wisdom is unwise: "The importance of geography is not dwindling to nothing in the digital era; in fact, quite the opposite. In reality, place--geography--matters now more than ever before," he writes. Cities will no longer be industrial or corporate centers, but rather magnets for intelligence and talent in a way they haven't been for quite some time. The paradigm is an old one:
Like the postindustrial metropolis, the preindustrial city, existing before the era dominated by mass production of goods and services, flourished by capitalizing on functions--such as cross-cultural trades, the arts, and specialized craft-based production--that could not be adequately performed by the far more numerically superior hinterland.
In this sense, the future city may have more in common with Venice during the Renaissance than Detroit during the Henry Ford era.

Kotkin does not believe all cities will thrive in this environment. He's particularly down on what he calls the "midopolis"--suburbs built mainly in the 1950s and 1960s to service the old-city model. They are now afflicted by crumbling infrastructures, rising crime rates, and declining schools. He cites Long Island and the San Fernando Valley as examples. New forms of city--Kotkin calls then "nerdistans"--are already rising in their place. They are self-contained suburbs that have few of the problems associated with urban cores, and they attract companies and workers tuned into the technological revolution. He names Austin, Texas, and Raleigh, North Carolina, as prototypes. Kotkin is a veteran business journalist who writes for The New York Times and other publications. He's written several other books, including Tribes, but The New Geography is his best yet: a smart combination of the reportage one expects from a top-drawer magazine article and the thoughtfulness one expects from a book. It may come to be remembered as a classic, an information-age groundbreaker with the influence of Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

A prolific journalist and technology author (Tribes, etc.), Kotkin predicts how the Internet revolution will affect the cities, suburbs and towns where people workDin a study that will appeal mainly to those interested in urban planning and business prognostications. Many commentators have noted that as the information industry grows, physical factors such as location and access to raw materials become less important. But Kotkin declares, "if people, companies, or industries can truly live anywhere... where to locate becomes increasingly contingent on the peculiar attributes of any given location." Cities big and small must have aesthetic appeal and a pleasant quality of life to attract the high concentrations of human skill that mark strength in the new economy, he says. Though one need only consider the condition of, say, Detroit to see that many cities can no longer succeed as broad industrial centers, Kotkin points out that downtowns can restyle themselves as crucial niches for arts, entertainment and health care. He outlines the inevitable rise of "nerdistans" (among the jargon he coins), lifestyle-driven developments around those cities that have managed to attract knowledge workers in the new economy. Outside the city, he warns, struggling suburbs can't replace "the centrality of the marketplace" simply by building cultural centers. The book has the air of a compilation, with Kotkin's intriguing reportage (for publications like the New York Times and Inc.) and wide-ranging observations shoehorned into a calculatedly provocative thesis about a "new" geography. Author tour.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (November 14, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375501991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375501999
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,821,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joel Kotkin is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University in Orange, California, and the Executive Editor of the widely read website He is the author, most recently, of The New Class Conflict, as well as The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, The City: A Global History, and The New Geography: How the Digital Revolution Is Reshaping the American Landscape. An internationally recognized authority on global economic, political, social, and technological trends, Kotkin is a regular contributor to The Daily Beast and, and he writes a weekly column for the Orange County Reigster, where he serves on the editorial board. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Washington Examiner, City Journal, Politico, the New York Daily News, and Newsweek.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Eric C. Sedensky VINE VOICE on January 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By George H. Garfield on September 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
A thoughtful analysis of technology's impact on society with some ideas that are worth acting upon.
While the premise of this book is not new, Kotkin's thoughtful analysis of how technology has and is changing our geography puts this book securely in the "must read" category.
Kotkin's premise is that technology is changing America's landscape as much or more than did the Industrial Revolution. While, in some respects, technology has de-personalized our society (and there are many tangible examples; the malling and sprawling of America with "category killer" retail and soulless master planned communities), it has also emerged as a great unifier causing people to seek more connection, not less. Moreover, technology has enabled more choices, particularly on where one chooses to live and work. Consequently, the notion of "place" is more important than in the past and consumers of place are more demanding and sophisticated.
What all this means is that we are seeing a very positive evolution back to "Renaissance" type cites (populated by artisans, small business and niche players enabled with technology) where place and commerce are wed. Conversely, we are also experiencing the segregation of the "haves" of technology and subsequent wealth from the "have-nots". Further segregation, Kotkin argues, will erode the very positives that are emerging.
Kotkin takes pains to organize his argument and does so by citing both historical markers (i.e.-Fall of Rome, the Dark Ages and The Enlightenment/Renaissance) with geographical categories that describe our emerging urban landscape (ie-Valhallas, Nerdistans, Urban Cores and Midopolis).
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
You've heard it said that location is everything. City planning, urban geography, explanations of agricultural patterns, and the theory of industrial location all owe their existence to German geographers who were the pioneers of location theory; men such as von Thunen, Weber and Christaller. Edward Ullman introduced the concept of central-place theory to the US before WWII. The idea then has a long history of explaining the way things are.
All that will come to an end if it's up to Joel Kotkin. He sees the new economy with its emphasis on communication and technology as permanently seperating us from our dependance on place. This isn't revolutionary, or even a new idea. The belief that technology is more important than any physical space or location has long been the mantra of the netheads of the new economy. What else are we doing but proving the reality of this when we submit and read reviews at Amazon, and participate in a community that only exists in cyberspace?
Where THE NEW GEOGRAPHY truly breaks new ground is in the argument that the information economy has two "faces". These involve different processes and business that are beneficial to the "self-contained high-end suburds" or "nerdistans" but also, and very importantly, other elements have "taken on a decidedly more urban cast." It's a fairly good book that will be enjoyable to those with interests in geography, urbanism, and technology; it's therefore broad enough but unfortunately not deep enough to really satisfy all.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Joshua D. Hamilton on June 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
When "New Geography" hit the stands, it made it for few weeks on the LA Times bestseller list, and Joel Kotkin made the rounds on the local public radio stations. He is well spoken, and his interviews where engaging, but his book doesn't hold muster. Don't get me wrong - he has an interesting thesis, but it could have been well articulated in the length of an Atlantic Monthly sized magazine article. Instead, he gives the reader filler, and rehashes what other contemporary authors have been saying about demographic trends, urban lifestyles, decaying midwestern cities, and internet workers. He also wrote this book at the crest of the internet bubble, and like most new computer technologies, it has became outdated a year's time since the bust.
Also, one final thought...
This book was written with the assumption that programers, netheads, and digital artists exist in sufficient numbers to change which cities in America live and die. It's as if this country were populated by David Brooks and his "laptop at Starbucks so they can sip their lattes hot 'Bobo's.'" Has Kotkin ever been to Palmdale??
Skim this book, but don't forget to pick out the thesis. It says that cities, towns, and suburbs that make themselves livable by yuppie standards will flourish in this new internet driven economy whose companies and workers can live and work where they want because new technology allows them to be geographically unconstrained by "old" economy resources like shipping ports, raw materials, etc.
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