Kotkin sketches out how knowledge workers want a lifestyle-driven place loaded with amenities in culture, arts, and entertainment. Places for knowledge workers include anti-urban elite rural enclaves (e.g., Camden, Maine), the midopolis (e.g., the burbs of St. Louis), the nerdistan of highly-educated tech workers (e.g., Cary, North Carolina), and small towns with natural beauty (e.g., Park City, Utah).
In Kotkin's view, central business districts can serve a role to provide a contrasting (with suburban and rural places) experience for arts, entertainment, face-to-face meetings, and as a stage for activities in which people can see each other for social display or mating. However, a "Potemkin City" of symbolic monuments such as stadiums, casinos, and heavily-subsidized developments and museums (e.g., Cleveland, p. 63) does not provide urban vitality.
Cities can draw tremendous energy from immigrant enclaves that Kotkin compares to a casbah, souk, or melting pot (e.g., Toytown in Los Angeles); digital art and new media (e.g., lower Manhattan); the idea of Main Street as an agora (e.g., Downer's Grove, Illinois); and matters of the heart (community, identity, history and faith) (p. 189).
Kotkin's work evokes the complexity of cultural geography and economies, and he does not offer a single tag line or neatly packaged approach for every community to follow. Instead, he shows how people adapt to and carve out niches for themselves in a wide range of environments based on current conditions (as living things have been doing for billions of years). A common theme of this book seems to be reworking the human dimension into the rationalist, monolithic, homogeneous, and auto-centric architecture and urban-planning fixations of the twentieth century. A successful environment for our times, it seems, may be more of a diverse, fine-grained mix of grassroots-driven urban forms in which the innate energy and creative joy of people can be unleashed.
- Joel Kotkin's Web Site: includes commentary, articles, consulting, his schedule, and a biography.
- Book Review: "Review of The New Geography," Jim Ware, Future of Work Agenda, September 2004.
- Book Review: "Why Cyberspace Is Great for City Space," Joan Hamilton, BusinessWeek online.