The Internet Is the New City (If You Use It Well)

the internet is the new city fueling creativity if we let it

1. On Monday morning, I wrote about 5 books that make me feel like I’m not crazy. #2 was The Death and Life of American Cities by Jane Jacobs.

2. On Monday afternoon, I picked up my book-in-progress–Imagine: How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer–and opened to where I’d left the night before. Chapter 7 began with a Jane Jacobs quote:

“By its nature, the metropolis provides what otherwise could be given only by traveling; namely the strange. 

imagine Jonah Lehrer Jane Jacobs quotes cities fuel creativity

3. Lehrer explains that cities foster creativity because people foster creativity. Creativity is fueled by a constant influx of new ideas that come from other people. And the best ideas don’t come from our close friends or family members. They come from our weak ties:

“The most creative ideas, it turns out, don’t occur when we’re alone. Rather, they emerge from our social circles, from collections of acquaintances who inspire novel thoughts. Sometimes the most important people in life are the people we barely know.” 

The seemingly trivial conversations we have every day–with our barista, mail carrier, librarian, cashier–force us out of our regular network and expose us to different people with different ideas.

As Lehrer says, “Sometimes the most important idea is the one we don’t even know we need.”

the internet is the new city fueling creativity if we let it

4. Last week, I read the following comment on Shawn Smucker’s blog:

The internet is the new city. -Jason McCarty

5. A few weeks ago, we talked here about how the internet is bringing people together, how offline friendships are blossoming among people who first met online. If you’re a blogger, you’ve surely heard of the importance of finding your “tribe.” Finding people like you.

6. If we connect to other people like us online, we’ll have a sense of belonging. We’ll probably be happier and feel better about ourselves. But we’d be selling ourselves short, and we certainly wouldn’t be in a virtual city. Lehrer says,

“Instead of sharing links with just our friends, or commenting anonymously on blogs, or filtering the world with algorithms to fit our interests, we must engage with strangers and strange ideas. The Internet has such creative potential; it’s so ripe with weirdness and originality; so full of people eager to share their work and ideas.”

7. If you look on Amazon you’ll see the reviews for Imagine are terrible. Lehrer was busted this summer for fabricating key quotes (attributed to Bob Dylan) that appeared in the book. The publisher has since pulled it off the shelves.

What’s your favorite way to get out of your regular circles online? (Mine’s Twitter.)

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Leave A Comment
  1. Beth @ dot in the city says:

    I like talking on Twitter!
    And this book sounds fascinating. It makes sense to me to say that the internet is the new city.

    • Anne says:

      I liked the book a lot. It was a solid 4.5 stars on Amazon before the news broke about the fabricated quotes: the one-star reviews are because of the ethical breach. It’s a shame, because 94% of the book is stellar. He could have just left well enough alone and had a solid book that was still on the shelves, and no cloud of shame hanging over his head.

  2. Tim says:

    I tend to explore new blogs by clicking on linmks form comments people leave on blogs I already read. Sometimes I find the new place is very like-minded with where I’ve come from, and sometimes they are way off and very surprising. It’s really the only way for me to expand networking since I don’t do twitter, facebook or google+.


    P.S. Your future of the internet post got special mention today at my blog as having inspired today’s post. Thanks for giving me blog fodder, Anne!

  3. Hmm… Haven’t thought about it like this before — the internet as a city. I’ve never thought of myself as a city girl, but I DO LOVE the inspiration the blogging community has given me. I can’t remember the last time I had writer’s block. All of the daily interaction provides countless prompts (as well as accountability and encouragement!) So many ideas; so little time!

    Speaking of Twitter — I have an account, but I’ve yet to use it. I FINALLY got on Facebook a couple months ago (LOVE). I’ve been on Pinterest now for a few weeks (Also, LOVE). Maybe I’ll get into the Twitter groove next.

  4. Kelly M. says:

    I actually have the hardest time commenting on other blogs (typed the blogger in the comment form.)
    I know that combox dialogue is crucial to connecting with other readers and bloggers but, unless a post really strikes me, I often don’t comment and remain lurking on the fringes. I find it’s easier to twitter chat or exchange quick updates via Facebook than try to concoct a string of coherent sentences related to an interesting blog post.
    However, I have benefited more (i.e. met more interesting folks of all stripes) from forcing myself to comment more, than my activity on any other social media site. People from all walks of life enjoy reading engaging comments and the resulting dialogue can be very fruitful.

  5. 'Becca says:

    I totally agree about the creative inspiration of cities and the similar experience available on the Internet. Like Tim, I don’t do the big “social networking” stuff but get a lot out of blogs. In particular, I tend to find myself at a blog that has one post about something that interests me, and if I think it was well written, I’ll look around to see what else is there. Sometimes I realize the writer has a very different sort of life than I do, yet we have something in common and can connect about that.

  6. Kristen says:

    The internet as a city! That explains so much: why I feel both energized from all the new ideas and possibilities and why I feel so drained from all the new ideas and possibilities. It’s exactly how I feel when I visit an actual city. 🙂

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