Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Internet as Creativity Driver

In the April issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, a group of authors published a paper (link to PDF) with some interesting scientific evidence supporting what a lot of us have known anecdotally -- as a city grows, its creative output also grows at a faster and faster rate. Or as Deborah Byrd writes in her EarthSky blog:
They found that the creative output of cities grows in a way that is superlinear, meaning as the city grew its creative output grew faster and faster.
Deborah also points to a longer popular article on the topic at

I started thinking about the dynamics underlying the increased creative output from people living in cities and how they might apply to understanding the Internet. In cities communications time is reduced, practitioners in like fields can more easily find each other and collaborate, and there is a regular introduction of diverse thinking into city dwellers activities. The Internet is even more effective at shortening communications and helping connect like minds. But does it provide the serendipitous introduction and exposure to new ideas and different ways of thinking? Or maybe another way to ask this is, how can our use of the Internet replicate the best aspects of living in cities so that it can be a super-enhancer of this "city-effect" on creativity?

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