Article on creativity in rural vs urban areas - help me find? April 18, 2018 11:41 AM   Subscribe

I *swear* I read an article here on MetaFilter about a study done that measured creative output in rural areas compared to urban ones. It found that urban areas had more creative output due to the higher concentration of creative types. There was synergy in being around other creative people that made you more creative yourself. I'm Googling and have searched the site but cannot find it. It was not a formal research paper but an article (that likely cited a study/studies). I'm helping with a UU sermon on creativity and would like to reference it if only I could find it! If it rings a bell for you, I'd greatly appreciate it!
posted by Twicketface to MetaFilter-Related at 11:41 AM (14 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Not an article, but this reminds me of Richard Florida's theory of the "creative class." Maybe that'd be a useful search term?
posted by perplexion at 12:13 PM on April 18, 2018

How Creativity Works in Cities (Author Jonah Lehrer talks with us [Richard Florida] about the nexus of creativity and cities) - lots of links to studies, books
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:27 PM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Same CityLab site - The Real Reason Cities Are Centers of Innovation, links to study.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:30 PM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

If it's the Jonah Lehrer piece, I wouldn't take it for granted that the studies he cites say what he says they do.
posted by escabeche at 4:46 PM on April 18, 2018 [5 favorites]

Steven Johnson comes to mind, with his book "Where Ideas Come From." I found an article about it, but no Metafilter post. (Well, perhaps this post.)
posted by Pronoiac at 5:22 PM on April 18, 2018

There was synergy in being around other creative people that made you more creative yourself

Define creativity because I am surrounded by many, many, creative people in my rural area of Vermont, and this smells of classism.
posted by terrapin at 8:00 AM on April 19, 2018 [9 favorites]

Thanks, all - it was "The Real Reason Cities Are Centers of Innovation" article that I read. Appreciate all the help!
posted by Twicketface at 11:23 AM on April 19, 2018

Define creativity because I am surrounded by many, many, creative people in my rural area of Vermont, and this smells of classism.

Well, when I was going out with similarly creative-oriented people I was feeling a lot more energized to do my own shit (it was also a time I've made a complete mess of a project, but that's on me), so being in a "creative hub" surely helps. The issue is that when "creative hubs" are mentioned, it's often not about the people, but the areas, which is the wrong way of going around things. It's a bit nauseating to see articles about "the x scene" and seeing mentioning more than a couple of names mentioned. Sometimes, when I watch a short doc or article on those, it often feels the undertone is that I should move to one of those places, because otherwise it won't matter. It's less about the artists, but about the real estate.
I've once joked I should have claimed to be from somewhere like London, Barcelona or Berlin, because for some people if you're not an electronic musician banging tunes on a dingy basement or an old warehouse there, you're nothing.
posted by lmfsilva at 11:54 AM on April 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

(not more than a couple of names, obviously)
posted by lmfsilva at 2:37 PM on April 19, 2018

Not that I in general dispute the idea that cities are hotbeds of creativity (in the real sense, moreso than the Floridian), but the study that piece is based on is kinda problematic. I've called it out in the past for using number of patents as a proxy for something called "innovation," and this distinction of course only gets smudged out further in pop-tech journalism. Please please do take care when citing it.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:53 PM on April 19, 2018

Yeah… I am a UU, and when I go to church (which I usually don't to be honest, and partly because of this very issue) and the minister brings up some factoid that sets off my critical thinking alarm bells and makes me want to stick up a [citation needed] notice, it turns me right off.

It happens about every other time I go and it's usually when she brings in something from the sciences that feels like an oversold, under-researched "just so" story from a pop sci article. It usually begins with "there was a study…" or "scientists say that…" and leaves me with a critical "hmm, I'm not so sure you have that right" feeling that I don't know what to do with since I don't want to go and shit all over the minister's sermon over what is essentially just nitpicking. I mean she's a good minister, very wise, some great life perspective, a good fit for the congregation, etc. I like her, she just gets this one thing wrong in my opinion and it rubs me the wrong way every time.

If you're going to bring science to the pulpit to help make your case, take care to get it right. It's not like scripture or philosophy or social discourse, and needs special handling. It's not enough to just say that you found a study and it says x, you need to be able to really back that up, anticipate and address likely criticisms, acknowledge competing hypotheses, etc.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:34 PM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Creative people have gathered in cities where I've lived, but it seemed to me that they tended to become giant echo chambers. One innovative thing might come along, and soon the spirit of the thing would be infused in everything around it. Then a year or two later, there would be a new thing, and the cycle would begin again.

Personally, I think that most of the best creative work I have seen has been produced in near isolation, far from the madding crowds.

Energy levels may be higher in urban areas, but I don't think that energy fuels creativity; it's more likely fuelling competition, which is a different animal.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 9:01 AM on April 23, 2018

While that may, very arguably, be true of individual expression, it completely neglects the mode of creativity that Brian Eno once called "scenius," which thrives on urban density, short-range mimesis, adaptation and (yes) oneupsmanship, and to some degree the conscious sense that one is part of a scene to begin with.

I don't doubt that creativity has both individual and collective modes, but where it's the latter we're talking about I'm actually less interested in the notion that urban areas are "more creative" than rural ones, and more invested in trying to discover just which aspects of urban life are maximally fruitful. It's certainly not a matter of superlinear scaling to raw population size, as folks like Geoffrey West have suggested, otherwise Houston would be more creative than San Francisco, and Karachi and Lagos more creative than just about anywhere.

Pace Richard Florida, as well, not every municipality can or ever will support truly generative cultural activity. It isn't just a matter of window dressing, as his rather cargo-cultish approach suggests, but there probably is a magic ingredient, and I sure would like to know what it is. (Hint: I strongly suspect it rhymes with "dirt-cheap, relatively centrally-located housing.")
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:44 AM on April 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

This article about the rural creative class just popped up on my radar.
posted by ikahime at 7:35 AM on May 4, 2018

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