The Death Of Geography Is Greatly Exaggerated

from the location-location-location dept

One of the most common themes of writing about the Internet is that it’s going to make geography irrelevant. There’s clearly something to this. I’m writing this post in St. Louis, and before it goes live it will be looked over by Mike, who’s normally in the Bay Area but is in Scotland this week. Still, Tim Harford has an interesting essay arguing that the Internet can also make geography more important by increasing the value of living in a high-density area. He gives online dating as an example: in the old days, a single guy living in New York might have several million single women to choose from, but with no way to quickly sift through all those options, the New York dating scene wouldn’t be noticeably better than other cities. But now, with online dating, people have much more sophisticated tools to sift through the options and find someone who perfectly matches their interests, age, religious and political beliefs, etc, before they ever meet. I’ve personally noticed the high cost of not living in a major city. I’ve met a number of people online through a shared interest in technology policy, and almost all of them live in the DC, San Francisco, or New York metropolitan areas. So while the Internet has made it possible for me to write from anywhere, it’s also made me more acutely aware of what I’m missing by not living in a larger metro area.

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Comments on “The Death Of Geography Is Greatly Exaggerated”

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Federico Almada (user link) says:

You are right...

I’m from Córdoba (Argentina), and despite the fact that I work as a blogger for many businesses on many countries, I sometimes stop and think… -what if i where there-.

Internet has given me a possibility to be able to write from news of all over the world, but… it has also shown me that am not on the right location to be -blogging- (because Buenos Aires, for example, is where the things happen).

Federico Almada

ps: Sorry for my english, my native language is spanish…

dorpus says:

Works the other way too

I’m able to make pocket change proofreading scientific papers written by Japanese professors. I get the jobs through a contracting agency based in Japan, where my ex-gf used to work. There is no way in hell I could have received such jobs without the internet; it also makes no difference whether I live in Alabama, NYC, or even Tokyo.

Anonymous Coward says:

Warren Buffet didn’t seem to suffer from living in Bum@@@@ midwest and not mixing with the FS folks. Where is Dell? Before Microsoft went there, what was in Redmond?

That being said, the NYC dating scene isn’t all that great. There might be millions of people here, but they don’t want to talk to you. Me, yes, you no (just joking, maybe)

Don’t forget about the bias folks can get when they live in these areas. They believe they are smarter, work harder and are generally better than everyone else. If you can make it in NYC, you can make it anywhere, right? It isn’t true or right, but there is that attitude. I have lived in NYC, DC, LA and the midwest. People are pretty much the same everywhere.

Overcast says:

So while the Internet has made it possible for me to write from anywhere, it’s also made me more acutely aware of what I’m missing by not living in a larger metro area.

Actually – in many ways, it does the opposite for me. After dealing with a large amount if idiots on the web, it makes me want to move even further from population heavy areas, hehe.

If I could work from hom even more, I’d be glad to move out even further.

COEgnineer says:


It’s just a matter of statistics that the people you meet on the web are from major metropolitan areas – that’s where the largest percentage of people live! Duh.

I would also guess that the people that live in metro areas spend more time on-line because they don’t have the beautiful outdoors as readily available. Just guessing though.

ohnopirates says:

A profound misunderstanding

There’s “geography” as a term demarking space, and geography as an academic discipline.

People have been calling for the “death” of geography for over thirty years now, but here we are, still chugging along.

I actually think that geographic ties are becoming more profound with the increased use of the intertrons.
Just in my own research, people from culturally different geographic areas will interact with web sites in differing ways (thanks analytics!) – this is outside of language differences that may exist.
Virtual space is used and conceptualized in different ways by geographically disparate populations.

Then of course, there’s the wonderful world of IP. Look at the Oink bust – servers in one country, admin in another, laws of a third.
The internet represents the “destruction of time and space,” much more so than say the railroads did.

John says:

It is a small world. I was just IMing with my son in the next room about connections like this (I could have gone and talked to him in person, I suppose, but I was waiting for iTunes to finish downloading some songs). I work in a call center handling mostly North American calls. It is a weird feeling connecting with people. Sometimes we get someone from close to home who is far away and traveling even further away and I get to help them with certain arrangements. Other times, its people in their own little world that only connects with me in this one small way. Being able to check webcams to see live shots of where people are that I’m talking to may be is incredible.

Next to my printer is an old morse code equipment that my grandfather used in the 1930s. It sits on a shelf under my DSL and wifi routers.

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