Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lisa Chamberlain's "Slackonomics"

Lisa Chamberlain is a regular contributor to the New York Times and the executive director of the Forum for Urban Design. Her writing has also appeared in Salon, New York magazine, and the New York Observer. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of a Village Voice-owned weekly paper.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Slackonomics: Generation X in the Age of Creative Destruction, and reported the following:
Slackonomics shows how technological innovation and globalization have radically changed everyday life for Generation X -- from how we work, where we live, how we play, and when we marry and have children, to our attitudes about love, humor, friendship, happiness, and personal fulfillment. Through pop-culture, personal narrative and economics analysis, Slackonomics is about how Generation X has bridged the analog and digital worlds, and learned how to survive and even thrive in this era of financial insecurity and flourishing creativity.

People have asked me how I came up with the idea for Slackonomics (I'm not an economist), and I like to say that the book is essentially a memoir, even though I reveal nothing about my own personal life. And page 99 in fact pretty well reflects this fact (a brilliant concept, btw!). At the age of 34, I moved from Cleveland to New York City to essentially start over. I did this for any number of reasons, but one critical factor was facing down a stagnant job market in Cleveland, where it is easy to hit the career ceiling pretty quickly. What's more, the creative economy -- where Gen X has thrived the most -- is not exactly booming in the Midwest. And yet, uprooting oneself after having invested a lot of time and energy in one place is not easy, and downright scary. Of course, making new friends gets more difficult later in life, but more importantly, friends and social networks have become critical to succeeding in the creative economy, and that's what this section from Slackonomics is about (first graph of page 99):

Even more significant, innovation and cultural production are extremely reliant on the spontaneous sharing of ideas and information in random, unscripted ways. As Elizabeth Currid documents in
The Warhol Economy, "Creativity would not exist as a successfully or efficiently without its social world. The social is not the by-product--it is the decisive mechanism by which cultural products and cultural producers are generated, evaluated and sent to the market." As Currid's research shows, people working in technology innovation, arts, music, fashion, design and media are far more likely to live and work in close proximity to each other than people in finance, medicine, law and other "golf course" professions, which are still heavily dependent on the old boys' network method of doing business.

So that is just one of many ways that life has really changed for Generation X as a result of shifting economic circumstances!
Read an excerpt from Slackonomics, and learn more about the book and author at the Slackonomics website.

--Marshal Zeringue