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CEP discussion paper

Buzz: Face-to-Face Contact and the Urban Economy

This paper argues that existing models of urban concentrations are incomplete unless grounded in the most fundamental aspect of proximity; face-to-face contact. Face-to-face contact has four main features; it is an efficient communication technology; it can help solve incentive problems; it can facilitate socialization and learning; and it provides psychological motivation. We discuss each of these features in turn, and develop formal economic models of two of them. Face-to-face is particularly important in environments where information is imperfect, rapidly changing, and not easily codified, key features of many creative activities.

Michael Storper and Anthony J. Venables

December 2003     Paper Number CEPDP0598

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This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's Trade programme.