Do some cities have an outsized influence?

Any nation is comprised of many cities, towns, and other places where people live. However, many nations also seem to have one city (or at most a handful) that seem to set the tone for how those entire nations are perceived and conduct their daily affairs. One key example of this can be seen during the current pandemic in the US. New York City, the largest and most connected city, is seeing the overwhelming majority of cases and receiving nearly all the media coverage. Meanwhile, other parts of the country, as well as New York State, have issued shelter-in-place orders similar to those in New York City to avoid being overrun by sick patients, even though there is no evidence that will happen–New York City is uniquely vulnerable due to its high population density, reliance on public transportation, and status as an international traffic hub.

It’s also not uncommon for people to organize trips to "the UK" when they really only mean London, for example–some years ago the New York Times advertised a "Brexit tour" of the UK that never left London, even though the people who supported Brexit generally lived in smaller British communities in places like the North and Midlands. Centuries ago, Mark Twain captured a similar sentiment in a satirical article in which he traveled to a famous cathedral in Italy and felt compelled to ignore or minimize everything he saw on the trip over.

Along similar lines, books and movies whose plots feature international travel or worldwide catastrophes often feature just one or two famous cities in any given country. The movie "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" even made a joke about this, pointing out that the evil giant foods seemed to be falling first on the most famous landmarks in major cities. Why do you think people, both in fiction and real life, aren’t interested in venturing outside the largest and most famous cities? Would society be more enriched if people ventured outside of these famous urban centers more often (both in fiction and real life)?

  • hilalbahcetepe- I'm afraid I don't know what you mean. What exactly did you have in mind? – Debs 2 years ago
  • I think I know what you mean--that most places are only famous because of their cities. When one goes to visit a place, it usually is a city. Maybe make it more specific though. What are you trying to get at? People should try and explore places not just for their popular cities? Rural vs. urban? Why are movies and books usually set in cities ( not always the case though... – birdienumnum17 2 years ago
  • There are smaller named towns in novels that are the central focal point in the story. C.f. Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding. – J.D. Jankowski 2 years ago
  • Mega cities, if that is what you refer to as "some cities," probably do have outsize influence on new ideas and trends, be they commercial or cultural. This is likely due to their density and diversity. For example, if you have a new product, business model or art form, it is easier to test it in a big city because you can simultaneously gather information and comments from different groups. Thus, even though mega cities don't represent a nation, they are the driving force of change and incubator of novel ideas. In that sense, while there might not be abundant Brexit supporters in London, you are able to hear different voices without extensive traveling. – ctshng 2 years ago
  • I think there is something here, but needs to be really focused. For example, I have read of baseball players that if they played in New York City as opposed to, say, Kansas City would have received a great deal more attention. In the case of New York City, as someone who grew up there, we were aware that to many who came to visit, Manhattan was New York City, but thinking in terms of the Big Apple as consisting of five boroughs and Manhattan is only one is not always how people think of New York. – Joseph Cernik 2 years ago

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