A friend recently asked me whether any sociologist has done a decent study of San Francisco. The answer is no and the relevant answer is sociology is not capable of understanding what San Francisco is.
I do not claim, despite a lifetime in this city, to understand this stunning urban mechanism. San Francisco has two primary qualities. First it is the city where people come to find themselves. In that sense it is a crucible. These people leave once they know who they are and what they can do. While they are here they find themselves.... by what they are doing not by their occupations.
Second, San Francisco is in fact the most important source of new ideas and innovations in America, maybe the world. I will not make a list. No one has any sense of the significant contributions of just the hippies and the gay community, not to mention innovators in 100 other fields from graphics, banking to technology.
The overlay of daily life in San Francisco has always been boring and superficial. The ferment occurs at an invisible level. I observed several interesting aspects of this invisible ferment.
While I run into friends on a short visit to Seattle, Tokyo, or New York I can go decades without running into any of my thousands of friends in San Francisco. The social networks simply don't overlap.
However social networks are very open and people are gregarious. You can find anyone if you pursue them. You can find any relevant person simply in your daily pursuits of your own interests.
I have done many studies of the city and found entire industries thriving here with no acknowledgment and no visible presence.
I think part of the reason is that most people are engaged in the pursuit of their uniqueness and that this creates layers of parrallel networks. Elsewhere people are engaged in some form of commerce. Commerce connects people, much like a tree and branches.
As I observe more and as I think about it more I will comment in this blog.