Sunday, November 28, 2010

Coffee Shops and the Space Program

"Chance favors the connected mind."

Thanks are again due to my friend Carol in Texas, for sharing this intriguing video about coffee shops and innovation. Apparently I am not the only academic to have noticed the sensual dimensions of coffee. Steven Johnson calls the coffee house the "conjugal bed of ideas." His talk starts and ends with coffee houses, with interesting diversions to rural Africa and outer space along the way.

The stimulative effect of coffee houses is not so much about the caffeine (though this is certainly preferable to alcohol) as it is to the conversational networks that they foster. This has been increasingly recognized among academic architects, so that the coffee shops are now integral to a lot of academic buildings. This is even being done on my own campus, though in a very limited fashion. An innovative idea for a coffee shop in our new science center was bureaucratically trimmed to a generic shop the size of a single sheet of plywood, but we are still hoping to make the best educational use of that small space and the surrounding lobby.

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