Creativity in Time and Space

reativity in Time and Space
Author(s): Gunnar Törnqvist
Source: Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography, Vol. 86, No. 4, Special Issue: Path,
Prism, Project, Pocket and Population (2004), pp. 227-243
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography
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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions CREATIVITY IN TIME AND SPACE
GunnarTmrnqvist Tornqvist,G., 2004: Creativity in time and space. Geogr. Ann., B 86 (4): 227-243.
ABSTRACT.Thefocusof attentionin this articleis thatof milieuxasforgesforcreativityandrenewal.Amongthemilieuxpresentedareplaces,corporations
tureas well as scienceandtechnology.Thegoal of this articleis
to identifycharacteristics
of importancein environments
of Nobel laureates.Theirstoriesrevealthe importanceof geographicmobility,thepatternsof contactforvariouscreativeprocsketchescan
esses,andshowhowa smallnumberof biographical
reflectchangesin societyat large.To avoiddrowningin wordy
havebeensystematizedwiththe aid of a few simpletime-geographydiagrams.
mobility,Nobellaureates,life pathin timeandspace. Basic concepts
Innovation Earlyon, economistJosephA. Schumpeterdeveltheoryof howinnovations
opeda ground-breaking
createcyclical developments,or ‘businesscycles’
of growthanddecline.Through’creativedestruction’, the developmentof a capitalisticeconomyis
drivenforward.Processesof renewalmove like a
‘pulse’throughtheeconomy.Accordingto thistheory, the entrepreneur
plays a centralrole in this
is someonewhois ableto
process. entrepreneur
createnew productsandnew firmsby combining
and developinginformationthatfor the most part
alreadyexists.Schumpeteris carefulto distinguish
betweeninnovationandinvention.Althougha skilful innovator,theentrepreneur
is seldoma groundbreakinginventor(Schumpeter,1934, 1939).
processesthatstretchfrominventionto a finished
productreadyfor marketing.So-calledproductinnovationsmaybe entirelynewproductsornewvariants of an existing product.Process innovations
bringincreasesin productivityby allowinggoods
to be producedmorequicklyandcheaplywithnew
machinesor new methodsof organizingproduction. In recentyears,a comprehensivefield of re- searchhas developedfor the study of innovation
processesandnationalandregionalsystemsof innovation(see e.g. Dosi etal., 1992;Edquist,1997).
Theconceptof economicinnovationneednotbe
limitedto the productionof goods. It may also be
appliedto new types of services,distributionand
administrativeroutineswithin privateas well as
publicsectors.Inrecentyears,thequestionof how
institutionalrelationshipsinfluencethe processes
of innovationhasattractedspecialattention.Isolated firmsand otherorganizationsare very seldom
innovative.Most firms renew their production
interactingwith otherfirmsandinstitutions- customers, competitorsand distributorsof componentsandservices.Laws,regulationsandshifting
culturalpatternsformframeworksfor this interaction. Cycles of innovationwithinthis networkof
relationshipscan takeconsiderabletime, andmay
be difficultto follow in detail.Whenresearchresults and inventionsdevelop into commercially
successfulproducts,it is soonera questionof evolution than of revolution. Thegeographicinnovationtheorydevelopedearat the Universityof
ly on by TorstenHagerstrand
Lundemploysthe conceptof the diffusionprocess,
a spatial process which shows how innovations
spread successively between individuals,settlementsandfarmswithina geographicregion.These
maybe newproducts,technologies,customs,fashions,andmuchmore(Higerstrand,
we leavebehindthe
conceptof innovation,anddirectourfocusto questionsof creativityandrenewal.Thesearetheprocesses of creativitythatmaybe saidto occurbefore
or perhapsat the verybeginningof a processof innovationor a diffusion process. To use Joseph
Schumpeter’sterminology,it is soonertheoriginal
inventionor discoveryandthe circumstancessurroundingit thatshouldbe studied.
Creativity As long as economicgeographydevotesgreatinterestto the processesof innovation,contactwith ?Swedish Society for Anthropologyand Geography, 2004 This content downloaded from on Thu, 17 Dec 2015 03:55:17 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 227 GUNNARTORNQVIST othereconomicscienceswill be of the highestimportance.With regardto studiesof creativityand
whicheconomicgeographyshareswiththe behaviouralsciences,andnot least with artistic,cultural
It wouldbe virtuallyimpossibleto gainan overview of the literaturethattreatsprocessesof creation and the creative capacity of individuals.A
numberof yearsago, a Russianresearcherreported
that there were at least 10000 scientificpublications in this area.Todaythereare certainlymore.
Geniusesand markedlycreativeindividualshave
alwaysattractedthe interestof those aroundthem.
Researchersand authorsfrom the most divergent
backgroundshave analyzedin what ways these
people have been equippedand how they have
worked.And of course, today it is impossibleto
avoidliteratureabouthowto developone’s owncapacityfor creativethought(de Bono, 1977, 1990;
In this comprehensiveliteraturethe conceptof
creativityis used in definitionsthatvaryconsiderablyin meaningandquality.We maydiscerna continuousscale of meaningrangingfrom everyday
commonsense to trueingenuityor genius.At the
lowest end of this scale, all humanbeingsareconsidered to have creative characteristics.Somewherein the middleis the definitionthatregional
economistRichardFloridaproclaimsin his book ments.This is a suppositionthat is stronglysupportedin the relatedliteratureon this subject.
Creativecapacity,a wealthof ideas, andimaginationareexpressionsfor the inheritedandlearned
attachedto the individual.The creacharacteristics
tive processmay also be seen as somethingwhich
occurs in isolationin the mind of the individual.
Here we may imaginethe painterat his easel, the
composerat herpiano,the authorat herdeskor on
a walk, andthe researcherin his laboratoryandat
his computer.For many,solitudeis a prerequisite
thatcreativityrequires.At the
same time, however,it is clear thatnew ideas are
builtupona capitalof experiencesgatheredthrough
interactionwith one’s surroundings.Processesof
renewalcannotdevelopin an emptyspacefor long
withoutstimulationandnew outsideimpulses.
Milieu In its continuation,this studyshallbe limitedto the
basicconditionsof creativity,with a primaryfocus
upon the milieux in which creativepersonshave
worked,and wherethereis evidencethatcreative
processeshave takenplace.Yet thereis also cause
to rememberthatground-breaking
certaindisciplineis seldomthe workof a singleindividual. Questions of individual creativity must be
augmented by others of collective creativity. In all creativework,therearea numberof invisiblehelpers, deceasedas well as living. We inherita sortof
ida, recentyears have seen the rapidgrowthof a artisticor scientifictool set, andwe areboundinto
creativeclass. This class is madeup of scientists, a networkof culturaland social conditions.Even
engineers,architects,designers,authorsandartists reclusesandoutsidersmusthave externalconnecof varioustypes.It also has memberswho workin tions to avoidwitheringaway.
business,education,healthcareandlaw. In all, the
creativeclass totals38 millionpeoplein the USA,
whichequals30 percentof thatnation’sworkforce. The milieux of creativity- some examples
Accordingto this definition,it is not difficult to Forthesakeof brevity,theexamplesof selectedmiconcludethatnearlyeveryonewith some formof lieux arenot studiedin detailin the textwhichfolhigher education belongs to the creative class lows. Mostof thesemilieuxshouldbe well known,
as shouldthe individualswho haveworkedin them
As will be seen in examplesof creativepersons (for a detailedpresentationsee Tbmqvist, 1989,
andmilieuxwhichwill be presentedin this article, 1990, 2004; Bradbury,1996;Larsson,2001). Creour conceptof creativityis a rathernarrowif not ativeprocesses,whetherthey deal withtechnologelitistone.Thisdoesnot,however,preventthecon- ical development,researchor variousformsof arclusions drawnfrom these examples from being tistic activity,makespecial demandson theirsurappliedin a muchbroaderperspective.Ontheother roundings.Each milieu contains advantagesand
hand,the types of renewalthat will be identified hindrancesfor renewal.Followinga shortpresenspan a broadrange.Ourbasic suppositionis that tationof variousexamples,these advantagesand
processesof renewalin such seeminglydisparate hindranceswill be presentedand discussedin the
areasas art,literature,music,philosophy,science text below.
and technology are based upon similar requireImagesof threetypesof creativemilieuxemerge
The Rise of the Creative Class. According to Flor- 228 Geografiska Annaler ? 86 B (2004) ? 4 This content downloaded from on Thu, 17 Dec 2015 03:55:17 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions IN TIMEAND SPACE
CREATIVITY fromthis survey.Therearegeographicalareasand
placesthatareperceivedas forgesof creativityand
renewal.Thereare institutionsand organizations
withinwhich inventionshavebeen done. In other
contexts,the concept of networksbest describes
how contacts are made and ideas are diffused.
However,a closerexaminationshowsthatthe differencesbetweenvarioustypesof creativemilieux
is partlyillusory.Obviously,it is anelementalquestion of creativeindividuals,who cooperatewith
one anotherin variousways.Thiswill be examined
moreclosely below.
Among the notableexamplesis Athens, especiallyduringthe400s BC, wherethecradleof Westernculturemaybe saidto havestood,togetherwith
Alexandriaanda lot of Helenisticcity-statesin the
Mediterraneanarea. Florence serves as a wellknownexampleof the Italiancity milieux of the
late MiddleAges andRenaissancethatwere centers for renewalin trade,handcrafts,architecture
andart.Similarexamplescouldbe foundearlierin
theMuslimworld,or duringthe sixteenthandseventeenthcenturiesin the Netherlands.
Manchesterprovidesan examplefromtheearly
yearsof the IndustrialAge. Vienna,Gottingenand
St Petersburgstandoutas birthplacesfor sweeping
renewalin a numberof disciplineswithinart,technology, science and literaturein the years surroundingtheturnof thenineteenthcentury.Theso- der freer forms, a gigantic space researchprogrammewas laterdeveloped.Duringthe ColdWar
years, the cooperationbetween industryand researchcontinuedand developed,not only in the
USA but also in GreatBritain,Franceand many
Along with the developmentdescribedabove,
therewas a comprehensive
interestin themilieuxof
scientific research, especially in those that were deemedto be the hearthsuponwhich progressin
technology,medicine and other naturalsciences
Often,only individualinstitutions,departments
or smallerresearchgroupsserveas forgesof creativityat a givenuniversity,or in somecases it may
be a free-standinginstitution.Many such institutionalmilieuxarepresentedin thesourceliterature.
Some of thesewill serveas exampleshere.
ThePasteurInstitutein Pariswasfoundedin the
late 1800sby LouisPasteur.It laterdevelopedinto
of theBrilliantScientists’,andwas
the home of innumerablediscoveries.The Pasteur
Institutebecamea Meccaforresearchersin microbiology,biochemistryandexperimentalmedicine.
The true high point for this institutewas immedeatelyafterthe SecondWorldWar.
Afterthe FirstWorldWar,a specialinstitutefor
theoreticalphysicswasestablishedaroundthecentralfigureof NielsBohr,whowaslaterawardedthe
called Bloomsbury Group, active between 1904 Nobel Prize in Physics. During the 1920s and
and 1956, providesa long-termglimpse into the 1930s, this instituteattractednot only Europe’s
last century,in which a city districtin London most prominentphysicists,but chemistsandbioemergesas a milieuof creativity.At the sametime, logists as well. We shallrevisitBohrandhis insticreativityis no longerunderstoodto be stimulated tutebelow.
by the physicalenvironmentitself, butratherby a
During the 1970s, the Basel Institute of Immulimitedgroupof peoplewithclose mutualcontacts. nology was a gatheringpoint for successfulreThesamemaybe saidof Parisandthecircleof peo- searchersin the fieldof biomedicine.Sincethe inple associatedwiththebookstoreShakespeareand ceptionof thePrizein EconomicSciencesin MemCompanyduring the period between the World oryof AlfredNobel,almosthalfof all theresearchWars.An exampleof conferencesas importantmi- ers who havereceivedit havespentat leastpartof
lieux for scientific renewal is provided by the theircareersatthe Department
of Economicsatthe
Solvay Conferences, at which the world’s foremost Universityof Chicago.
Whenasked,researchersareoftenableto idenphysicistsmet over many years.The first Solvay
Conferencewas held in 1911, andthe twenty-first tify milieuxthattheybelieveto be especiallypromwas held in 1998.
The greatbreakthrough
in science came during of social scientistsand scholarsin the humanities
the SecondWorldWar.Significantportionsof the clearly show that it is not the actualinstitutions
scientific and technical capacity of the warring themselvesthatareof interest,butrathera few incountrieswere engaged in the overall war. The dividualswho areorhavebeenactiveatthoseplacManhattanProjectin theUSA, assignedthetaskof es (Cederlund,1999).
Theresultsaresomewhatdifferentin the areaof
creatingan atomicbomb,is thelargestscaleexample fromits day of close cooperationbetweenthe the naturalsciences, whereresearchis dependent
warindustryandresearch.In a similarwaybutun- uponveryexpensiveequipment.Letus take,forexGeografiska Annaler ? 86 B (2004) ? 4 This content downloaded from on Thu, 17 Dec 2015 03:55:17 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 229 GUNNARTORNQVIST ample, CERN,the Europeancenter for particle nance,research,specialinterestorganizationsand
In cities,thedensityof instipublicadministration.
tutionsis greaterthanin otherareas.Thereis a dioutsideOxford.Hugeparticleacceleratorssuchas versityand varietyof services,and in manycases
thosefoundattheseinstitutes,whichtodayarealso a richarrayof culturalofferings.Wherethemarket
underconstructionor plannedin the USA, Japan for such thingsis great,therearelargepublishers,
and Europe,requireinvestmentsof billions EUR, performingarts facilities, galleries and exhibit
andareusedperiodicallyby thousandsof research- openings.Forartisticworkersthejob opportunities
ers from variousplaces aroundthe world (Trn- are many,and there are often specialtiesthat are
difficultto findin less populatedareas.Largepopqvist, 2002).
HistorianRogersHollingsworthat theUniversi- ulationcentersthereforeoften functionas ‘escalaty of Wisconsinin the USA has devotedhimselfto torregions’soughtout by artistsandthe well edustudying everyone who has received the Nobel cated,as placeswhereone maybeginor advancea
Prize in biomedical disciplines since 1901. Of career.
Oneof the mostobviousgeographicadvantages
these, he has interviewednearly100. His material
also includes other researcherswho have made of citiesis thattheyofferseveraltypesof proximity
discoveriesin these same areas. simultaneously.Theyprovidethe territorialcloseground-breaking
ness that we equate with populationdensity and
Some of his resultsareveryinterestingto note.
Hollingsworthhas found thatthe same institu- neighborhood.Citiesalso provideproximityin the
results formof networkswith othercities. Withthe aid of
tions continueto achieveground-breaking
timeandtimeagain.Whattheseinstitutionshavein moder transportand communicationssystems,
commonis thatthey are small. Small size makes people,establishmentsandbuildingscanbe accesclose, intensivecooperationpossible betweenre- sibleto one anotherwithouthavingto be physically
searchers.He believes that many universitiesare close by. In addition,today’smediabroadcastsits
too largeformeaningfulcontactsto developacross information and entertainmentfrom a small
the bordersof establisheddisciplines.Forthis rea- numberof cities. Cities have become the focal
son, verylargeuniversitiesfunctionpoorlyas forg- pointsfor continentalandglobalstreamsof goods,
es for creativity.Hierarchicallyorganizedwork- people,informationandcapital.
Yetcities arenotonly placesfor theexchangeof
placescanbe productiveandcanpursuesuccessful
activities,withoutnecessarilybeing placesfor im- goods and services and cooperativeefforts and
Creativitythrives meetingsbetween people. The city is not only a
best in small, egalitarianinstitutions(Hollings- placeof community,butalsoa placeofforeignness.
Hugenumbersof immigrantsoftenmaketheirway
to cities. The city becomesa culturalsmeltingfurnace in which differentcultures,religions, lifeWhy big cities?
styles andpoliticalideasconfrontone another.For
Among geographicmilieux as forges for creative this reason, cities are often centers for change.
processes, densely populatedcities predominate. Mostrevolutionshavebrokenoutin cities, andit is
Thisis truenot only historically,buttodayas well. often in cities that new fashions,new styles and
Often,manyof the centersfor renewalwithinspe- new technologyfirstsee the light of day.Herenew
cializeddisciplinesarefoundin or nearmajormet- ways of economic management,new ways of orropolitanareas.London,Paris,Berlin,Milan,New ganizing work and new lifestyles are tested, for
York,LosAngelesandSanFranciscoarea few ex- bothevil andfor good. Noveltiesarediffusedfrom
amples. Impressivedocumentationof this fact is cities,includingthoseoriginallydevelopedin other
given in Peter Hall’s book, Cities in Civilization. In places.
The introductionto this articlepresentedRicha convincingway, Hall shows how the historyof
citiesreflectstheculturaldevelopmentof theWest- ard Florida as the spokesmanfor an extremely
broadconceptof creativity,whichpositsthatmore
ern world(Hall, 1998).
or less all intellectualand well-educatedoccupastem
advantages large
theirimportanceas centersforeconomy,powerand tional groups in the USA belong to the creative
andtheirroleas culturalmelting- class, whichmakesup 30%of the totalworkforce,
for administra- Accordingto Florida,three factorscontributeto
pots. Large
tive and regulatoryfunctionswithin business, fi- makinglargecities centersof creativity:technolophysics outside Geneva, Institut Laue-Langvin in
Grenoble and the RutherfordAppleton Laboratory 230 Annaler? 86 B (2004) ? 4
Geografiska This content downloaded from on Thu, 17 Dec 2015 03:55:17 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions CREATIVITY
IN TIMEAND SPACE gy, talentandtolerance.Floridameasurestechnology baseduponthe numberof patentsgrantedper
capita,andtheextentof a city’shigh-techindustry.
He measurestheconcentration
of talentby theproof
up by the creative
class. Opennessandtolerancearemeasuredby the
aid of the proportionof immigrantsin the city’s
population,anda ‘gay index’which measuresthe
concentrationof homosexualsin the population
It is hardlysurprisingthatwe findcharacteristics
importantto the creativeprocess in the plurality
and varietyof the big city, with its mix of people
andits rushingflow of ideas.However,to returnto
the narrowdefinitionof creativitythatwe initially
chose in thetextat hand,historyas well as ourown
time showsonly a smallnumberof largecities that
context,not only the size of a city is important.
Fromtimeto time,evensmallertownshaveproven
to be niches of renewal.Furthermore,
we see that
individualstend to move increasinglybetween
places duringthe course of their creativelives.
Among authorsand visual artiststhis is probably
theruleratherthantheexception.At somepointsin
time,evena pastoralidyll maybecomea centerfor
Finally, there is reason to considerjust how
meaningfulit maybe to treatlargemetropolisesas
contiguousmilieux.In actuality,theyaretoo large
and internallyheterogeneous.In the face of the
city’s conglomerationof buildings,activitiesand
to look at the city in
people, it seems appropriate
more detail, and to seek environmentalconcepts
thatmightbringus closerto the actuallocationsof
The basic conditionsof creativity
Regardlessof whethertheyarein technologicaldevelopment,researchor variousformsof artisticactivity, creativeprocesses place special demands
upon their surroundings.All creativemilieux whethergeographic,institutionalor networkshold advantagesandhindrancesto creativity.It is
thecommonfeaturesandpeculiaritiesof thesevarious environmentsthatareof interestto bringout
in this survey. thatfacilitateprocessesof renewal.A milieu may
forcommunication.Of even greaterimportanceis that they
may attractan intellectualelite whichplaces specific demandson its neighborhood.At the same
time, it shouldbe emphasizedthatit is those individualswho arepartof a physicalor institutional
milieu or who belong to a networkthat actually
foundthe preconditionsfor a creativeprocess.
In all milieuxof creativity,therearehumanbeings withmoreor less uniquecompetencies.Inthe
listsof namesthatareoftenquiteimpressive.Inthe
case of Florence,Vienna, Manchester,London,
Parisand St Petersburg,it is also remarkablethat
these competenciessimultaneouslyrepresentso
manycompletelydifferentareasof specialization.
literaTheyoften includeart,music,architecture,
ture, and variousbranchesof science, medicine,
technology,philosophyandpoliticalthought.It is
notunusualforspecialistsin one circleto moveunhinderedacrossthelines betweendifferentprofessionalfields.
Withfew exceptions,competencybuildsupona
long traditionof knowledgeand genuineexperience. The pioneersare usuallywell awareof the
achievementsof theirpredecessors.
Theycanrightly see themselvesas the latestlink in a long chain
of knowledge.Inretrospect,
stronglyboundto places;forexample,a traditionof
musicis boundto Vienna,traditionsin artandarchitectureto Florence,andwritingandpaintingto
Paris.However,a closerexaminationof thesetraditionsrevealsthatthese skilful personalitiesbehindthemhaveoftenbeenimported.Milieuxof creativity therefore ought to be seen as places and institutions that attract human beings who possess
unique competence within different areas. The tra- ditionis partlya questionof thesameplacesandinstitutionsbeingpermanentlyattractiveover a long
periodof time.
Capital accumulation and the physical milieu Throughouthistory,economicexcess has created
possibilitiesfor attractingand supportingcompetence.This was truein ancientAthensandin Hellenisticcultureall aroundthe Mediterranean.
DuringtheMiddleAges andtheRenaissance,theCatholic churchandthemanyprincelyhouseswereable
Competency and traditions of knowledge
to attractbuilders,artistsand learnedhumanists.
An overviewof variouscreativemilieuxindicates Whatsortof culturalcenterwouldFlorencehave
that there are characteristicsin physical milieux beenwithoutitsbanks,textileindustrytradeandthe
Geografiska Annaler – 86 B (2004) ? 4 This content downloaded from on Thu, 17 Dec 2015 03:55:17 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 231 GUNNARTORNQVIST wealthyfamiliesof theMediciandPitti?Beforethe
FirstWorldWar,Viennawas the capitalandeconomiccenterof a huge, multiculturalempire,and
servedas a centralpointto whichall roadsled.
Londonwas thecenterof powerandwealthin an
empireuponwhich the sun neverset. In the same
way,followingtheunionof Germanyin 1871,Berlin quicklybecamea politicalandeconomicworld
power on the Continent,and Parishas with…

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