A Culture of Socially Open Information pt. 2

“A better set of attributes, I think, are… the three Ds: disorder, diversity, and discernment”

Weiner, 2016, p.324

Venice: Fragmented neighorhoods, unified City

In his book “The geography of genius,” Eric Weiner looked into what made “Golden Ages” happen. That is, periods of time and groups of people who were not only productive, but also amazingly creative. He looked at Athens and its philosophers, Florence and its artists, etc. He consider their time and place, their supply and demand relations, their zeitgeist, and so on. Extracting the common pattern in all of his case studies, Weiner provides us with what he thinks are the primary conditions for a creative (and productive) society: disorder, diversity, and discernment.

By disorder, he meant the weakened state of the old “designers.” Those who frowned upon change take a step back and allows for the “shake up of the status quo.” In the Golden Age of Greece this was due to the recent war with Persia; for Edinburgh and Silicon Valley it was due to a lack of social order in the first place; for Mozart’s and Freud’s Vienna it was due to the foreboding of future wars. In short, disorder means the flexibility to re-establish new order.

By diversity, he meant the accessible and promoted pool of different ideas. This was marked by places whose strange explicit purpose was for people to come to argue. The agora in Athens, the pubs in Edinburgh, the parlors and coffeehouses in Vienna, the competitions in Florence,… are all examples. The more ideas are allowed to express themselves, the better.

Lastly, by discernment the author meant a mechanism to strike down bad ideas, effectively keeping the surging waves of numerous creativity in control. These roles were played by whatever was in power: democracy or the market, the patrons or the investors,…

There is another way to understand these aspects: social differences lead to prosperity. Particularly when they are tolerated, accepted, and utilized. From philosophers heckling at each other in the agora to artists competing to bid for their Renaissance patrons, greater creativity comes about as disagreements are exploited. Patrons simply had to pick their most favorite ideas from the overflowing pool of contenders, which is usually also the best ones. During these periods of Golden Ages, their respective societies were all fragmented, each part pit against and competing with one another. But it is precisely due to courage to embrace those differences and not reject them, that a unified whole that is so much more creative and productive would arise.

Works Referenced:

Weiner, E. (2016). The Geography of Genius. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.

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