Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Global Cities  §

© goldbany | Fotolia

It’s tough to be an academic living somewhere outside of the Global City.

The reason?

All too well known in my circles, frankly.

There simply isn’t enough life around you, enough diversity. Smaller regional or local cities veer dangerously toward monoculture. The list of institutions is limited to one-offs in each major category, each of these also part of the monoculture due to market realities. The speed and volume of events (of all ontological kinds) is orders of magnitude less because the population is orders of magnitude smaller and at a much lower density, meaning fewer contacts (i.e. events) and a smaller sample size at the phenomenological processing level.

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Let’s deploy a tired quasi-Maoist metaphor:

The global city as a field of flowers is a hodgepodge of thousands of densely packed plants and blossoms, no two of the same genetic stock. As the bees cross-pollinate amongst discrete individuals, genetic drift, hybridization, heterosis, and of course natural selection are the rule of the day, operating quickly and intensely. The stochastic nature, if there is one, of this process is subsumed by volume and diversity.

The regional or local city as a field of flowers is so many daffodils—hundreds of them in rows—of exactly the same genetic variety and stock.

Sure, it’s functional, and for the daffodils it’s probably even great.

But there’s precious little intrinsic generative power there, apart from the power to generate fucking daffodils.