Richard Florida at George Mason

Well, my favorite *pop fizz* author, Richard Florida is a public policy professor at George Mason University. People like Dr. Rice HATE this guy (at least on the surface), I think because he's been a pretty good stadium-tax prop for every mayor looking to move downtown dirt. I think Richard Florida has recieved his fair beating for being opportunistic, but I don't think sweeping dismissals of his earlier economics analysis (ahem, Dr. Rice) is fair or accurate. He's been looking at the connection between the ephemeral "tolerance of new ideas" and "innovation" and sees a correlation (and not necessarily a causation--which is what his conservative critics misread into his analysis). By looking at immigrant and gay couple population density, he sketches a rough portrait of where "new thinking" is tolerated. I don't see the problem or controversy here. Now that he is a public policy prof., maybe he can better pick and choose the kinds of political appearances he justifies with his smiling presence. No more faux "renovations" or fake "commons" projects please. Stick to pushing the grassroots innovation your studies advocate.

*Correction--Dr. Rice DOESN'T HATE Richard Florida. He and I disagree on what Florida is articulating, but he's got a more nuanced read on him than I'm giving him credit for. Give his comments below a read. Or, better yet, go see what he's writing at Yellow Dog.*


jeff said...

You mean me?
Why do I "hate" him? I don't understand.
I have written a little bit about his concept of the creative class and how the Michigan Cool Cities initiative stems from that....there are problems in his setup, but those problems I write about are more related to my own work on digital culture and the concept of cool (not as status - as Florida uses the term, but as rhetorical production).
In the piece I did for ctheory, my critique was w/his usage of referentiality (which is, of course not only his tactic, it is the tactic of capital investment, a plan which in fifty years has yet to work for Detroit) to come up with a new urbanism.

Doc Mara said...


Yeah, I was tacking off of your ctheory article (which I actually thought was quite good as a whole--I just thought you were using Florida as a type of strawman for the "big developer" arguments). I connected your severe distaste/critique of top-down economic arguments that you speak about regularly in your blog (not a personal "hate," but an allergic reaction to these types of arguments) with your use of him in your article. To be fair, I acknowledge that he has positioned himself for that kind of criticism by allowing politicians (read "Cool Cities') to appropriate some of his terminology rather than insisting on his basic arguments for grassroots development of economic development. He constantly deflects critics and allies away from "stadiums and Starbucks" top-down capital-investment solutions to more ephemeral coalition building. Reading Florida's denser stuff, his recommendations seem more similar to your tagging solution than the referentiality you ascribe to him (to be fair, I haven't read as much on your take of the associated concepts, so I could be wrong). In your ctheory article, I read your citation of him as aligned with the "big money, big dirt" tactics to be a position of hostility (since you defend D-town like a lion and think this kind of thing weakens that which you love--could be wrong on this count too).


ydog said...

Hmmm. Not sure I'm attacking him so much as pointing out a theory I find no longer working in the diigtal age. That theory is referentiality:
This kind of individual equates long term development.
Gay/Young culture = innovation.

But in age in which refentiality is under question, thus my interest in tagging, I want to investigate other kinds of models. The referentiality model really hasn't done much for the urban, and that includes Florida's own models, described in the Creative Class book, but also in the smaller Cities and the Creative Class, which is chock full of referential charts and such.
But no, no hate. And not such much a big developer/big money thing...My interest is in inventing new kinds of models and practices for digital culture, and Florida's (to me) are not that new nor quite that refelctive of the logic(s) of digital culture.

Doc Mara said...

Fair enough. I'll drop and correct the use of the term "hate." I'll use "strongly disagree with" (I know you are no "hater," as much as "passionately for" stuff). I'll also post more about your ctheory article at a later date (as I said, I agree with most of it).

I still don't think you and him are so far apart. The gay/bohemian/immigrant indexes were correlative and not causative connections. It wasn't so much that "gay culture" or "bohemian culture" or "immigrant culture" cause innovation. Instead, these are barometers of community tolerance of new ideas. I think that his theory stacks up because it takes seriously the idea that language and culture operates in a Derridian way. He picks certain symbolic communities to correlate with economic participation in "new technology" companies--sort of "queering symbolic community belongingness" meets "queering mature companies." In short, I just don't agree with your assertion that he is "this kind of individual." In fact, I think he is an advocate ffor giving room to people like us and the people that we advocate for (and not in that order). "We" (and he is clear that this definition isn't middle or upper-class, and certainly isn't static) are the new economy because we push the boundaries of the possible (both symbolic and material senses).

Finally, I don't think that referentiality has a monopoly on mapping and charting. Just because our discourse community(ies) recognize a screen shot with squiggly circles as a postmodern mapping that calls it's own authority into question doesn't mean someone else doesn't view it much in the same way Barton and Barton look at a U.S. Map. Yeah, these things are ideological, but all the collage in the world doesn't make charts and graphs any less ideolgical or dependent upon the perspective of the viewer/reader. I take Florida's attempts to represent the data as sincere and more dialogic ones, and don't relegate his efforts to the same place as, say, Governor Granholm's (spelling?) "cool cities" iniative. Yeah, they both deflect and replace what they represent, but so does our postmodern stuff.

Doc Mara said...


"indices," not "indexes"
"you and he, not "you and him"


"its," not "it's"