Long waves in the geography of innovation: The rise and decline of regional clusters of creativity over time
Malte Doehnea and Katja Rosta
a University of Zürich
We explain the rise and decline of regional clusters of creativity over time. We argue that this dynamic is the result of the interplay of individually rational decision-making processes with collective externalities of unplanned social encounters; migration to particular places at particular times interacts with a preference to engage with similar others. This interplay leads to the rise and subsequent decline of opportunities for encounters between people who operate in different domains, a basic requirement for radical innovative change. The consequent decline of formerly innovative regions creates opportunities for new innovative regions to emerge. We test this theory using three independently curated datasets. The first includes the geocoded places and years of the births and deaths of 124,860 notable individuals who lived in Europe between 1000 and 1900 CE, used to measure opportunities for domain-diverse encounters in regions and regions’ time-varying attractiveness in global mobility networks. The second and third datasets consist of the geocoded locations and founding years of 3,165 Catholic monasteries and of 16,596 publishing houses. We use these organizational innovations as robust, independent indicators for a region’s capacity to foster incremental and radical change. Our paper aims to open a broader social network perspective on the rise and decline of regional clusters of creativity over time.