Three theses about complexity today

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Safari bus in Disney's Animal Kingdom park

The Grand Canal in Venice

Complexity is a diagnostic and evaluative concept that offers leverage on contemporary places without making totalizing claims or demanding that we distinguish genuine originals from denatured copies. Rather than trying to separate real places from ersatz or commodified places, I will speak of complex and simplified places. This compares two different kinds of place unity, not true and false unities. There are also some related evaluations: we can also distinguish thick and thin places, and historically dense and diluted places. Where others speak about commodification I will speak about over-simplification.

I would assert three theses:

  1. A general problem with places today is the replacement of complex identities and places by series of simpler identities and places;
  2. because of their inherent temporality and because of the way expectations and norms involve meanings and contrasts that cannot be controlled, all identities and places, even the simplified, contain seeds of a restorative complexity;
  3. more complex places can support a richer and more self-aware inhabitation that embodies better the conditions that make places possible at all.