From Iceland — Ask A Sociologist: Does Iceland’s Weather Spur Creativity?

Ask A Sociologist: Does Iceland’s Weather Spur Creativity?

Published July 25, 2018

Ask A Sociologist: Does Iceland’s Weather Spur Creativity?
Christine Engel Snitkjær
Photo by
Kristinn Ingvarsson
Creative Commons

Iceland is as known worldwide for its creativity as its amazingly bad weather. But is there some sort of relationship between the two? We asked sociology Professor Stefán Hrafn Jónsson.

Our surroundings shape our thoughts and behavior. Individuals, and more so societies, adapt to the environment in various ways. Many technological innovations are the result of adaptation to harsh nature, including the ever-changing weather. Ships are built to withstand strong wind on the open sea, roads are built to withstand snowy winters, and buildings are designed to keep us warm and dry during cold winters.

The fishing industry in Iceland is a clear example of creativity spurred in part by the weather. Icelandic fishermen, scientists and technicians have, in recent decades, played a significant role in technological innovation in safety equipment, information processing and seafood product processing. Their success is likely a partial result of the close collaboration between different sectors where formal education and long experience with fishing and processing in difficult weathers merge into creative innovations.

Iceland also has a long history of producing creative artists and designers. In recent decades, a number of Icelandic outdoor clothing companies have become highly competitive in the global market, most likely in part by the designers’ personal struggles with harsh winter weather.

While the above are speculative thoughts, the question: “Does Iceland’s weather spur creativity?” is indeed an excellent idea for a sociological research. The department of Sociology at the University of Iceland has a newly restructured master’s and doctoral program, now taught in English, that is built on a strong methodological and theoretical foundation and at the same time intertwined with Icelandic sociological distinctiveness and characteristics. This question could be a fruitful venue for a curious future student.

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