Monday, May 18, 2009

More Thoughts about Creativity

Before I start I'd like to send a hello to Regina Murphy of Ireland, and invite her to contribute to the blog (let me know and I'll set this up). I never intended this blog to be a one person act and what Regine is doing I find extremely interesting (I'll let her tell about it...).

In my last post I focused on skill as a part of creativity and potentially a filter for measuring "higher order" processes.
The question stays- what is creativity? My understanding is still evolving and this blog seems to be one of the places I do my thinking, so here goes:
Creativity has a strong creative domain component- like expertise in any field it is highly contextualized. If you are a sculptor a painter or a mathematician your deep understanding of your field is part of being creative or it at least a necessary but not sufficient condition. Such domain knowledge is what enables the artist (and I use this term to include anyone attempting to create an art product) to translate a vision, intent to a product. As Mike Jackson explained to me [I am paraphrasing] For me creativity is when I can translate what I see in my mind on the paper, then it is a good product. I care about the process the most, once it is done I stop being engaged.
Yet, people who describe themselves (or by others) as creative seem to be able to carry some of their creativity with them into new domains explore them and finally be engaged with them in full. Looking at the Universal Learning Model that my colleagues and I are focusing on- creativity becomes a multi-dimensional construct that combines several aspects of learning. The first is knowledge of the domain, most important is procedural knowledge that drives the creative process itself. Second is focus- single minded focus of attentional resources (i.e. working memory) to the task at hand. It is the experience of Flow or just extreme focus on the work that is often romantically portrayed. Finally and maybe the characteristic that most often helps the artist transcend a creative genre and learn a new one- Motivation.
The most universal feature of creativity is motivation. Motivation directs attention and allows the focus described above, which in turn leads to learning of new knowledge of the domain and most importantly the process. In motivation I think the most important features are slef-concept, seeing one's self as an artist or creative person. The second is the longing for complete engagement or flow. I think that once you develop Flow, you constantly search for it. And if you cannot find it you look for new domains in which you can re-experience it. Oliver Sacks describes such a case in "The Case of the Colorblind Painter". A desperate search by the artist for the way to rediscover flow probably the experience that ancient artists used to describe as the presence of a muse.
More later
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