Semantics

“All creativity can be understood as 
taking in the world as a problem.” 

Janet Murray wrote that in her introduction, “Inventing the Medium,” to The New Media Reader, an anthology that we will be using in a faculty-staff seminar led by Gardner Campbell called “Awakening the Digital Imagination” at Virginia Commonwealth University. This seminar involves blogging weekly, so for any lurking fans (there may be one still in Russia if my Google Analytics are to be trusted), I’m back in business for a while.

 That being said, I know what follows isn’t particularly entertaining—it’s helping me fill in a line of reasoning I’m creating on my office whiteboard right now. I promise I’ll be less selfish and less introverted in future blogs. It’s just that, for right now, I’m obsessed with understanding something.

I like Murray’s assertion because it backs up Assumption #1 my office white board: The human condition is making meaning which can be understood as the ultimate form of problem solving. So the self-serving affinity I have for Murray’s statement aside, let’s dig into the words she chose.

One area on the white board.  Note Assumption #1.

 I chose meaning making (because I’m reading Lincoln and Guba), she chose creativity.

So what IS creativity exactly?

Henry Jenkins also uses that word in his description of participatory culture on the web, so I want to know what it means.

Wikipedia defines creativity: the phenomenon of something new and valuable being created, where created means being brought into existence.

Alles Schulmpf – Flickr

To be identified as creative, the phenomenon must have value.  Also note that creativity has an action inherently built into it.  It feels different than imagination, which seems to me to be something waiting to be awakened, but that may or may not result in an observable action.  But that’s a different conversation.
 
Where does that value come from? Who? What? How? 

Memphis CVB – Flickr

 I think value arises from multiple sources in different ways, although Murray directly connects it to problematizing. First, according to our trusty Google search, “created” means “brought into existence” which means that it took energy to create. Birthing is an active practice, that energy can be bestowed on the product being birthed, and that energy equates to value, provided that the energy is transferable. It can transfer its energy (and therefore possesses value) because it solves a problem or fulfills a need. Creativity does not exist in a world in which there is no problematizing, a society without direction or orientation, or a people with no desire to change or get somewhere other than here. Creativity produces variation, divergence, and movement away from the constant. That would be an easy mathematical equation to draw.  Really, you could just highjack the equation for standard error.  Creativity hiding in error?  Another conversation…

 But creativity is born of convergence, the focus of energy within a creative project.The viral video stimulating the spin-offs.

I know it sounds cliche in the context of critical theory and constructivism and all those other things that live in the Academic Learning Center, but creativity, like everything else, is value-driven.  I had never thought about it so explicitly before. I will go further with this (and I will…on my whiteboard), but I will leave you be for now. I’m looking forward to next week.

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