Creativity

Creativity grows by blending, breaking, bending

12 November 2017
Comments Off on Creativity grows by blending, breaking, bending

From The Houston Chronicle:

David Eagleman is a neuroscientist and an adjunct professor at Stanford University, best known for his work on brain plasticity, which has led to television appearances and programs, and, of course, best-selling books.

. . . .

Anthony Brandt is a composer and music professor at Rice University, the recipient of a Koussevitzky Commission from the Library of Congress and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He’s also the founder of Musiqa, Houston’s contemporary music ensemble.

They combine their interests and talents in the book “The Runaway Species,” a fascinating look at creativity across diverse disciplines.

. . . .

Q: You use a framework for creativity in your book, and you discuss the concepts of “bending,” “breaking” and “blending.” Can you discuss these?

Anthony Brandt: “Bending” is taking a source and messing with it in some way, as when a jazz band plays the same song they played every other night, but they do it in some other way. It’s a variation on a theme. “Breaking” is when you take a whole, break it apart and assemble something new out of the fragments. In the book, we use the example of Picasso’s “Guernica,” in which the artist used bits and pieces of animals, soldiers and civilians to illustrate the brutality of war. And “blending” is any time you are marrying two or more ideas. In the book, we have an example of “Ruppy the Puppy,” the world’s first transgenic dog. He has a gene from a sea anemone, and he turns a fluorescent red under ultraviolet light.

. . . .

Q: The book also describes tension in the human brain between being drawn to the familiar and the lure of exploration. Can you elaborate on that?

Brandt: People aren’t the same in the way they balance novelty and familiarity, but everybody has creative software running in their brain, and they are all capable of aligning themselves on that creative spectrum and being participants in it. But the diversity in this tension, between exploration and familiarity, is healthy. We want a range of people, some of whom are pushing the envelopes, others who are holding back. We don’t want to rush headlong into every wild idea, but we also don’t want to stay rooted in one spot, never improving our lot.

Link to the rest at The Houston Chronicle

Oliver Sacks on the Three Essential Elements of Creativity

12 November 2017

From Brain Pickings:

Imitation, besides being the seedbed of empathy and our experience of time, is also, paradoxically enough, the seedbed of creativity — not only a poetic truth but a cognitive fact, as the late, great neurologist and poet of science Oliver Sacks (July 9, 1933–August 30, 2015) argues in a spectacular essay titled “The Creative Self,” published in the posthumous treasure The River of Consciousness.

. . . .

He writes:

If imitation plays a central role in the performing arts, where incessant practice, repetition, and rehearsal are essential, it is equally important in painting or composing or writing, for example. All young artists seek models in their apprentice years, models whose style, technical mastery, and innovations can teach them. Young painters may haunt the galleries of the Met or the Louvre; young composers may go to concerts or study scores. All art, in this sense, starts out as “derivative,” highly influenced by, if not a direct imitation or paraphrase of, the admired and emulated models.

When Alexander Pope was thirteen years old, he asked William Walsh, an older poet whom he admired, for advice. Walsh’s advice was that Pope should be “correct.” Pope took this to mean that he should first gain a mastery of poetic forms and techniques. To this end, in his “Imitations of English Poets,” Pope began by imitating Walsh, then Cowley, the Earl of Rochester, and more major figures like Chaucer and Spenser, as well as writing “Paraphrases,” as he called them, of Latin poets. By seventeen, he had mastered the heroic couplet and began to write his “Pastorals” and other poems, where he developed and honed his own style but contented himself with the most insipid or clichéd themes. It was only once he had established full mastery of his style and form that he started to charge it with the exquisite and sometimes terrifying products of his own imagination. For most artists, perhaps, these stages or processes overlap a good deal, but imitation and mastery of form or skills must come before major creativity.

. . . .

More than a century after Mark Twain declared that “substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources,” Sacks — who had previously written at length about our unconscious borrowings — adds:

All of us, to some extent, borrow from others, from the culture around us. Ideas are in the air, and we may appropriate, often without realizing, the phrases and language of the times. We borrow language itself; we did not invent it. We found it, we grew up into it, though we may use it, interpret it, in very individual ways. What is at issue is not the fact of “borrowing” or “imitating,” of being “derivative,” being “influenced,” but what one does with what is borrowed or imitated or derived; how deeply one assimilates it, takes it into oneself, compounds it with one’s own experiences and thoughts and feelings, places it in relation to oneself, and expresses it in a new way, one’s own.

Link to the rest at Brain Pickings and thanks to Anne for the tip.

Confessions of a Content Creator

31 July 2017

From Medium:

Gut: Hey Brain, want to write something that’ll almost certainly expose us to massive criticism?

Brain: Uhhh, no?

Gut: TOO LATE, DOIN’ IT, HERE WE GOOOO!!!!

As a content creator, I don’t really care about data.

There. I said it.

Don’t misunderstand: I know I’m supposed to care about data. I’m supposed to end that opening sentence by saying, “but I’m working hard to improve my analytical chops.”

But the truth is, I’m really not.

Instead, I’m working hard to improve my creative chops. It’s what I love. It’s what I was put on this earth to do. I aspire to create things that make you feel stuff and think stuff and want to spend more time with more of that stuff.

Now, I’m no fool. I know I’ll look far better if I claim that I’m data-driven. After all, I’ve worked for online startups and tech companies my entire career. We’re the crowd responsible for the data-first ways currently permeating even the most analytics-agnostic fields.

I know I’m supposed to say I care a ton about data. But, well … I just don’t.

. . . .

Here’s the thing: I’m not alone in feeling this way about data. There are others like me, others who create content for a living — damn good content at that — and we don’t really think about data all that much. We’re walking among you right now, working on your teams, attending your meetings, nodding at our CMOs who shout of MQLs and monthly lead-gen metrics.

We pretend to care. But we don’t really care.

We really care about our craft. We really care about what our intuition is urging us to try. We really care about making things others like — nay, love. And as it just so happens, this is the skill that many businesses are starting to realize they need but can’t often find.

Link to the rest at Medium

PG notes that Content Creator is one of the many jobs that didn’t exist when he was a little squirt.

How Much Internet Data is Generated Every Minute?

27 July 2017

From Domo:

Link to the rest at Domo and here’s a link to a .png file that you can click to enlarge the infographic to a larger size.

PG was impressed by this in that many of the activities shown describe communications that individuals create themselves, at least in part.

On the other hand, 103,447,520 spam emails sent every minute.

Why Coloring and Doodling Make Us Feel Good

20 June 2017

From Mental Floss:

Quit your judging and give in. You know you want a coloring book, and now researchers know why. They published their findings in the journal The Arts in Psychotherapy.

Art therapy experts at Drexel University and The College of New Jersey wondered if there was a neurological basis for the relaxation-inducing powers of coloring, doodling, and drawing.

The best way to find out, they figured, would be to watch people’s brains as they tooled around on the page.

The researchers recruited 26 people, eight of whom self-identified as “artists.” They fitted each person with a special brain-imaging headband and gave them markers and paper. The participants then had three mini art sessions lasting three minutes: one each of doodling, coloring, and drawing whatever they felt like. Between sessions, they left the headbands on and rested their hands. Afterward, the researchers asked participants how they felt about each activity and about themselves.

As human experiments go, this one was pretty sweet for its participants, many of whom said the arts-and-crafts experiment made them feel like they had more good ideas and were better at solving problems afterward. But three minutes was not long enough, some said. They wanted more time.

Their brains seemed similarly into it. All three activities produced an increase in blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, a region that plays a central part in the brain’s reward system. During rest periods, blood flow slowed until it reached normal resting rates.

Link to the rest at Mental Floss and thanks to Valerie for the tip.

PG understands that no one has physical sensations in their brains. However, when he switches from lawyer stuff to either photography or post-processing his photos, he can almost feel one part of his brain winding down and a different part spinning up.

5 types of rest every creative should adopt

28 May 2017

From TNW:

There’s a pervasive idea out there that life and creativity are a zero-sum game. Indulge one, destroy the other. Or, as designer Stefan Sagmeister once wrote in a mural of coins across a plaza in Amsterdam: “Obsessions make my life worse and my work better.” But as anyone who has ever experienced it knows, there comes a point when obsession makes your work worse too. Burnout can be creatively lethal.

. . . .

“I waste a lot of time,” poet John Ashbery wrote. “That’s part of [the creative process]… The problem is you can’t really use this wasted time. You have to have it wasted.” Gertrude Stein agreed: “It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much, doing nothing, really doing nothing.”

. . . .

Stress is the enemy of creativity. Our best work often comes from a state of nonchalance, when our minds are calm. “Qualities such as focus, calmness, clarity, and insight are as important to your creative process as glamour and stimulation,” wrote Mark McGuinness in a post on the site 99U. But a calm mind doesn’t happen by accident. It’s something you have to practice. How? Meditation. Of all the forms of creative rest, meditation is the most immediately beneficial. And the benefits only increase the more you do it. There are plenty of sites that offer meditation techniques, but the basics are incredibly simple: put yourself in time-out for 10 minutes. Think about your breathing. Let thoughts pass through your mind but don’t acknowledge them. Soon they will stop coming at all, and you will feel your mind clear. Think of it like restarting a computer.

Link to the rest at TNW

What Some Research on Creativity Tells Us

22 April 2017

From The Epoch Times:

If anyone doubts that our culture is obsessed with creativity, a quick survey of the available literature on the topic should satisfy.

The amount of scholarly interest on creativity in the last 50 years at least is mind-boggling. Psychologists, cognitive scientists, and philosophers have studied it, of course, but researchers in the fields of engineering, theology, and linguistics have looked into it as well. Studies have ranged from how moods, intelligence, and personality type are related to creativity, to how it affects mental health, economics, and neurological processes.

. . . .

When we think of creativity in relation to health, we might first think of improved mental health. Art therapy, according to the American Art Therapy Association, is used to help clients explore their feelings, foster self-awareness, and manage behavior and addictions.

But one hefty but by no means exhaustive review of literature from 1995 through 2007 on the relationship between the creative arts and health suggests an even deeper effect. Looking specifically at the therapeutic effects of music, visual arts, movement/theater, and expressive writing, one review surveyed the effects on physical healing.

For example, in two studies that used music therapy on hospitalized cancer patients, the benefits included reduced pain (found a study published in Oncology Nursing Forum), and increased immunity and lowered anxiety, among reductions in other psychological and physical symptoms (found another in The Journal of Psychosocial Oncology).

And at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, researchers compared those receiving “art intervention” with those who did not, in different units of the hospital. The groups receiving the intervention showed significantly better vital signs and fewer physical symptoms of stress, and needed less medication to help them sleep.

The Journal of Aging and Health reports long-term benefits. Researchers found that openness, or a mental flexibility and willingness to entertain novel ideas, can be a factor in increasing longevity, or as Scientific American put it, “creative thinking reduces stress and keeps the brain healthy.”

Link to the rest at The Epoch Times

Most people are secretly threatened by creativity

14 March 2017

From Quartz:

Creativity is highly prized in Western society—much touted by cultures that claim to value individualism and the entrepreneurial spirit. But scratch beneath the surface, and it turns out that a lot of schools and businesses aren’t actually all that excited about bold new ideas. By and large, we tend to be threatened by creativity—and eager to shut it down.

The problem begins with education. We know that teachers say creativity is important. But research shows that many teachers define creativity as a skill that’s mainly associated with the arts—thereby downplaying the essential role that creativity plays in everything from math and science to argumentative writing and sports. Furthermore, teachers routinely label creative students as “disruptive,” treating outside-the-box thinking not as a strength but as a problem to be dealt with. So it should be no surprise that independent studies with thousands of participants, in the US and elsewhere, have confirmed that millennials are less motivated to elaborate on creative ideas, and more anxious about embracing them, than prior generations. Recent data show that millennials are also less likely to start new businesses—a trend that has contributed to the lowest number of US startups since the 1970s.

The same pattern holds true in business. IBM recently asked 1,500 executives which leadership characteristics they most desired in employees. The number one trait: You guessed it, creativity. But the same study noted that more than 50% of executives said they struggled with, and felt unprepared to recognize and embrace, creative solutions. Study after study shows that new ideas are chronically rejected at many companies, even businesses that say they want more innovation.

. . . .

The upshot is that we are in an ongoing war against creativity, yet we are loathe to admit it. Our negative feelings about unusual ideas are a knee-jerk reaction; we may not even be aware that we’re having them.

Link to the rest at Quartz

PG has had a group of Google Alerts running ever since he learned about the service several years ago.

A couple of those alerts are designed to pick up interesting stories about creativity. Over time, PG has noted the largest groups of news reports, etc., that talk about creativity tend to be centered on public education and municipal government stories.

Without demeaning anyone who works in those two areas, PG doesn’t associate big-time creativity with either endeavor. Both arenas tend to be dominated by bureaucracies which are difficult to move from their habitual ways of doing things (and are also constrained by a thicket of laws).

Why are schools in China looking west for lessons in creativity?

28 January 2017

From The Financial Times:

In the auditorium of Beijing Bayi School, on a cold morning thick with smog, props are broken, lines unlearnt and the mechanical curtain has blown a fuse. In four hours, my cast of 22 Chinese 14-year-olds, who have never acted before, will perform Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to an audience of 1,500 — in English. All their education has told them that drama is an irrelevance. As I race around the theatre, trying to track down an absent Grandpa Joe and a missing Golden Ticket I ask myself, not for the first time: what am I doing here?

Chinese education has increasingly been hailed as “superior” to the way we teach in the west in recent years. Its success in global tests for 15-year-olds reinforced this sense of a world tilting to the east: in the 2012 round of the Programme for International Student Assessment tests (Pisa), Shanghai, representing China, came first in science, reading and mathematics. Fretful western governments took note, amid mounting concern that China’s educational success would inevitably pave the way for economic and cultural dominance. Or, as the former UK government minister Michael Gove baldly stated when he was secretary of state for education, the UK can either “start working as hard as the Chinese, or we’ll all soon be working for the Chinese”.

. . . .

As I can confirm from my five weeks at Bayi School last year, school days are definitely a lot longer than in the west. Older pupils started at about 7.30am and continued until 6pm, usually backed up by evening self-study classes. Most schools have classes on Saturdays, too. If they don’t, middle-class parents will arrange private lessons with tutors. Asia is the fastest-growing market in the global private tuition industry, which is forecast by Global Industry Analysts to be worth nearly $200bn by 2020. Students in Shanghai also spend almost 14 hours a week on homework, close to three times the average given by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

. . . .

To China’s educationalists the timing of the western love affair with their system is striking. For the past decade or so wealthy Chinese parents, keen to avoid the test-dominated regime of their own educations, have been sending their teenage offspring to study in America in dramatically increasing numbers: 46,000 Chinese students attended American high schools in 2015, up from just 637 in 2005. In the UK, Chinese are also “by far” the largest group of international students according to the 2016 Independent Schools Council census.

Now these parents are also demanding a more “western” option at home. Wealthier parents have flocked to enrol their children at the newly opened Chinese arms of traditional British private schools such as Wycombe Abbey and Harrow. UK state schools are beginning to get in on the action too; Bohunt, the school from the BBC programme, is opening a private school in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, next year. And it’s not just parents who have an appetite for something different.

More than a decade ago, the Chinese Ministry of Education issued a statement denouncing the “exam-oriented education” of China. In the past few years, the ministry has introduced a policy calling for the formal encouragement of “creativity” and “innovation” in schools. The school where I taught has clearly taken heed. Among sections about a “military training that builds spirit” and “an education in Communism”, its prospectus boasts of Bayi’s commitment to “encourage creative awareness and creative acts”.

Link to the rest at The Financial Times (if you hit a paywall, you may want to cut and paste “Why are schools in China looking west for lessons in creativity?” and see what happens)

How Being Bored Out of Your Mind Makes You More Creative

26 January 2017

From Wired:

“I’m dying of boredom,” complains the young wife, Yelena, in Chekhov’s 1897 play Uncle Vanya. “I don’t know what to do.” Of course, if Yelena were around today, we know how she’d alleviate her boredom: She’d pull out her smartphone and find something diverting, like BuzzFeed or Twitter or Clash of Clans. If you have a planet’s worth of entertainment in your pocket, it’s easy to stave off ennui.

Unless it turns out ennui is good for us. What if boredom is a meaningful experience—one that propels us to states of deeper thoughtfulness or creativity?

That’s the conclusion of two fascinating recent studies. In one, researchers asked a group of subjects to do something boring, like copying out numbers from a phone book, and then take tests of creative thinking, such as devising uses for a pair of cups. The result? Bored subjects came up with more ideas than a nonbored control group, and their ideas were often more creative. In a second study, subjects who took an “associative thought” word test came up with more answers when they’d been forced to watch a dull screensaver.

Boredom might spark creativity because a restless mind hungers for stimulation. Maybe traversing an expanse of tedium creates a sort of cognitive forward motion. “Boredom becomes a seeking state,” says Texas A&M University psychologist Heather Lench. “What you’re doing now is not satisfying. So you’re seeking, you’re engaged.”

Link to the rest at Wired

Next Page »