Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Creativity and the human project

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I've started this week the Coursera MOOC Creativity, Innovation, and Change. I'm interested in creativity and how it works in the design of learning experiences, both in terms of what I do as a teacher/meddler in the middle and what the learner does. I'm also interested in creativity in general, because I think it is one of the things that makes us human. 

Now of course bower birds create bowers, termite create mounds; but are these creations the same thing as our works of art, literature, processes, etc? Given we can consciously reflect on what we are doing, I suspect they are not. Although genetics clearly drives our own creative processes, what we create is an emergent property of our complex brains.

Theologically too I can see how the creator has created creators, sub-creators to create out of something. We can create good or create evil, beauty or ugliness, order or chaos. We can create community or disharmony. Our creativity carries with it moral weight. For a Christian, creativity should be a profoundly Trinitarian act, for God is the creative God who speaks, the Spirit is the creative spirit who hovered over the waters of chaos and all things were created through and for the Son.

Everyone is creative. I once went to a workshop on writing where the speaker pointed out that young children when asked can they draw, sing, etc all put their hands up, but that the educative process sees more and more hands remain down as the years pass. Not all have the same creative level (talents) or the same creative style (innovative or revolutionary compared to evolutionary or structured). Not all share the same opportunities or motives. But we can all create.

The web has made creation easier - with mashing, cutting and pasting, etc but this is all maybe too easy or derivative. That said, most creativity is derivative of something else (all is plagiarism we might say) and new things in art or science come along only once in a while. Perhaps as Gladwell notes in Outliers, all our creativity is a function of where we are and when we are. Again theologically, all creation is sub-creation or derivative. It emerges from what comes before.

That being the case, reading a lot, watching and listening, observing all in great volumes and then producing much will see something of value emerge. How many failures before the great success? How many words before that captivating poem? How many takes before the perfect seen. Creativity takes great courage and lots of time.

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