How To Be Creative | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios (Video) – The Creativity Post

 

 

By The Creativity Post | Oct 03, 2013

Synopsis

Creativity has always been essential for our cultural growth, but there are still many misconceptions about this elusive process.

Creativity has always been essential for our cultural growth, but there are still many misconceptions about this elusive process. Not the left-brain/right-brain binary that we’ve come to believe, being creative is considerably more complex, and requires a nuanced understanding of ourself and others. Being a powerful creative person involves letting go of preconceived notions of what an artist is, and discovering and inventing new processes that yield great ideas. Most importantly, creators must push forward, whether the light bulb illuminates or not.

Featuring:

Julie Furstein, author http://www.julieburstein.com/
Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., Cognitive Psychologist http://scottbarrykaufman.com/
Kirby Ferguson, filmmaker http://www.everythingisaremix.info
Ramsey Nasser, Computer Scientist http://nas.sr/
– See more at: http://www.creativitypost.com/psychology/how_to_be_creative_off_book_pbs_digital_studios_video#sthash.vTIuoc7Q.dpuf

Creative Intelligence – The Creativity Post

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CREATIVE INTELLIGENCE
By Greg Satell | Jan 30, 2013

Synopsis

Rethinking the creative process.

Albert Camus once said that “true art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.”  Henry Ward Beecher similarly wrote that “Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.”

You don’t have to look far to find quotes like these, because art is something we consider intensely human. Art and the artist are so thoroughly intertwined that we can’t bear to think of one without the other.

For better or worse, we’re going to have to rethink this comfortable little notion.  Machine intelligence is advancing to the point where algorithms have begun to invade the world of culture and the aesthetic.  From recommendations to evaluation to the production of art itself, computers are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the creative realm.

The Search for Creative Assets

When you make a TV ad in Ukraine (as I have), you generally do it on a tight budget. You certainly don’t have the money to buy the rights to the latest hit by a big pop star or a vintage Beatles classic.  There are some local musicians who can create something for you, but thats a pretty involved effort and, to be frank, the quality isn’t worth it.

I found a good solution with DeWolfe Music, which is an online database that gives you access to thousands of songs from unknown composers and performers.  You can search by music genre, keyword (e.g. an artist that you’re trying to emulate) and tempo, quickly find what you need and license the music for a small fee.

Newer services, such as Pandora and Spotify, deploy a similar idea in order to build custom radio stations.  Rather than a human programming director choosing your music, you can just give the software some clues about what you might want to listen to and it designs a selection from a nearly infinite database to cater to your mood and preference.

This is all done through the use of complex mathematical techniques, such as Bayesian classifiers and Gaussian copulas, that recognize similarities between data sets.  So just like a sommelier might ask you what wine you typically like and offer you something similar,recommendation algorithms can do the same with music, films and even art.

Cultivating Creativity

Being able to search and find elements of art and culture is one thing, but can computers appreciate quality?

Mike McCready has shown that they can.  His company, Music X-Ray, offers a service where composers can upload their music to evaluate its hit potential and it has been shown, in many cases, to outperform professional music executives (reportedly predicting the success of Norah Jones when many industry experts were skeptical).

As crazy as the idea sounds, you’ve probably recently listened to many songs identified by the service.  Every major label now uses some version of it and they’re not alone.  Movie studios employ a similar service, called Epagogix to tell them which scripts are likely to become box office hits.

And it doesn’t stop there.  Music scholar and composer David Cope has built algorithms which create music that has drawn critical acclaim.  In fact, even music experts can’t tell the difference.  When Cope’s computer generated music was played along with a Bach piece and another original composition, they couldn’t correctly identify which was which.

What is Creativity?

As impressive as all of this is, it creates a particularly thorny, visceral problem:  If creativity can be reduced to an algorithm, doesn’t it lose its soul?

While I admit, I find something troubling in all of this as well, after thinking it through I have come to believe that artificial intelligence actually has the potential to help us appreciate creativity even more, in much the same way as Richard Feynman explains how understanding the inner workings of a flower help him acknowledge its beauty.

Our brains, in many ways, are inferior to computers.  They transmit information at the relatively feeble rate of 200 mph, vs the speed of light for computer chips.  They get tired, need nourishment, age, forget things and don’t interface with other databases of information effectively.  Objectively speaking, they are slow, inefficient and prone to error.

Their saving grace is that they are a massively parallel complex network.  They are made up of 100 billion neurons and each one can connect to any other.  These interfaces, calledsynapses, optimize themselves as they strengthen and decay with use and link to the outside world through our five senses of sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell.

While computers have relatively few active pathways at work at any given time, we have millions, giving rise to infinite permutations of thoughts, feelings, bodily functions and sensory inputs.  Perhaps not surprisingly, these hierarchies get tangled, resulting instrange loops that manifest themselves in what we have come to know as original creativity.

As Douglas Hofstadter said, “In the end, we self-perceiving, self-inventing, locked-in mirages are little miracles of self-reference.”

Rethinking the Creative Process

The creative process has always been cloaked in mystery and artistic types tend to be resistant to formality.  Nevertheless, professional individuals and organizations strive to develop an effective framework to enhance the productivity and quality of their work and creativity researchers have been able to identify some basic principles of creativity.

However, in light of the breakthroughs in machine creativity, I think that we need to revisit past thinking about creativity and identify three major processes:

Forming Intent: Every creative endeavor has its purpose.  Designers work on a brief that someone else creates while true artists form their own purpose, but in either case, the final result is, in essence, a solution to a particular problem.

For example, my purpose in creating ads was to sell a product, while Picasso’s purpose in creating cubism was to establish a fundamentally different way at looking at the world. In the final analysis, both are judged by the significance and the degree to which the original intent was fulfilled.

Searching the Domain:  As Howard Gardner explained in his highly regarded study,Creating Minds, great creativity requires a thorough knowledge of the domain.  Picasso’s cubism, for example, was inspired by his encounter with obscure African art.  The larger your database of experience, the greater your ability to create.

Computers obviously far outperform humans in this regard.  They have practically limitless memory and their vast computational power enables them to search incredibly quickly and accurately.

Tangling Hierarchies:  As I’ve written before, great breakthroughs come fromsynthesizing across domains, whether that be Picasso’s blending of European and African art or Rock and Roll’s unique fusion of various american music styles.  It is when two or more ideas collide in a meaningful way that people find inspiration and creative flow.

It is this last trick, that of emulating the strange loops in our mind, which computers have recently learned how to do, that has given rise to machine creativity.  David Cope, for example, found that his computer generated music was dull and lifeless until he injected an element of randomness into his algorithms.

Flying By Wire

Pilots don’t really fly planes anymore as much as they direct them.  These days, their controls and instruments don’t actually connect to the plane’s mechanism, but to computers which translate their intent into meaningful action.  In doing so, they make flying far safer and more efficient.

This is known as flying by wire and we don’t see anything threatening or strange about it. While at first it may seem to be a bit more disconcerting when computers start navigating the realm of abstract thought rather than the mechanics of aviation, it shouldn’t be, any more than driving a car should affect our feelings about walking.

So what makes us creative?  Our ability to form our own intent.  It is only through creating a purpose that is uniquely our own that we can fully embody the human spirit.

This post originally appeared at  DigitalTonto

Reposted by The Creativity Post

About Greg Satell:
Greg Satell is an internationally recognized authority on Digital Strategy and Innovation who has served in senior Strategy and Innovation roles for the Publicis Groupe, one of the world’s premier marketing services companies. In 2012, Innovation Excellence ranked Greg #6 on their annual list of the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers.  Previously, he was Co-CEO of KP Media and spent 15 years in Eastern Europe managing a variety of media businesses ranging from market leading web sites to history making news organizations to women’s and lifestyle focused media.

Find out more at http://www.digitaltonto.com/

Produce First, Sharpen Second: What Dylan’s Vomit Teaches Us About The Creative Process

The Creativity Post

Synopsis

Good ideas and work arise from one’s ability to recognize good, mediocre or bad things. Some recent research gives us a strategy to accomplish this.

For Dylan, “Like a Rolling Stone” began as a long piece of vomit, at least that’s what he told two reporters back in 1965. As the story goes, Dylan, who was at the tail end of a grueling tour that took his pre-electric act across the United States and into Europe, decided to quit music and move to a small cabin in upstate New York to rethink his creative direction. He was sick of answering the same questions over and over again. He was sick of singing the same song over and over again. He wanted to liberate his mind.

This is why “Like a Rolling Stone” began as a twenty-page ramble. It was, as Dylan described it, a regurgitation of dissatisfactions and curiosities. What came next was Dylan’s true talent. Like a wood sculpture, he whittled at his rough draft. He cherry picked the good parts and threw away the bad parts. He began to dissect his words to try and understand what his message was. Eventually, Dylan headed to the studio with a clearer vision, and today, “Like a Rolling Stone” stands as one of the very best.

What’s interesting is how Dylan approached the writing process. The song started as a splattering of ideas. Dylan wasn’t even trying to write a song; initially, he didn’t care about verses or choruses. He compared the writing process to vomiting because he was trying to bring an idea that infected his thinking from the inside to the outside of his body.

His strategy isn’t unique. In fact, it resembles the approach of many other artists throughout history. For example, in the Fall 1975 issue of The Paris Review, the Pulitzer Prize winner and Nobel laureate John Steinbeck gave this piece of advice about writing: “Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.” As the saying goes, perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

This principle doesn’t just show itself in art. Economies, too, succeed and fail by continuous innovation and wealth followed by unvaried ideas and bankruptcies. The Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter popularized the term creative destruction to describe the simultaneous accumulation and annihilation of wealth under capitalism. As Schumpeter saw it, for every successful entrepreneur dozens of failures followed. But this was a good thing; capitalism was to be understood as an evolutionary process where good ideas prevailed over bad ones.

With these thoughts in mind, consider a study released this month conducted by Simone Ritter of the Radboud University in the Netherlands with help from Rick B. van Baaren and Ap Dijksterhuis. For the first experiment, the scientists recruited 112 university students and gave them two minutes to come up with creative ideas to solve relatively harmless problems (e.g., improving the experience of waiting in line at a supermarket). Next, the subjects were divided into two groups: the first went straight to work, while the second performed an unrelated task for two minutes to distract their conscious mind.

The first thing the psychologists found wasn’t too eye opening. Both groups – conscious and distracted – created the same amount of ideas. But the second finding was slightly more intriguing. Here’s Jonah Lehrer describing the results:

After writing down as many ideas as they could think of, both groups were asked to choose which of their ideas were the most creative. Although there was no difference in idea generation, giving the unconscious a few minutes now proved to be a big advantage, as those who had been distracted were much better at identifying their best ideas. (An independent panel of experts scored all of the ideas.) While those in the conscious condition only picked their most innovative concepts about 20 percent of the time — they confused their genius with their mediocrity — those who had been distracted located their best ideas about 55 percent of the time. In other words, they were twice as good at figuring out which concepts deserved more attention.

When it comes to writing an essay for college, pitching a business plan or creating a work of art we are hard wired to believe that our output is above average. As a result, we are blind to what needs improvement. It’s not just that we can’t see any holes and errors; we don’t think they exist. What’s interesting about Ritter’s findings is that they give us a strategy to overcome our overconfidence. The lesson from her research is that in order to recognize our imperfections we must step back and be dilettantes. In other words, get distracted and don’t marry the first draft.

And this brings me back to Dylan’s vomit and Steinbeck’s advice. The reason we should “never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down” is because we initially don’t know which of our ideas are worthwhile. It’s only after we get everything down that we are able to recognize what works from what doesn’t. This is the lesson from Ritter’s research: we need to give the unconscious mind time to mull it over so it can convince the conscious mind to make adjustments. Or, as Nietzsche said in All Too Human: “the imagination of the good artist or thinker produces continuously good, mediocre or bad things, but his judgment, trained and sharpened to a fine point, rejects, selects, connects…. All great artists and thinkers are great workers, indefatigable not only in inventing, but also in rejecting, sifting, transforming, ordering.”

By Sam McNerney

About Sam McNerney
I was born in Evanston, Illinois, but grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I went to school at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, graduating with a degree in philosophy. After studying too much Descartes and Nietzsche I realized that my passion is reading and writing about cognitive psychology. Now I spend my time exploring the world of brain science by interviewing professors and researchers and writing about popular ideas in psychology, neuroscience and philosophy to the general audience.

Find out more at http://sammcnerney.com/

Debunking the Mozart Myth – By Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein

The Creativity Post

By Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein | Jun 05, 2012

Synopsis
Certain myths about creative invention cripple people in all walks of life. Debunking those myths can unleash creativity overnight, as the experience of one young man in our class testifies.

In the 1980s, we taught a class on creative process at UCLA. Much to our dismay, many of our students accepted certain myths about creative invention that misled and demoralized them. The same myths cripple people in all walks of life. Debunking those myths can unleash creativity overnight, as the experience of one young man in our class testifies.

This young man – call him Sam – took our class to “rediscover” his creativity. In his first year of college he had written a chart-topping rock song for a well-known band. But in the attempt to come up with an encore, he found himself suffering from a profound case of composer’s block. He wanted us to remove it.

We didn’t. He did. And not because of something we taught him, but because of something he learned about himself by taking the class. As part of the curriculum, we required each student to learn a new skill or craft, to take up a new hobby. Our point was to force them to become aware of their personal creative processes and to compare them with their expectations and beliefs. Sam learned that he had fallen prey to the “Mozart myth”.

The Mozart myth goes something like this. Some people are born with talent so tremendous that music and other cultural products spring from their minds fully-fledged, as if by magic. Mozart, so the myth goes, would compose his symphonies in one sitting with nary a revision through a single act of inspiration. The more generalized myth, popularized by writers such as Arthur Koestler, is that all creative people work this way.

Sam thought he did. He remembered composing his best-selling rock song in one night following an epiphany in which it had come into his mind fully formed and ready to record. Having bought into his own personal Mozart myth, he had waited in vain for further inspiration.

We were able to help. As Sam and other students in the class took up new hobbies and crafts, we had them keep a daily journal of what they were doing (or not doing) to navigate their creative learning. They noted strategies and tactics, successful and unsuccessful, innate and learned, practiced and honed. They compared these with the creative processes of great scientists, artists, and composers we discussed in class. We also brought in working composers, poets, painters and scientists to describe their personal creative processes and to answer questions.

Our students quickly learned that creativity is never a single act. Creativity is always a lengthy process requiring huge amounts of preparation and persistence. As counter-example to the Mozart myth, they learned that Beethoven filled notebook after notebook with musical dead ends and futile variations in painstaking composition. They considered that the lack of documented trial-and-error for Mozart didn’t necessarily mean that he didn’t struggle, too, though in his case those struggles seem to have taken place in his head rather than on paper.

Somewhere around this time, we asked Sam to reconstruct how he had written his first successful song. With a new sense of where that process might have begun, he dug up old notes and made an important personal discovery. He wasn’t Mozart; he was Beethoven! He had, in actual fact, worked on his chart-topping rock song over a period of six months, based on ideas he had had even earlier. Parts of the music had refused to gel. Then, on the one night that stuck in his mind so vividly, he had finally, after months of agonizing, figured out how to pull the whole piece together. Suddenly, in a flash of insight, the various themes and threads fused in one eureka moment. But that eureka moment was only a tiny part of the process as a whole.

Sam realized something else as well. The reason he had not composed anything since was that he had been waiting for a similar flash of inspiration to drop a fully-formed piece of music into his lap. Not understanding his own creative process, he had bought into the Mozart myth, and thereby sold himself short.

Sam analyzed his current composing attempts and realized that he was now in the same position he had been in before his first song-writing epiphany. He was now working on a composition that still lacked a theme, a proper focus, and a clear unity. He even played it for the class, flaws and all. But instead of being upset or insecure about this clearly incoherent composition, he now realized that such problems were part and parcel of the creative process. He stopped expecting himself to write the Next Big Song overnight and settled in for the long haul.

Teaching creativity doesn’t have to be rocket science. What Sam learned in college he could have learned in kindergarten. We can nurture creative processes from the start with care and attention. For the most part, however, our educational institutions tend to do just the opposite: we hold up for scrutiny only finished products, strip them of the processes, tools, skills, histories and personal stories that gave them birth and, intentionally or not, discard and erase creative know-how.

One of the most important things that creativity studies can do for people is to demystify the processes of creation. TLC in New Zealand does it. We’ve done it. There’s no reason it can’t be done everywhere.

© Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein 2008, 2012

Robert Root-Bernstein received his AB in Biochemistry and a Ph.D. in History of Science from Princeton University. He did post-doctoral work at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, where he was awarded one of the first MacArthur Fellowships. A Professor in the Physiology Department at Michigan State University since 1987, Bob studies the evolution of physiological control systems and autoimmune diseases, as well as science-arts interactions. In his spare time, Bob makes various forms of visual art, practices photography, and builds models. He has participated in several group shows.

Michele Root-Bernstein received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1975 and a Ph.D. in History from Princeton University in 1981. She has taught history, writing and creativity studies from grade school to college. She is a “Kennedy Center Teaching Artist” and an Adjunct Faculty member at Michigan State University. Currently, she is near completion of a book on the invention of imaginary worlds in childhood and the relationship of complex play to creative giftedness. Michele also writes haiku for journals across the U.S. and Canada. A selection of her poems appears in A New Resonance 6, Emerging Voices in English-Language Haiku (Red Moon Press, 2009).