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Creativity as a diverse complex system
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Creativity as a diverse complex system

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Union Institute & University PhD Conference presentation July 2010

Union Institute & University PhD Conference presentation July 2010

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  • Simply put, SCS are small systems that interact with each other and their environment, in a non-linear way that can affect the larger whole. So, a small cause can create a large effect. This is characterized but the often used example of the “Butterfly Effect,” which is where, for example, a butterfly that flaps its wings in Asia, can affect the weather in California.
  • Chaos theory is the more “romantic” theory whose concepts have been adopted into a wider variety of disciplines, and has therefore often been confused with and for Complexity Theory (of which is it only a small part).
  • The components of a complex system are “to some degree autonomous in their behavior, while undergoing various direct and indirect interactions” (Heylighen, Cilliers and Gershenson 10). This is very similar to Schuldberg’s description of SCS as having “an internal nonlinear relationship linking means and ends, independent and dependant” (Schuldberg 60).
  • terms being employed in the two concepts. There is a clear distinction between the terms complicated and complex, specifically when looking at systems. Complexity Theory looks to understand complex systems not through breaking them down into smaller, simpler parts/units nor by boiling it down to a simple set of rules. In contrast, a complicated system is one that may have “a large number of components and perform sophisticated tasks, but in a way that can be analyzes (in the full sense of the word) accurately” (Cilliers 1998, 3). -A snowflake can be an example of a complicated system in that it appears complicated or complex on the surface but its existence and processes can be easily explained through a set of simple rules or actions. In contrast, a Complex system cannot be so easily explained. Complex systems are made up of “intricate sets of non-linear relationships and feedback loops that only certain aspects of them can be analyzed at a time. Moreover, analysis would always cause distortions.” (3). Complex systems often are associated with living organisms,-Somewhat Complicated Systems” does not really line up with what he is describing. He is describing systems that really cannot be broken down into understandable elements and rules; if he were, his drawing links with Chaos Theory would not work. He describes chaos as “a behavioral system that is bounded yet never repeating, deterministic yet unpredictable” which means that, according to systems theory, it is not complicated but in fact is complex.
  • He is specifically addressing a type of creativity that is firmly rooted in the realm of the everyday. This is just one type of creativity in that there are as many definitions of creativity as there are people trying to describe it. This multiplicity of definitions and understandings of creativity in itself is a starting place for understanding it as a complex system. What one person declares as creative, another person can just as easily label it as uncreative.If one subscribes to one definition, then one automatically excludes other conceptions that disagree or conflict with one’s ideals. This is a more holistic approach to the concept of creativity in that it is inclusive of all the various definitions and descriptions of creativity.
  • new possibilities for understanding are opened up.This idea can be used to understand the different definitions of creativity. In one domain, creativity may be understood as processing certain characteristics interacting in different ways; yet if a new characteristic is created through a new, unexpected interaction, the result is still seen as within the realm of creativity but the concept is broadened.
  • 1) idea can be used to understand the different definitions of creativity. In one domain, creativity may be understood as processing certain characteristics interacting in different ways; yet if a new characteristic is created through a new, unexpected interaction, the result is still seen as within the realm of creativity but the concept is broadened. 2) What is defined in one situation as not creative can in another situation be “creative.” It is in how the various elements and characteristics come together and interact with the specific environment that is being addressed. So a simple, novel response to an everyday event can be understood as creative just as creating a new painting is seen as creative (even though they are two different types of creativity). 3) Creativity does not exist in isolation, nor can it be boxed up within a nice tidy frame. Its borders are fuzzy; bleeding into all areas of life and in return are influenced by living. And finally, complex systems are non-linear. Creativity as a system is messy and chaotic, but it is not without structure. It is “bounded yet never repeating, deterministic yet unpredictable” (Schuldberg 58). Its elements interact with each other in unexpected and unplanned ways, creating new and novel connections. A + B + C does not equal creativity but the interaction of A and B and C with other elements in unexpected ways can be creative.
  • “For [a] concept to have meaning at all it has to be limited but these limits are not a priori or external to the situation. They are contingent and historical” (Cilliers 2005, 263). It is these limits or boundaries that enable the concept to exist but the key is that these boundaries are porous and effected by the outside. Creativity can be viewed as a specific system in which the elements within can combine in innumerable combinations, creating new possibilities. It is a system that is relational vs. procedural.
  • What elements are included and which are excluded depends on one’s perspective and yet all elements of the system are still relevant to the system. In order to have complete knowledge of a complex system, we would need to understand the whole system as well as the whole environment that the system functions within and well as all the complex connections between the two. This is beyond current human capability and therefore it is necessary for us to “reduce the complexity of the system” making it manageable for us to understand (Cilliers 2005; 258). This is also why one definition cannot encompass everything that is “creativity”; there are choices made to include specific elements and exclude others.The concept of creativity has been studied and defined by experts across disciplines and yet it remains a very nebulous term in our culture.
  • The concept of creativity has been studied and defined by experts across disciplines and yet it remains a very nebulous term in our culture. Dealing with complexity is not easy and always messy and is not equipped to give us answers, but rather to provide a framework for understanding the questions. Derrida summarized this idea best when he said:
  • It is a holistic view, recognizing creativity as a possibility in all areas of life and living and not diminishing the value of creative acts in any domain. By opening up the conception of creativity to include more elements there is an increase in the variety of interactions and relationships that can be made within the system. This means that there are more options available to the system, allowing it to “cope with novel features in the environment without losing its identity” (Cilliers, Difference, Identity And Complexity: A Philosophical Analysis 8). So, understanding creativity as a complex system provides more opportunities for creating novel connections within our daily life without destroying the integrity of this thing we call creativity.
  • Traditionally our culture views creativity in terms of the arts or innovation, often ignoring the creativity that could be found in small, everyday acts. The novel solution to fixing a broken gate or a new use for an everyday object can now be acknowledged as creative.No longer would the common statement “I am not creative” be accepted at face value. So not being artistic does not mean that one is not creative. This holistic approach allows for one to be able to recognize and celebrate the simple “creative” acts one performs every day.
  • In conclusion, this paper is not proposing a new definition of creativity, but rather a different approach to understanding creativity as a whole. One definition does not necessarily invalidate another because we understand that creativity itself is a diverse and complex system and each definition is consciously choosing which elements of the system are appropriate to the specific situation/environment that it is interacting with.

Creativity as a diverse complex system Creativity as a diverse complex system Presentation Transcript

  • Creativity as a Diverse Complex System
    Jjenna Hupp Andrews
    July 8, 2010
    Background Artwork: Emerging, a sculpture created by the presenter.
  • Creativity itself can be understood as a complex system, created through non-linear interactions with other complex systems as well as the environment within which is it is found.
  • Paper Overview
    Similarities: between SCS (David Schuldberg)and Complexity Theory.
    How creativity can be understood as a complex system.
    Possibilities of how this view of creativity can be applied in everyday life.
  • “Living Well Creatively: What’s chaos got to do with it,” by David Schuldberg
    Correlations between Chaos Theory and creativity.
    Schuldberg connects the concept of everyday creativity with Chaos Theory and what he calls SCS (Somewhat Complicated Systems).
    SCS are on a psychological level “small non-linear dynamical systems… that change with time, contain nonlinear relationships, and, when coupled together, form the building blocks of larger, more intricate systems” (Schuldberg 57-58).
  • Complexity Theory
    Comes out of Systems Theory and mathematical/computational theory so has mostly been discussed in the science and mathematics realms, but it is making inroads into philosophy and more social and cultural disciplines, mostly though the work of scholars such as Paul Cilliers and Mark C. Taylor (Heylighen, Cilliers and Gershenson 14).
    Complexity Theory takes into account the “relational character” of complex systems and the components of those systems (Cilliers, Tanya and Roodt 9).
  • SCS & Complexity Theory overlap
    What Schuldberg describes as “Somewhat Complicated Systems” aligns with the description of a complex system as a non-linear system which very basically “described as a system that is comprised of a large number of entities that display a high level of (non-linear) interactivity” (Uden, Kurt and Cilliers).
    Like SCS, complex systems are systems that consist of multiple elements that interact with each other and their environment in a non-linear way and that can produce affects that are not necessarily directly proportional to its size.
  • Difference between SCS & complex systems
    There is a clear distinction between the terms complicated and complex, specifically when looking at systems.
    Complexity Theory looks to how the whole is so much more than the sum of the parts and holds that it is the connections and relationships that exist within the system and between the system and its environment that make this possible.
    A complicated system can be broken down into units and rules and be understood.
    “that a jumbo jet is complicated, but that a mayonnaise is complex” (3).
  • The Complexity of Creativity
    Schuldberg defines creativity as “coming up with solutions to life’s problems, solutions that are both novel and useful” (Schuldberg 55).
    The term creativity is often used as if it is this unified, well-defined concept that everyone understands, and yet this is not the case.
    The problem lies in the common belief that everyone shares the same definition of creativity, when in fact the word itself can refer to many different things or actions and often the definitions are exclusionary of other definitions.
    On solution is to view creativity as an open and complex system in which there are many elements that interact in a variety of ways to create our different understandings of creativity.
  • The Complexity of Creativity
    Creativity can be understood not through a specific definition but as a complex system made up of a large number of elements/characteristics that interact and overlap with each other and are open to interaction with environmental factors, and thus create opportunities for novel connections and solutions to emerge.
  • Complex System vs. a Specific Characteristic or Act
    Creativity is no longer seen as a specific “thing” that is processed by some and not by others; instead it becomes a web of interactions and relationships that come together in such a way to serve the current purpose in a “novel” way.
    Definition is no longer closed and stagnant.
    It is in how the various elements and characteristics come together and interact with the specific environment that is being addressed.
    By definition, it is an open system (Cilliers 2005, 257).
    An open system is one that interacts with its environment and as such, it is often difficult to define the borders of the system.
    It provides for the environmental influences and interactions involved in creativity.
  • Objection to creativity as a complex system
    It is so open that it can encompass anything, therefore the term creativity looses all meaning.
    This is not necessarily the case. This is not an argument that creativity is relative and that “anything goes” but instead an argument that creativity is a system with a structure that cannot be broken down into a set of elements or simple rules that govern it and with boundaries that are not fixed but open to outside influences.
  • Limitations of creativity as a complex system
    Complexity Theory holds that all descriptions of a complex system by necessity must exclude elements; it is impossible to understand every aspect and detail of a complex system.
    One cannot predict with certainty how a complex system will function in the future, nor can we have complete knowledge of a complex system.
    We must make choices, creating frameworks, as to what to include and exclude from our understanding of the system, making it manageable for use to comprehend.
    The specific definitions of creativity are frameworks for us to make comprehensible the specific acts/events/things we categorize as creative.
  • Concept of Creativity
    Creativity is by its very nature is complex as evidenced by the wide variety of definitions and theories connected with it.
    Viewing creativity through Complexity Theory provides a framework from which to understand how one “term” can encompass so many different conceptions.
    Complexity Theory is not designed to “provide us with exact tools to solve complex problems, but show us (in a rigorous way) exactly why the problems are so difficult” (Cilliers 2005, 257).
    Derrida: “One shouldn’t complicate things for the pleasure of complicating, but one should also never simplify or pretend to be sure of such simplicity where there is none. If things were simple, word would have gotten round…” (Cilliers 2005, 266).
  • Creative Complexity in the Everyday….Diversity & resiliency in the system
    By viewing creativity as a complex system, creativity is no longer limited to specific domains but rather an open system of interactions and relationships between diverse elements that transcend domains.
    This holistic view of creativity creates a diversity that allows for more resilience in the system of creativity.
    The more diversity of elements within the system, the more able the system is able to respond in novel ways to input from outside the system.
  • Creative Complexity in the Everyday
    The conception of creativity as a complex system opens up the definition of creativity and therefore our narrow understanding of creativity changes.
    By viewing creativity as a complex system made up of elements/characteristics that interact with each other and are open to interaction with environmental factors, we are now able to see creativity in what was previously seen as mundane.
    This expansion of the understanding or creativity also has ramifications on how one view’s one’s self:
    Creativity can no longer be seen as the exclusive domain of the arts and creative disciplines.
    We would be able to recognize that “artistic” and “creativity” are two different systems (though they can and do overlap).
  • New boundaries: a beginning
    Complexity Theory provides a framework from which to begin to create a holistic approach to creativity.
    It is not a definitive solution but rather a view into “exactly why the problems are so difficult” (Cilliers 2005, 257).
    By approaching creativity as a complex system, we are able to understand the multiple and often conflicting definitions of creativity and we can accept that conflicting definitions can at the same time be valid and “true.”
  • New boundaries: a beginning
    Complexity Theory allows us to envision
    new, fluid boundaries for creativity,
    without destroying the integrity of this concept we call creativity.
    It becomes a diverse system of possibilities and new beginnings, always in touch with and responding to its environment.
    The key is to loosen our tight grasp on our preconceived notions and concrete definitions of creativity and
    open up to new creative possibilities.
  • Works Cited
    Cilliers, Paul. Complexity and Postmodernism: Understanding Complex Systems. London/New York: Routledge, 1998.
    —. "Complexity, Deconstruction and Relativism." Theory, Culture & Society vol. 22.5 (2005): 255-267.
    —. "Difference, Identity And Complexity: A Philosophical Analysis." Complexity. http://complexity.vub.ac.be/phil/drafts/Cilliers-diff.pdf., 2005. 1-11.
    Cilliers, Paul, de Villiers Tanya and VastiRoodt. "The Formation of the Self: Nietzsche and Complexity." South African Journal of PhilosophyVol 21.No 1 (2002): 1-17.
    Heylighen, Francis, Paul Cilliers and Carlos Gershenson. "Complexity and Philosophy." Complexity, Science and Society. Ed. Jan Bogg and Robert Geyer. Oxford.: Radcliffe Publishing, 2007.
    Schuldberg, David. "Living Well Creatively: What's Chaos got to do with it?" Everyday Creativity. Ed. Ruth Richards. Washington DC: American Psychological Association , 2007. 55-73.
    Uden, Jacco Van, Richardson A. Kurt and Paul Cilliers. "Postmodernism Revisited? Complexity Science and the Study of Organisations." Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Science vol. 3.no. 1 (2001): 53-67.