False Creativity

false creativity

A persom

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the person with the hardest name to pronounce in psychology and the man behind the ‘Flow’ concept, developed a systems perspective of creativity in the late 80s. He suggested something along these lines:

After an individual produces something, it will not be considered “creative” until it has been examined and acknowledged as new and valuable by other members of “the field”. If accepted, it is deemed creative and incorporated in the “domain”.

So, after we create something we need to share it to get it validated and confirmed by ‘the field’, i.e. other creators. And then we will know if it’s creative or not!

Sure, this is an objective thing – taste comes in many flavours – but there are also collective values and universal aesthetics which must be considered.

We could also see this as real creativity and false creativity. Real creativity is deemed creative by the field, while false creativity is something deemed rubbish or perhaps yet to go through the process of examination by the field. And sometimes fields in future generations revisit creativity which was earlier deemed false, but is now introduced into the domain and considered real. And unfortunately the creator is often dead when this happens.

Historically, the problem was that the quality of the ‘field’ decided the quality of the creative output. But this is changing. The beauty of the internet is that the field is no longer geographically restricted to a city or village where artists and their patrons hang out. With today’s platforms for creators such as Instagram, Soundcloud, Etsy, Youtube and WordPress, the field is now global and everyone in the world with access to an internet connection can be an assessor in the field. And this is awesome as it will be easier to separate real from false creativity.

Australia, the country I call home these days, is terrible when it comes to critique. All creative efforts are rightly encouraged, but there is a lack of people telling others what’s good and what’s bad out of the things produced from these creative efforts.

We need a better Csikszentmihalyi’s field here in Australia.

Ever since I moved here in 2007 I have looked for high-quality sources that can tell me what’s good and what’s bad – especially in music. There are so many amazing bands here. But not until they get deemed creative and good by the international field, they are placed higher than other local rubbish bands in festival line-ups, nor do they get the recognition they deserve by music press here.

Sure, I came from spending seven years prior in London, the place with the most cynical and intelligent critics on the planet, so I was used to great reviews and a very hard-to-please community of journalists and bloggers. However, I believe that this  field is good for London, which has been the creative global Mecca for a long time, no matter what other cities try to convince us to think. Everything good, whether it’s a film, a play, a band, a designer, a fashion, a writer, a type of food or drink, will come to London within one year of it’s origin.

I’m not saying that the city’s excellent, ruthless, hard-to-please critics ensures London’s awesome creative output, but it is definitely one element of it.

So let’s add good fearless critique to a long list of elements needed for creativity. Others can be found in Csikszentmihalyi’s article Implications of a systems perspective for the study of creativity, where the ‘field’ discussion is found.

My home town Fremantle is a place which boils over with creativity – both real and false. This has lead me to ask the following question:

How do we create new processes beyond the old cynical critic, the anxiously trendy reviewer and the almighty market to decide what’s good and what’s crap?

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