Creativity: networks not stars?

Jyri Engeström’s post caught my eye: Cites, technology and creativity. (Jyri gave an excellent talk at Reboot last month about social networking tools.) He says,

First, I want to touch on the definition of creativity. I believe that it is more useful to approach creativity as cultural remixing that all kinds of people can do, than it is to label some professions as a creative class. Culture evolves through the recombination of existing elements into new, meaningful outcomes. Cities, who define creativity in terms of a specific class of professionals, risk turning a blind eye to the creative potential of, for instance, local hobbyists and teenagers, who are especially important creators of new culture.

I strongly agree with that. I think it’s useful to see creativity as a social phenomenon and get away from the genius-in-attic model. Working with teams, I try to highlight how we are all co-creators of our reality, and try to resist the notion that some people are inherently creative and others are not. This is not to discount the special talents of some people, nor is it to discount the research Richard Florida has done on what supports a creative climate in a city.

Jyri goes on to stress the value of creating easily accessible networks to support the recombination he talks about.

The creative city discussion could also benefit from a deeper appreciation of the role of technology. During the course of the last decade, computers have become the most important platform for remixing culture. It is likely that computer-based creativity will flourish in places where the ability to remix is supported by 1) a political climate that embraces online conversation; 2) cheap wireless access to the internet; and 3) regulation that sides with the new innovators against the interests of the established corporate elite. City officials can play an important role by launching creativity-enabling initiatives on the political, the technical, and the legal front.

I agree. I think it’s a major challenge for those in power to embrace this more democratic, bottom-up approach – and avoid the temptation of grandiose, celebrity-led schemes.

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