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RE: [xmca] Cultural Synergy/Creativity
I think that the problem with the Bruner definition "effective surprise" is the converse of its strength. The strength is that it is a combination of what Vygotsky calls a "naturalistic" approach (creativity is effective, it's an adaptation) and what he calls a "spiritualistic" approach (creativity is surprising, it's subjective).
Of course, any psychological function, including creativity, is both...and neither. It's not naturalistic, because it's really not an adaptation to the environment (else there would be nothing surprising about it). And it doesn't even feel spiritualistic because; as the Brunerism indicates, our creativity does seem to come to us from outside ourselves.
It seems to me that any effectively surprising definition of creativity has to include the key moment when creativity becomes deliberate and volitional. Otherwise there is no distinguishing between creativity and error. But it also seems to me that defining creativity as deliberate error is too narrowly genetic a definition; it describes how creativity happens (through the volitional mastery of the variations whose non-volitional manifestations are called error) but it doesn't explain what it does or how it is structured.
The other day we were discussing (in our weekly seminar on the History of the Development of the Higher Psychological Functions) the analogy with Capital, where developmental crises are the result of a constraining of the surplus of productivity. Capitalism arises because with colonialism and mercantilism feudalism has managed to flood the market with surplus materials. Capitalism declines because of a surplus of productivity, the inability of workers to acquire with all of the commodities they produce.
It seems to me that sign development actually follows a similar course. I have been thinking about the "leaps of creativity" involved in sign development too intellectualistically, as responses to a need. The child needs to handle things he cannot touch, and so names them. An older child needs to refer to things she cannot see and so signifies them.
Now I think that's wrong. The truth is that at any given moment of development the child can do far more that he or she intends, and mastering the moment involves constrainting meaning potential as much as expanding it. The most obvious example of this is formation of symbols: the indexical symbol (that is, the one which is formed by associative links) is TOO productive, and only a kind of agreement to constrain its productivity in arbitrary ways will make it useful and usable.
In Chapter Two of "The History of the Development (??) of the HIgher Psychological Functions" (why th "history of the development"--is that supposed to be redundant or exponential?). Vygotsky briefly defines a sign functionally, as a "created" stimulus, that is, a means of controlling behavior in others and in oneself. Here he endorses as "beautiful" the rather heartless remark Thurnwald made about slavery, viz. that man's first domestic animal was man himself! (see p. 54 in Vol. 4 of the Collected Works; also p. 58).
But there is a crucial sense in which controlling your own behavior is not at all like controlling the behavior of another: you cannot control your own behavior through slavery, threats, and violence. To control your own behavior you must exclude what had hitherto been the most effective way of controlling the behavior of others from your symbol system.
Andy once remarked that a gun is a sign. It is certainly a tool of .effective surprise (Bruner's purely descriptive definition), and it is also an instrument of volitional error (my own, purely genetic, one). The problem is that it is not a symbol: it refers to the means of the action, but not to any shared goal. In order to become a symbol, both ends of the tool must be mind-shaped. Like creating a good definition, that involves paring away as much as adding on.
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
--- On Wed, 5/23/12, Vera John-Steiner <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
From: Vera John-Steiner <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: [xmca] Cultural Synergy/Creativity
To: "'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 10:33 AM
Dear explorers of creativity and imagination,
Francine your thought on cross fertilization of cultures and their impact on
creativity is an intriguing one. You may want to look at Patricia M.
Greenfield's book on Weaving Generations Together where she deals with some
interesting changes through time in Mayan textiles and the impact of
urbanization on village life (sub-cultures, I guess.)
The question about imagination and creativity and possible similarities and
differences can only be answered in a lengthy message. But to begin my
reactions, I want to use an expression from J. Bruner. He defined creativity
as "effective surprise" which would require not only going beyond the given
as one does in imaginative activity as well, but the use of problem-solving,
immersion in a domain, etc. I see imagination as a necessary part of
creativity but the latter seems to encompass a larger and longer process.
Creativity researchers distinguish between everyday creative acts ("c") and
creative works ("C") and Mike's question may need to be answered in
separating these in good Vygotskian fashion before looking at the
unification of different acts and projects into a system of processes.
Briefly, I think creativity and imagination are linked, and at times
Interwoven but not fully overlapping (I vsialize the beginning of the
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On
Behalf Of larry smolucha
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 3:59 PM
Subject: [xmca] Cultural Synergy/Creativity
Message from Francine Smolucha;
The attachment contains a paper that I am writing titled aVygotskian
Perspective on Cultural Synergy and Cultural Creativity.
It is a work in progress, that might be of interest to XMCA.
As usual, I am pioneering a new perspective. The main thesis is that
Vygotsky's Theory of Creativitycan enhance our understanding of how ideas
and tools fromdifferent cultures can be used to create new inventions
andconceptual systems. Cultural exchanges throughout historyhave fueled
creativity. The contemporary emphasis oncultural exchange as conflict and
oppression, has obscuredthe creativity dimension. Understanding how the
individual, group, and society creatively use ideas and tools from different
cultures,will provide models for enhancing these skills.
Greetings from the south side of Chicago.
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