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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity 2 Creative Practices People are the engines of creative practice. To work within the realm of information technology and creative practices (ITCP), individuals or groups need to be fluent in multiple disciplines. Some individuals can simultaneously master multiple subject domains (modern-day Leonardo da Vincis) as required, whereas others participate in collaborative groups of people with complementary or synergistic expertise and skills. Each approach presents its own set of advantages and challenges. Each approach also benefits from resources such as training tools and suitable working conditions. This chapter explores how human creative capabilities can be accessed, developed, and applied to ITCP work. The first section briefly reviews what it means to be fluent in the ITCP context and outlines the role that individuals and groups with such abilities play in producing ITCP work. The second section discusses, and explores how institutions might enhance, the two basic approaches to work in ITCP: individuals alone (e.g., an independent artist), and collaborative groups of various types (e.g., a team developing a video game). The third section discusses key challenges that arise in cross-disciplinary collaborations. The final section outlines resources that can support the human capability to create meaningfully. WHAT MAKES PEOPLE CREATIVE What makes one action ordinary and another creative? Part of the answer is personality, although there has been surprisingly little study of creativity by psychologists.1 Research points to a tendency for 1 A survey of psychological research on creativity, intended to motivate more attention, can be found in Dean Keith Simonton, 2000, “Creativity: Cognitive, Personal, Developmental, and Social Aspects,” American Psychologist 55(1): 151-158.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity creative people “to be independent, nonconformist, unconventional, even bohemian, and . . . to have wide interests, greater openness to new experiences, a more conspicuous behavioral and cognitive flexibility, and more risk-taking boldness.”2 Part of the answer is behavioral, including the extent to which deliberation and skill are involved. Deliberation involves making choices about things that matter. “Fasting,” Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has famously written, “is not the same thing as being forced to starve. Having the option of eating makes fasting what it is: choosing not to eat when one could have eaten.”3 Other factors relate to context, such as the nature of one’s experiences, notably “(a) diversifying experiences that help weaken the constraints imposed by conventional socialization and (b) challenging experiences that help strengthen a person’s capacity to persevere in the face of obstacles”4—both of which are characteristic of an emergent field in general and ITCP in particular. Interestingly, a factor in achieving diversifying and challenging experiences may be cultural diversity; there is evidence that exposing a culture to alien influences and experiencing marginality or even dissent are correlated with creativity.5 More generally, the start of a creative act is the escape from one range of assumptions—a context—often with the aid of another context seemingly at odds with the first but that provides a new way of viewing what we already thought we understood. The arts do this for IT, and IT does this for the arts.6 Creativity can be linked to tools, which have been a constant factor in the arts as well as in science and engineering. Because ITCP is defined with reference to a set of tools—IT—it calls for an understanding of creativity as human complements to digital capabilities: the opportunity, knowledge, and skill to make disciplined judgments about how and when to use or not use those capabilities. Although novices can now enter many fields through interfaces—provided by software packages—that encapsulate and parameterize aspects of specialized trades and crafts that previously took lifetimes to learn, learning to use a tool does not of itself make one a skilled practitioner. There is a difference between basic functional know-how (e.g., knowing a few words of a foreign language) and higher-level skill, or 2 Simonton, 2000, “Creativity,” p. 153. 3 Amartya Sen, 1999, Development as Freedom, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, p. 75. The committee is indebted to Mansell (2001) and Garnham (1997) for their readings of Sen in terms of communication and media policy. See Robin Mansell, 2001, “New Media and the Power of Networks,” First Dixons Public Lecture, London, October 23, available online at <http://www.lse.ac.uk/Depts/Media/rmlecture.pdf>; and Nicholas Garnham, 1997, “Amartya Sen’s ‘Capabilities’ Approach to the Evaluation of Welfare: Its Application to Communications,” Javnost-The Public 4(4): 25-34. 4 Simonton, 2000, “Creativity,” p. 153. 5 Simonton, 2000, “Creativity,” p. 155. 6 Allucquère Rosanne Stone, in The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age (MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1995), describes how technology can provide prostheses, expanding and enhancing one’s interaction with the world.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity Relatively few artists may pursue true IT fluency, but some movement in that direction appears important for ITCP. fluency.7 Previous studies of fluency in the use of IT have distinguished between general intellectual capabilities; IT-specific but device-independent generic concepts; and a more contingent class of specific, device-dependent technical skills. In Being Fluent with Information Technology,8 important generic IT conceptual capabilities are identified, including algorithmic thinking, facility with principles of knowledge representation, and adaptability to change.9 These conceptual capabilities represent a level of understanding that goes far beyond how to use a given software package. Relatively few artists may pursue true IT fluency, since artists usually learn what they need to know, appropriate the necessary technology and materials, and make their art, but some movement in that direction appears important for ITCP.10 Early ITCP has been associated with artists’ frustrations with IT, and ease of use for non-technically expert or non-fluent artists and designers is a concern. Yet highly creative performance by artists and designers has been associated with tools that are somewhat difficult to use,11 especially when the alternative is ease of use achieved through preprogrammed and therefore limiting or constraining features. Creative people always struggle against the limits of their medium— wood splits, musical instruments have limits to pitch and volume, and so on. The challenges presented by IT have helped to stimulate some kinds of art and design—and artists’ responses to those challenges, from seeking better tools to exploiting the flaws in or breaking those available as part of their art, should help to stimulate development of new forms of IT. 7 An emphasis on individual talent and resourcefulness is, of course, commonplace in the traditional arts. A novice musician can pick up an instrument and make sounds. Skilled musicians, though, can make bad instruments sound sweet, and they alone have the virtuosity to “possess” great ones. 8 Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, 1999, Being Fluent with Information Technology, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 9 Paul David, in a similar vein, discusses the importance of generic learning abilities, which must go beyond the acquisition of a specific repertoire of techniques, or even the ability to cope with a need for constant updating of technical knowledge, to a “capacity to understand and anticipate change.” See Paul David and Dominique Foray, 2002, “An Introduction to the Economy of the Knowledge Society,” International Social Science Journal (UNESCO) 171:9. 10 When artists try to learn skills for their art they are very well motivated. They see the skills as a way to do an excellent job, to do exciting work (they like the results), and to distinguish themselves from other artists. They may become interested in the intrinsic qualities of the IT, but this is more unusual. (Bill Alschuler, California Institute of the Arts, 2002, personal communication.) 11 Of course, artists and designers do not like more difficult tools per se. Instead, the committee is acknowledging the usual tradeoff between flexibility and advanced features with preprogrammed solutions and ease of use. For Harold Cohen, artists’ tools and instruments have to be “difficult enough to stimulate a sufficient level of creative performance, and you don’t do that with something that’s easy to use.” For further discussion of this point, see Chapter 3 in Pamela McCorduck, 1990, Aaron’s Code: MetaArt, Artificial Intelligence, and the Work of Harold Cohen, W.H. Freeman, New York.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity When people or groups are fluent in IT and arts and design disciplines, they may work at either of two intersections of information technology and creative practices. The first involves the use of computational technologies as a medium for cultural practices (i.e., viewing IT as providing tools in support of the arts and design fields), stressing the continuities between IT and older technologies and the need for a malleable cultural informatics12 that remains attuned to traditional practices such as reading, singing, painting, or dancing. The second stresses art as a form of research or knowledge production that is interwoven with the practice of research in IT. There is a lot happening at both intersections, and, despite their superficial differences, the intersections are synergistic and might even be described as flip sides of the same phenomenon. These intersections serve as the bases for the committee’s examination in Chapters 3 and 4. In seeking to understand ITCP and the people who do this work, the committee found it useful to examine not only the content of the work involved, but also the details of how it is organized, both socially and institutionally. As is further discussed in Chapters 5 and 6, distinctive new institutional structures have appeared over the past century, combining studio or atelier creation with research-oriented knowledge production in educational, cultural, scientific, and business contexts. All these institutional contexts attempt to balance and support a variety of interests simultaneously. This hybridity is apparent in the shifting roles individuals play both alone and in teams in such settings, be it as artist, designer, researcher, theoretician, entrepreneur, or technician. A similar hybridity was also evident in the artifacts that the committee considered best to exemplify the intersections of IT and creative practice—rather than material objects, they tended to be processes (e.g., interactive works) with social and material aspects, which span boundaries and can be understood in different ways depending on social context. These observations correspond closely to the social model of creativity proposed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In this model, creativity is a three-part social system made up of individuals (or groups of individuals), knowledge domains, and institutional structures. As illustrated in Figure 2.1, individuals (or groups) produce new variations on inherited conventions stored in domains. These novelties are promoted or filtered in the field of social institutions, which select the genres, theories, and technologies that become the new conventions for the continuously updated knowledge domains, and that thus are recycled to form new sources for individual creativity. The field component implies that “colleagues are essential to the realization of indi 12 Cultural informatics is “a practice of technical development that includes a deep understanding of the relationship between computer science research and broader culture,” according to Phoebe Sengers (“Practices for Machine Culture: A Case Study of Integrating Artificial Intelligence and Cultural Theory,” Surfaces, Vol. VIII, 1999). When people or groups are fluent in IT and arts and design disciplines, they may work at either of two intersections of information technology and creative practices.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity FIGURE 2.1 A systems view of creativity. This map shows the interrelationships of the three systems that jointly determine the development of a creative idea, object, or action. The individual takes information provided by the culture and transforms it, and if the change is deemed valuable by a field, it will be included in the domain, thus providing a new starting point for the next generation of creative persons. The actions of all three systems are necessary for creativity to occur. SOURCE: Derived from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1987, “A Systems Approach to Creativity,” p. 326 in The Nature of Creativity. Contemporary Psychological Perspectives, R. Sternberg, ed., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K. vidual creativity, . . . because creativity does not exist until those making up the field decide to recognize that a given creative product represents an original contribution to the domain.”13 (See “Validation and Recognition Structures” in Chapter 7.) Framed in terms of this social model of creativity as a dynamic system connecting people, institutions, and knowledge domains, the creative core common to IT and the arts becomes easier to identify. Creativity results from the interaction of these three systems. And because the systems perspective underscores the importance of a community of practice to sustaining creativity, it also demonstrates the importance of understanding what it means to foster and sustain a community of practice, a goal of this report. It may be helpful to consider an example. The work of Karim Rashid in industrial design is an illustrative case (see Box 2.1). The boundary-pushing influence of ITCP work on its fields of origin is a recurrent theme in the projects discussed in this chapter. HOW CREATIVE PEOPLE WORK The functional integration of the arts and design fields and IT depends on who is doing what work and how. The human resources 13 Simonton, 2000, “Creativity,” p. 155.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity BOX 2.1 Information Technology and Creative Practices in an Industrial Context Industrial design has been largely re-created by computer software, from three-dimensional computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) packages to databases that list new grades and alloys of metal and plastic, as well as factories themselves. Products, from automobiles to can openers, have been transformed (it is no accident that consumer goods started getting curvy and ergonomic at around the same time that buildings did). But the process of industrial design has also changed fundamentally, because the time and cost of prototyping have been radically reduced. Designers can generate multiple concept models, honing them in an iterative, evolutionary fashion. But beyond prototyping, information technology has made it possible for industrial designers to engage creatively on a different level—at the level of the manufacturing process itself. An exemplar of this innovation is Karim Rashid, a highly acclaimed industrial designer whose work includes everything from wastepaper baskets at Bed Bath and Beyond to furniture in the New York Museum of Modern Art’s design collection.1 Rashid’s experiments with product manufacturing are possible because modern mass production is increasingly mediated by software. For instance, the apparatus that produced Rashid’s curving metal napkin rings for manufacturer Nambé (Figure 2.1.1) is controlled by software that regulates the circumference and length of each napkin ring. By programming the apparatus to vary these parameters randomly, within a range, Rashid was able to create thousands of unique objects, as opposed to thousands of identical objects. The idea of mass-produced one-of-a-kind products—postmodern manufacturing—is possible because one talented individual can bridge the worlds of engineering and consumer aesthetics, and because the technology exists to do so. In the process, the creative professional’s role becomes more abstract. It is less about designing objects, and more about designing the process that makes the objects, including the parameters that transcend the designer’s direct control. The end result conflates the uniqueness of handcraft with the scale of industrial production. 1 Further explanation and examples of Rashid’s work can be found online at <http://www.karimrashid.com>. FIGURE 2.1.1 Napkin rings. Photo by Dick Patrick.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity Many artists prefer the “move fast and travel light” style of work, which allows for a degree of independence that larger collaborative models may not always offer. can be obtained through the broadening of individual skill sets and through collaborations. Some individuals involved in the arts and design are indeed expanding their knowledge and skills related to IT, and, perhaps less obviously, some computer scientists and engineers are acquiring knowledge and skills in the arts and design (there are distinctive bases in such subdisciplines as graphics and computer music). Collaborations, for all their difficulties, are frequently the preferred and sometimes the required approach, because they demand far less individual investment in learning and therefore accelerate the process of experimentation in combining different kinds of expertise (which is especially important in the early stages of exploration because of the uncertain return from investing time in learning a new area). Another factor arguing for collaboration as a stimulus is the tendency of some cross-disciplinary work, in the absence of a diverse team, to ossify within one discipline or the other. Collaborations may involve anywhere from two to hundreds of people and often are inspired and supported by non-profit organizations or commercial enterprises. Obviously, scale can change the experience and outcome of a collaboration enormously, but while it may seem obvious to suggest that “art,” being associated with individuals, requires fewness, the networked nature of modern IT may change that intuition. INDIVIDUALS WITH DIVERSE EXPERTISE AND SKILLS There are some unusually talented people who can do it all, or do enough to create work that straddles more than one discipline and creates new skill sets. This approach has a unique beauty and economy; as one reviewer of this report suggested, an individual’s work tends to have a conceptual wholeness, whereas collaborations may produce “camels—horses designed by committees.” Many artists prefer the model of the multiskilled individual as the embodiment of the “move fast and travel light” style of work, which allows for a degree of independence in thinking and action that larger collaborative models may not always offer. People who wish to diverge from the political or aesthetic mainstream may want both complete control over their products and independence from external funding and its possible content requirements. Or they may be invested in developing a specific form of personal expression or crafting a concept or theory that they wish to determine independently. These individuals may struggle with the absence of standards in some ways but are able to make their own rules and engage cutting-edge technologies in a personal way to transform an aspect of the world. There are many models for this style of working, ranging from individuals taking various approaches to the visual arts to novelists to the independent inventor. Growing numbers of artists are becoming skilled in software programming or hardware development, perhaps as a way to maintain a life of the imagination without interference
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity from a client, patron, or co-worker. The acquisition of such skills is, of course, an implicit acceptance of their value to artistic pursuits. Some people, for instance, can write both computer code and music compositions or turn their code into sculpture. See Box 2.2. Such artists tend to be internally driven by artistic impulses or research interests, although they may benefit from institutional support. One beneficiary of such support is Michael Mateas, who, at the time he described his work for the committee,14 was a research fellow in the Studio for Creative Inquiry (an “art think tank”) at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) as well as a doctoral student in computer science.15 Mateas combines cultural production with artificial intelligence (AI), two activities that normally have very different goals. As he described it, cultural production is interested in poetics (the negotiation of meaning between the artist and audience), artistic abstraction, and audience participation and approval, whereas AI is concerned with task competence, realism, and objectivity. He engages in “expressive AI,” building novel architectures, techniques, and approaches. One of his pieces is Terminal Time, an interactive work that constructs documentary videos in real time based on both real historical events and the biases inferred from audience feedback.16 Terminal Time encompasses a new model of ideological reasoning and a new architecture for story generation, combining the technical capabilities of IT and the dramatic story structure concepts of the arts and humanities in a novel way.17 In Mateas’s view, the project has influenced both the technical research agenda and arts practice—thus fitting nicely into the social model of creativity described above. See Box 2.3. Individuals who wish to become proficient in multiple fields face at least two formidable challenges. One is the need to deal with enormous and increasing knowledge bases. Trying to remain up-to-date in only one field is demanding enough for most people; the 20th century witnessed tremendous growth in knowledge and a proliferation of disciplinary specialization and narrow professional certification, with a corresponding growth in support structures consisting of professional associations, conferences, periodicals, and curricula. The advent of IT, especially the Internet, has further fueled this trend, especially by facilitating communication among those with niche interests, thus promoting the establishment and maintenance of narrow specialties and interests. Even individuals who already possess both artistic and technical skills may need to learn new ones or find specialists with compatible aesthetic and intellectual views for particular projects. 14 He briefed the committee at its January 2001 meeting held at Stanford University. See Chapter 6 for further thoughts from Michael Mateas. 15 As discussed further in Chapter 6, CMU seems to be unusually supportive of cross-disciplinary activities. 16 For further information about Terminal Time, see <http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~michaelm/>. 17 For further discussion, see Michael Mateas, Steffi Domike, and Paul Vanouse, 1999, “Terminal Time: An Ideologically Biased History Machine,” AISB Quarterly: Special Issue on Creativity in the Arts and Sciences 102 (Summer/Autumn):36-43. Individuals who wish to become proficient in multiple fields face at least two formidable challenges: enormous and increasing knowledge bases . . . and lack of a broad institutional support structure.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity BOX 2.2 Combining Sculpture, Software, and Hardware Skills John Simon makes object-based sculptures that combine the skills of painting, sculpture, computer hardware construction, and software development. The work is based on algorithmically generated and intricately cut interfaces between sheets of acrylic plastic—a group of painting-like objects on a wall, with constantly changing patterns on liquid-crystal display (LCD) screens mounted on a structure that is a cross between a painting and a sculpture. See Figure 2.2.1. The software varies the patterns on the screen so that they never repeat. The “painting” is constantly new and constantly changing. Simon’s work is in the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Print Collection at the New York Public Library. Simon on his approach and motivation: I take the screen and the processor from mostly used laptop computers, which I get from eBay or dealers. I am currently using Apple G3 Powerbooks with 14.1-inch screens. I remove the case and mount the LCD screen to a plastic housing of my own design. The CPU [central processing unit] is mounted on the back of the housing. I install my own software, which runs automatically when the computer is turned on. The images on the screen are constantly changing. This is a way to write software directly for a processor and not have it compete for attention with other things on your desktop. I sell these works through the Sandra Gering Gallery, with which I’ve had a longtime association. I’m also using a computer-controlled laser to cut and engrave materials like acrylic. I am interested in how the lines and shapes from my algorithmic tools can be manifest in material form.1 1 See <http://www.creative-capital.org> and <http://www.numeral.com/articles/atkins/decodingdigitalart>. FIGURE 2.2.1 A work by John Simon. Photo courtesy of John Simon.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity BOX 2.3 Terminal Time Terminal Time is a mass-audience interactive work that constructs documentary histories in response to audience feedback. The result is similar in style to a Public Broadcasting Service documentary, except that the software constructs the documentary in real time, based on input from the audience. Thus, radically different endings are possible. The work is produced in the following way. After a 2-minute introduction, the audience is asked three multiple-choice questions. The level of applause from the audience determines the “correct” answer to each question, with the loudest response winning. The answers to this first set of questions are used to create a model of the audience’s ideological perspective, which is then used to create a 6-minute video clip representing history from 1000 to 1750 A.D. After the first clip is presented, the process is repeated two additional times, each resulting in the construction of another 6-minute clip, the first representing 1750– 1950 and the second 1950–2000. The result is a film constructed in real time. One of the creators of Terminal Time likens it to a genie running amuck, in that the machine infers biases from the audience’s responses and then constructs a reinterpretation of history based on exaggerating these biases. The software running the Terminal Time engine uses an artificial intelligence (AI) architecture consisting of five parts: a knowledge base, a collection of ideology goal trees (goals held by different ideologues), a collection of rhetorical devices (narrative glue for connecting events), a natural language generator, and a media sequencer. Stored in the knowledge base are thousands of terms associated with historical events from the period 1000 to 2000 A.D. Based on an audience’s response to each series of questions, the goal trees select historical events from the knowledge base and slant them to accomplish the rhetorical goals of the currently active ideologue. Next, the slanted events are connected together into a story by searching for a sequence of events that can be connected together with the rhetorical devices. The natural language generator then produces the text (based on the connected-together events) that will serve as the voiceover for the documentary. Finally, the system selects and edits together video and audio clips to create the finished documentary. To keep the audience engaged beyond the asking of questions, Terminal Time uses a thematic sequence of rising action, crisis, climax, falling action, and denouement for each complete film. Cultural productions such as Terminal Time help to synthesize the metaphors of traditional AI, in which the emphasis is often on construction (e.g., to accomplish a particular goal), and art, in which the focus tends to be on conversation (e.g., to create a less-deterministic cultural product). Clearly, this type of cultural production would not be possible without information technology, and computer scientists could not generate this type of content without some knowledge from the arts and humanities concerning how to structure drama. A second major challenge is the lack of a broad institutional support structure. After decades of experimentation and practice, new hybrid fields are emerging, but with lags in financial support.18 Limited support, of course, results in limited growth for these particular fields. This is not necessarily bad, because the overall pattern of multiple hybridization results in a number of different intersections of the arts and design with computer science and engineering—different schools of ITCP thought and different kinds of activity—which together span the range from the fine arts through design and craft. 18 See Chapter 6 for an extended discussion.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity Absent more funding for more experimental work, ITCP may become centered in a commercial, material core. Multiple hybridization also militates against the institutionalizing of truly creative practice, as any institution formulated to support some particular conception of creative practice will necessarily curtail movement beyond that paradigm (and increasingly, as the institution becomes established). The growth in cross-disciplinary computing-in-the-arts curricula, which takes many forms, is likely to yield increasing numbers of multiskilled individuals capable of innovating in both technical and artistic/arts-related fields (although at least for a while, their impacts may be concentrated on the arts side, which appears to be more receptive to this type of cross-fertilization than does computer science). Funding may remain a chronic problem, however, for professionals who work (either alone or in groups) outside the commercial sphere.19 The result is a certain amount of untapped creative energy or underemployment, which limits cultural production to a narrower bandwidth than otherwise might be possible with more generous funding. This situation constrains the breadth and spectrum of the technical syntax of ITCP: Absent more funding for more experimental work, ITCP may become centered in a commercial, material core. It may be more pronounced in craft and in design than in art, per se, or fundamental technical research. SUCCESSFUL COLLABORATIONS Collaborations in ITCP may differ from other kinds of collaborations in that they may well not be symmetrical. Given the differences in training, objectives, and culture, it may be important to articulate different goals between collaborators. A project can be successful and synergistic even if the differing participants have completely different goals for the fruits of the outcome of the collaboration. For example, a particular tool can be used in one way by a scientist and in another way by an artist—but they may develop the tool together (e.g., see the Listening Post project described below). Further, quite different types of relationships between the two communities are possible, each of which embodies different values and therefore requires different techniques in order to achieve success and devise methods for measuring that success. Collaborations are intense, not superficial, relationships. Less intense forms of relationships include communication (the sharing of information) and cooperation (in which participants influence the decisions of other participants in a common effort). Collaborations may take place in various sizes and forms, ranging from a small project (e.g., academic researchers who agree to work together) to continuing activities within the framework of an institution created for such a purpose (e.g., the studio-laboratories discussed in Chapter 5), to large 19 Because many artistic endeavors are driven by content—artists have their own vision and agenda—rather than profit, they often struggle for support.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity FIGURE 2.4 Development teams for computer games. Illustration created by Jennifer M. Bishop, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board staff. and market driver, where software engines and authoring tools are regularly made available to end-consumers who use them to redesign or extend the core product, often in directions unanticipated by the publisher. Even something as seemingly reductive as Quake, a first-person shooter, has been reconfigured as a low-tech animation engine—players use the game’s editing tools to build environments and characters, which are then manipulated as virtual actors. This is not a market the publisher would have envisioned, much less approached. On the technical side as well, player innovations have driven the artificial intelligence component of the game forward, resulting in smarter code that drives not only sales of the end-product but also commercial licensing of the underlying technology to third-party publishers. Essentially, the flexibility of Quake’s tool set has transformed thousands of players into a self-organizing market research and R&D force driven by its own creative imperatives and social incentives.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity CULTURAL CHALLENGES IN CROSS-DISCIPLINARY COLLABORATIONS Would-be collaborators from different disciplines can encounter a number of obstacles, including difficulties in accessing appropriate funding sources, differences in vocabulary, the absence of frameworks for evaluating non-traditional work, and the long time periods required for projects to gel.39 Further, it may seem intuitive that the greater the differences between the disciplines involved, the higher these barriers become; one could argue that IT and the creative arts register a high score on this scale. Yet, some claim it is easier to get artists and engineers to work together as a team than it is to get individuals from either group to work with their own colleagues in the same field. That observation has been applied to both computer science and various arts and design fields. Sometimes competition in the same (or a similar) area of expertise is more difficult to deal with than combining different skill sets to attain a common goal. When adequate resources are available, as is sometimes the case in the corporate world, people can be formally taught skills that are conducive to collaboration. The committee made a site visit to Pixar Animation Studios,40 a successful company that offers a number of creativity-enhancing activities. Corporate universities, per se, are not new; for example, the Disney Studio offered art classes in its heydey of the 1930s and 1940s.41 But there is something unusual about Pixar University, a part of the company that has its own “dean” and offers courses in every aspect of filmmaking for Pixar employees (the classes include both technical and artistic “students”). The curriculum includes many forms of studio art (e.g., sculpture, painting, drawing), improvisation, storytelling, and even juggling. Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull says a course in improvisation is the closest thing there is to a class in how to collaborate. Perhaps the strongest statement that can be made about these offerings is that they send a signal, coupled with enabling resources and management support, that creativity matters, is encouraged, and may be rewarded, and that it can involve moving beyond one’s starting skill set, whether on an individual basis or in combining people with different starting skill sets into teams. In addition, Pixar University contributes to the company’s human resources policy by promoting employee retention. Unlike other major studios, Pixar tends to keep its teams together 39 See National Research Council, 2000, Strengthening the Linkages Between the Sciences and the Mathematical Sciences, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. 40 See Appendix B for a listing of Pixar participants. 41 See Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, 1981, The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation, Abbeville Press, New York.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity between projects, rather than laying them off. There are downsides, of course, to any strong internal culture, even one designed to promote collaboration and creativity. A self-contained organization without links to external perspectives may encourage homogenous values and an insular view of the world, discouraging the criticism or controversy that often is useful in ITCP work.42 Even if specialized training is not an option, general awareness of key issues that arise in collaborations may help projects to succeed. The overall challenge in collaboration is to transcend traditional role boundaries to exploit different perspectives and skills and create new ideas and products that are somehow greater than the sum of their parts. Doing so may involve assessing the multiple dimensions of each relevant discipline—which affects its interfaces to others—and the ongoing processes of change affecting each discipline. Specific obstacles to be overcome at the intersection of IT and creative practices are discussed in the following subsections. OVERCOMING PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS ABOUT COMPUTER SCIENTISTS AND ARTISTS AND DESIGNERS Perceptions about artists and designers and computer scientists can often be formed through popular or anecdotal accounts, rather than through actual encounters. Such perceptions can inhibit mutual respect in collaborations, at least at the outset. The challenge of overcoming such stereotypes permeated the personal accounts of those who briefed the committee and of committee members themselves.43 Although there are exceptions to and disagreements about stereotypes, some generalizations are useful here for bringing an important issue to light, even at the risk of oversimplification. Some scientists and engineers exhibit a sense of superiority, if not outright hostility, toward those in the arts and design. Or, put another way, “Artists see science; they don’t understand it; they think it is brilliant. Scientists see art; they don’t understand it; they think it is dumb.”44 Part of the problem may be the connotations of “creativity” in some contexts. Creativity is often cloaked in an aura of mystery, which suggests that the work results from spontaneous creative insight without rigorous or repeatable methodology, from epiphanies 42 However, companies that wish to keep their work confidential until public release do have reasons for constraining external communication, or at the least, not encouraging it fully. 43 Of course, such perceptions do not exist in every collaboration. However, testimony to the committee, a review of published literature, and the experiences of most of the committee suggest that the lack of such perceptions is indeed the exception. 44 Based on discussions at the committee’s meeting at Stanford University, January 2001. A reviewer of this report observed that “sentiments here attributed to scientists are seldom encountered among European scientists, probably because U.S. scientists are often unfamiliar with cultural practices.”
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity when alone rather than as a result of sustained discussion with peers; it downplays the analysis, struggle, debate, or committed engagement with pressing social or technical problems. It is very difficult to compare forms of creativity, or sometimes even to recognize them. Some scientists and engineers can also view the arts or other cultural perspectives as luxuries, things that might be supported or pursued as time and resources permit. Such attitudes may be traceable in part to disparities in funding and, accordingly, some notion of status.45 The Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) Artist-in-Residence (PAIR) program, for example, received a certain amount of attention for its attempts to integrate artists with computer scientists and others.46 Although this program may well have helped Xerox PARC to sustain its creativity, constraints on social integration—accentuated by pay differences— may have limited the creative output.47 Although people can (and, given discussions within the committee, clearly do) interpret compensation disparities in different ways, national employment statistics show significant differences among workers in the arts and those in technical fields such as computer science; different occupations, even among technical fields, have different earning power, for a variety of reasons that derive from the structure of the economy (and professional conduct).48 The marked contrast between compensation levels for computer scientists and for artists, other things being equal, is significant for the intersection between IT and the arts inasmuch as it affects collaboration and education. Across organizations, and even departments in a university, compensation levels affect patterns of time use, expectations for research and for infrastructure, and so on. Similarly, the arts establishment sometimes regards technology suspiciously, as if it lacks a worthy lineage or is too practical to be creative. This attitude was evident in early committee discussions, coming out most strongly in contrasting perspectives on the potential for creative practices within industry. Because of their experience in 45 As Michael Mateas, creator of Terminal Time, told the committee: “Power is a big issue . . . . Certainly in our society there’s a power asymmetry between technocrats— scientists and technologists—and artists. Technocrats are . . . in the driver’s seat right now in our society.” 46 The context is a research laboratory that had already blended a variety of scientists and engineers and a small group of social scientists. 47 As characterized to the committee at its January 2001 meeting at Stanford University, the PAIR program when it was launched included “creative” people from the arts with a lot of experience who were paid less than some technical student interns, and who disparaged the scientists as suburban bourgeoisie. 48 According to economist Richard Caves, creative professionals earn less, on average, than their human capital might suggest, in part because their commitment to producing creative output may lead to different activity and output than would a simpler commitment to satisfying consumers. See Richard E. Caves, 2000, Creative Industries: Contracts Between Art and Commerce, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.; and James Heilbrun and Charles M. Gray, 2001, The Economics of Art and Culture, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity Cultural bias can undermine respect and communication; overcoming such differences was neither rapid nor easy, an insight that is important for planning for other contexts. deriving research inspiration from practical problems, the technologists found it easier to see creative potential in industry than did the artists, who found more cause for concern about motivations or constraints based on commercial imperatives.49 Skepticism about technology was also evident in the early days of “Net art” (art using the Internet), which took off in 1994 when the Mosaic browser was first distributed and people realized that the Web was a fertile canvas for art making. Net art was ignored as unimportant at first by art institutions, museums, galleries, art magazines, and funders. (Now that it has gained credibility, some suggest that Internet art may in fact be the medium that best reflects the transformations of the information revolution, the same role that photography and film played in the industrial revolution.50) This type of cultural bias can undermine respect and communication, unless the participants are aware of their differences and are willing to modify their behavior appropriately. Although the committee context forced the process of articulating and overcoming such differences among its members, accommodation was neither rapid nor easy, an insight that is important for planning for other contexts. One concern arising from some quarters of the arts world is that a celebration of the potential of ITCP not become a dirge for more traditional forms of art.51 One is not a substitute for the other; both should be viewed as complements. Nor should ITCP be viewed as privileging popular forms, such as design, over the fine arts. Although the direct pop culture, because it is so pervasive and so easy to learn and transmit through media, has pushed developed art to the margins, both ends of the spectrum need each other—the direct end to revitalize points of view and connect with basic feelings, the other to reveal much more about an idea (and about ideas) than was first supposed. The challenge of maintaining respect across disparate fields is an extension of the frequent differences in attitude encountered within a field between researchers in the more theoretical and the more applied areas. More generally, every social context has a prestige and status hierarchy, standards of excellence, standards of language, and modes of expression. It is too late to establish social contexts for ITCP de novo so that everyone is socialized ab initio into shared norms, goals, and expectations. Hence it is important to foster social contexts that recognize explicitly that people come from different cultures and explicitly work to bridge those differences. Establishing strong common goals and simultaneously ensuring individual work satisfaction—the support of individual goals within the group—is one strategy for cross- 49 This perspective is likely to be more common among studio artists than, for example, commercial artists who work in advertising or industrial designers. 50 Based on a presentation by Mark Tribe to the committee in November 2000 in New York City. 51 This theme emerged in the review process for this report, for example.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity disciplinary communication. Creating an atmosphere of equal value among members is another tactic. Dissension flourishes in an atmosphere of inequity; the collaborative process requires an atmosphere that allows for relaxed exchange. Perceptions of teamwork in the arts have, in the past, centered on either identical roles (i.e., people working together as equals) or clearly unequal ones (e.g., one person is “in control” and the other is the technician or helper). These models are changing in the wake of new practices such as those used by the Critical Art Ensemble, discussed above. Differentiations between “technicians” and “professionals” shape computer scientists’ views of collaborations, too, especially in a cross-disciplinary context. Because people play different roles in teams, assigning credit can be difficult. A major impediment to cross-disciplinary collaborations is the traditional academic focus on isolated disciplines, the organizing principle for departments, journals, and the reward system for teachers and researchers.52 New technological art forms require new ways of organizing, which can take decades to stabilize, as was true for cinema and perhaps for emergent forms such as virtual environments.53 MINIMIZING COMMUNICATIONS CLASHES Although the arts and sciences are not completely separate spheres—indeed, some see them as intricately related—they do speak different languages. During the writing of the present report, for example, committee members and staff with IT backgrounds had difficulty understanding the nonlinear concepts and writing style of those with art and critical studies backgrounds. Similarly, a Stanford University computer science professor reported difficulty in collaborating with art historians because they were unfamiliar with data and models.54 Simply recognizing the barriers posed by jargon, terms of art, and localized practices goes a long way toward bridging such gaps. The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C., for example, took a straightforward approach in demystifying its exhibition of textile art made with digital printing and/or digital weaving techniques, which “allow the artists to investigate traditional textile concepts with a new flexibility and range of creativity.”55 Because casual visitors might have had difficulty understanding either the art pieces or the advantages offered by technology, the museum provided a glossary of textile terms such as “warp” and “weft.”56 52 See Chapter 6 for a detailed discussion. 53 See Brenda Laurel, Rachel Strickland, and Rob Tow, 1994, “Placeholder: Landscape and Narrative in a Virtual Environment,” ACM Computer Graphics Quarterly 28(2):118-127. 54 Personal communication from Marc Levoy, Stanford University, March 29, 2000. 55 See “Technology as Catalyst: Textile Artists on the Cutting Edge,” 2002, Textile Museum, Washington, D.C. 56 See “An Introduction to Textile Terms,” 1997, Textile Museum, Washington, D.C. New technological art forms require new ways of organizing, which can take decades to stabilize, as was true for cinema and perhaps for emergent forms such as virtual environments.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity Communication—not only the words but also the style—is an important issue for collaborators. Education and training shape expectations for communication; they can also factor into receptivity to the vocabulary and styles of others. In a productive architectural process, roles are flexible and the many actors can cross professional boundaries and interact in ways that enable creative things to happen. If an architect knows something about structural engineering, and a structural engineer knows something about architecture, they can perform their specialized roles at a sophisticated level of discourse. For instance, the architect can tell the engineer that a column is oversized and know, without being told, that it could be cut in half. They know enough about each other’s jobs to communicate across role boundaries. Thus, mechanisms such as crossover books (books that are intended for non-specialist audiences) can be useful; such books boil down the essence of an area for the intelligent and interested novice. However, these adaptations must not be so diluted that real insights are obscured by superficialities. It is no secret that scientists and artists have widely differing community standards with regard to language and modes of expression and the types of questions to explore. As noted by Michael Mateas, for example, the scientist seeks abstract and objective knowledge, whereas the artist seeks an immediate perceptual experience for the audience.57 Accordingly, it can be difficult for them to reach consensus on common problems and topics and to establish common under-standings.58 Yet there are also rapid changes redefining practice that are blurring previously rigid boundaries, as collaborators find ways to accommodate their differences. As noted by a reviewer of this report, successful collaborations involve mutual respect and friendship: Each knows enough about the other’s field for meaningful conversation to take place, but respects the other’s expertise enough to leave specialized decisions to that collaborator. Shared goals, group dynamics, and psychological maturity are more important than complete coverage of required expertise. 57 Although scientists and artists may have different motivations, and public appreciation may play a relatively greater role in artists’ visibility and income, in both cases professional advancement depends heavily on the judgment of peers. 58 See Denise Caruso, 2001, “Lead, Follow, Get Out of the Way: Sidestepping the Barriers to Effective Practice of Interdisciplinarity,” white paper, Hybrid Vigor, see <http://www.hybridvigor.org>.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity RESOURCES THAT SUPPORT CREATIVE PRACTICES SKILLS TRAINING Work in ITCP not only demands new capabilities from many of its practitioners, but also offers novel avenues for learning these skills. That is to say, IT can be exploited both to help technologists and artists learn skills and methods and gain access to tools, and to motivate and educate others, including young people, who might one day become active in the field. This last point is important, because children naturally possess both the experimentalism and the fascination with computers that drive success in this field. Online vehicles are already supporting distance education, including instruction in new methodologies in general and the use of specific tools. Organizations that produce tools are increasingly turning to the Web as the medium of choice for providing educational material, supporting user-directed learning. There seem to be more resources offering IT skills training and tools than offering arts education, paralleling what some see as an asymmetry in the motivation of artists and technologists to “cross over” into the other domain. There is a belief that, in general, artists can learn IT faster than technologists can learn art, in part because artists are more motivated to use IT as a way to do exciting and distinguished work (e.g., in computer animation). Technologists generally have little general education in art and tend to see the beauty of finding and solving problems in programming and mathematics as their art; in addition, they are paid well in their chosen profession and have less motivation to learn art or design.59 An important resource in the mid- to late-1990s was Open Studio: The Arts Online,60 a national initiative of the Benton Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts that provided Internet access and training to artists and non-profit arts organizations. According to promotional materials, Open Studio empowered the arts community to “give the Internet a soul,” helping artists and arts organizations gain powerful new opportunities to network, strengthen ties to communities, and build new audiences, while ensuring that the online world is a source of creative excellence and diversity. Technology plays a role in education at Eyebeam Atelier, where the goal is to expose broad and diverse audiences to new technologies and the media arts while simultaneously establishing and articulating 59 Based on a personal communication from Bill Alschuler, School of Critical Studies, California Institute of the Arts, 2002. 60 See <http://www.openstudio.org>.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity new media as a significant medium of artistic expression.61 Eyebeam accomplishes this objective through three core outlets: education, exhibition, and an artist-in-residence program. The education programs focus on exposing youths, families, and the general public to new-media art using the atelier method, in which an emphasis is placed on studio-based education augmented by technology, and through one-on-one instruction and mentoring. The new artist-in-residence program connects artists with “technology partners,” primarily for-profit firms, that provide the technology needed by the artist. The partners share a common goal of exploring the technology’s potential in the process of making art.62 Relevant online resources are not focused exclusively on the technology side of the ITCP equation. Practitioners can learn elements of artistry as well. For example, mH2O provides the software and samples (short loops of beats, instruments, and vocals) for anyone to create and record music. It also offers a variety of resources including digitized classes with master musicians. For example, users can select from five lessons (on topics such as the “Doodle System” and the “Ooo Bah System”) with Clark Terry, a master of the trumpet and flugelhorn, who teaches form, phrasing, articulation, riffing, and other elements of the blues to a group of students at a high school in Connecticut, a project organized by the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. Advances in IT can enable new modes of learning. For example, Maestro Pinchas Zukerman held a videoconference chamber music demonstration and discussion using Internet2 networks and peer networks, CANARIE, and NYSERNet. Zukerman led the class from Ottawa to a talented young string trio in New York. Audience members at Columbia University as well as observers on the Internet could watch the session in real time. A question-and-answer session was held for both in-person and Internet observers.63 WORK SPACES Appropriate work spaces are an essential ingredient in creative production.64 People need a comfortable setting offering access to their tools and collaborators. Most discussions of IT work spaces assume the conventional form factor of computing: a screen, a keyboard, and a mouse. Add in all of the normal peripherals of scanner, 61 See <http://www.eyebeam.org/about/profile.html>. 62 See <http://www.eyebeam.org/artists/index.html>. 63 See <http://www.columbia.edu/acis/networks/advanced/zukermaninteractive>. Also see Cultivating Communities: Dance in the Digital Age, Internet 2, University of Southern California, October 29, 2002, <http://apps.internet2.edu>. 64 “It is easier to enhance creativity by changing conditions in the environment than by trying to make people think more creatively.” See Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Harper Collins, New York, p. 1.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity printer, telephone, and so on, and the space suddenly needs a desk and a chair. Then information has to be stored in folders, files, drawers, and shelves. Suddenly the work space is an office. Is the artist/ designer studio of the future really a conventional office? Contemporary work spaces are in flux. During this time of change (or evolution), ITCP practitioners might be best served by flexible and open designs that allow for new configurations to alter the flow of work and communication. Wired spaces (in which there are distributed communication systems for Internet or broadband access) and wireless spaces (areas set up for pervasive access to wireless communications for access to the Internet and to people or devices within the area) are a new part of this landscape. The re-thinking of design for knowledge sharing, through both physical proximity and electronic communication, is an important part of creating new work processes and has to evolve hand in hand with space planning. How can these processes be facilitated in ways that allow for the flexibility and cross-pollination that are desirable in facilities for research and creative production? How can environmental adaptability, and signaling that colleagues are available, be achieved without the suggestion of a surveillance culture? Does electronic networking really reduce “one person–one computer” isolation? How is it possible to create spatial configurations that reduce isolation and foster or enhance discussion? In the future, devices will get tinier and interfaces will become more complex. The world will have more buttons to push, more gadgets to carry, and/or more systems embedded in the environment (physical or natural) that provide services without direct human interaction. Or perhaps there will be systems for direct input to or output from human brains, possibly through implanted devices. Simply imagining something with visual or physical form could spark an entire sequence of events to occur in the physical world. The boundaries of the real and the imaginary could become obscured. There might be no need for a physical workplace, at least for utilitarian reasons—although there may be essential social needs that are unfulfilled in a virtual workplace. One might just imagine a workplace, and it would appear just as imagined. Early indicators of such phenomena can be found in experiments with virtual worlds, although virtual- and augmented-reality technologies engage a broader range of senses for inputs and outputs than those accessible to ordinary office or home computing systems.65 The desktop will most likely have to change to enable a more sophisticated dialogue with digital media. A variety of technologies offering three-dimensional graphics, voice and touch input and output, rapid macro-fabrication capabilities, and terabytes of storage all point to a potential diversification of tasks involving IT and an in 65 See Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, 1997, More Than Screen Deep: Toward Every-Citizen Interfaces to the Nation’s Information Infrastructure, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
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Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation, and Creativity crease in activities that seem to be more versatile and challenging. In the end, environments have to be engaging on many levels for users to have the necessary impetus to respond with impassioned content—to be creative. Virtual spaces can be architectures for collaborations that allow multiple users to talk and share work and work space across geographical territories. These capabilities are changing the nature of collaborative work as well as the markets and audiences for it. The ability to access and work with a niche group that is broadly distributed geographically allows for new kinds of practice to evolve. Skills that were previously determined locally no longer need be, and audiences that once had to be concentrated at a local level to make the activity economically viable can now be spread over a wide geographical area. These practices and methods of communication are beginning to generate new tools and work methods as well as new territories of content. Academic institutions and research facilities can become leaders in this area, empowering people to experiment in a non-prescriptive way. As one example, the entire economy of music production has been transformed by digital technologies. Large commercial studios and studio musicians are vanishing as the home studio becomes the standard for production in both the commercial and non-commercial spheres. These studios can now access a level of technology previously unavailable to the individual and will certainly produce new forms of sound design. But technology and social infrastructures have to be developed carefully to avoid jeopardizing social interactions, in which people learn how to play with each other in groups. Access to tools and to other musicians through electronic networks has tremendous potential. It is possible to think of situations, in academic and research institutions as well as in commercial and non-profit production facilities, in which musicians and composers can collaborate both physically and electronically, or virtually, with enhanced potential for discussion and research. A convention of distributed performance has developed—a concert with some players at one site and some at another, or people waving across videoconferencing systems. But the increasing diffusion of broadband technologies66 has begun to suggest a more complex and sophisticated set of possibilities for multisite performance, including collaborative production and development and new methods of distribution. 66 See Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, 2002, Broadband: Bringing Home the Bits, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
Representative terms from entire chapter: