Creative Intelligence

I mentioned to a few people at the recent meeting of the American Folklore Society that I had seen a reference to a university somewhere offering a course on “creative intelligence.” I found the link: [Creative Intelligence and Innovation]( at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Pixar’s HQ

Space matters. Always. Especially those spaces within which are imaginations are supposed to be working. The Gothic builders understood this perhaps better than we do in the present, but sometimes we remember the purpose of space is not only to house our bodies but also our minds and we build “inspiring” buildings, both in the denotative as well as the cliched sense of that word. [Pixar’s headquarters is a good example][]. (In the article, Steve Jobs sounds a lot like Thomas Jefferson when the latter was building Monticello.)

[Pixar’s headquarters is a good example]:

[John Cleese on creativity.]( Perhaps nothing earth shattering — make time and space and have confidence — but it is John Cleese telling you those things. What’s really useful is his suggestion that within the time you set aside for being creative you need to allow time for your brain to want to run away from the task at hand and that you have to be able to laugh. Solemnity is our enemy. (His definition of solemnity is worth the watch alone.)

By the way, one of the ways he advises you to give yourself permission to work is also to have a definite end time for your session, a time by which you will return to your life and let all those urgent things catch up with you.

*My thanks to my friend Liz for the heads up and the link.*

The Importance of Feedback for Creativity

Bret Victor focused his recent presentation at CUSEC on what he calls “inventing on principle.” Much of the early part of his presentation is fantastic walkthrough of a coding environment he has developed which allows programmers to see the result of code changes immediately and even interactively — in fact, what’s most fascinating is how his initial impulse to “close up” the feedback loop between the writing of code and its compilation actually led him to innovate the environment in really amazing ways.

His principle: “creators need to be able to see what they are doing.” It seems pretty straightforward, but realizing it, say, in how we might teach better, is harder. I’m especially struck by the importance of the tight feedback loop that Victor emphasizes and a recent conversation I had with Sarah Spell about things happening in UL’s Industrial Design department.

Everything Is a Remix

Kirby Ferguson is an independent filmmaker who has both a gift for rapid fire verbal delivery as well as the editing chops, and amazing erudition, to back it up. His *Everything Is a Remix* series of shorts are perfect for demonstrating quickly how culture works: he does a nice job of demonstrating how cultural products are influenced by previous products. His focus is largely on films, but other genres get swept into the mix as well.

[Here’s his Vimeo page](

And here’s his most recent piece as of this post:

College Degrees and Creativity

I am a college professor, and, so, far be it for me to deplore the college degree as the mark of civilization and/or individual accomplishment. That would be like Ford saying cars aren’t necessary for everyone. And yet, I worry when we establish these kinds of bench marks if we aren’t forgetting that the bench getting marked wasn’t that of the master craftsman who almost never had/has a college degree.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a terrific interactive website up that allows you not only to zoom in and out on parts of the U.S.A. but also break populations down by gender and “race.” I used the site to generate the following map (but we cold also call it a visualization or, more popularly, an infographic):

South Louisina Graduation Rates

I decided to zoom the map to the part of the world in which I live and work … and study. As you can see, Lafayette parish (parish = county), the somewhat triangular blue shape in the middle of the map, is the only parish in southwest Louisiana to be average. (It is above average for Asian Americans with degrees, and, sadly, below average for African Americans.) Lafayette is an island surrounded by a sea of under average parishes. Does that mean that intellectual capacity and/or engagement are under average? Clearly, my own research argues that this is not the case. In fact, of the boat makers and engine designers profiled in Genius Loci, only one has a college degree, and yet these are men responsible for the creation of industries and market capitalization in the millions of dollars. They have also created jobs on an unprecedented scale.

So, yes, tracking college degrees is important, but it is not as important, nor is it a good index, of intelligence and creativity.

Coppola on the New Creative Economy

Nice interview with Francis Ford Coppola in The 99 Percent on his three rules “1) Write and direct original screenplays,  2) make them with the most modern technology available,  and 3) self-finance them” and much more. Along the way he laments that cinema was so quickly commercialized and he makes this very interesting comment about the future of content creation:

We have to be very clever about those things. You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.

This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?

In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you’d be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.” Because there are ways around it.


Accidental Genius

I just finished a long post to the digital humanities seminar about free writing, which they will be doing, and the internet. I mentioned Mark Levy’s Accidental Genius, from which I will be drawing for some of our free writing techniques, and my quick search to turn up a link both to the book and to his website, turned up this wonderful article from Wired, entitled “Accidental Genius” which recounts how the law of unintended consequences has worked out for several inventions:

  • Gunpowder was meant to prolong life (as a pill).
  • The mechanical clock’s intended use was to regulate monastic prayer.
  • Edison developed the phonograph to record telephone calls.
  • Viagra was developed to help with angina.