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Record Type: Review   ID: 218

Changing the World: A Framework for the Study of Creativity

Feldman, David Henry, Csikszentmihalyi, Mihalyi, and Gardner, Howard

 The meaning of creativity dealt with in this book "is the achievement of something remarkable and new, something which transforms and changes a field of endeavor in a significant way ... with the kinds of things that people do that change the world" (p. 1). They review critics of the view that creativity results in something new rather than simply a recombination of the old, but they insist that new ideas actually occur. After a brief review of the history of creativity research, they present the framework on which their work is based: the field (or the social and cultural variables), the domain (or the existing organization mind structure of the body of knowledge before innovations occur), and the individual person (or the locus of "acquisition, organization, and transformation of knowledge that has the possibility of changing domains and fields. "They observe that the process of transforming a domain is a type of "boundary pushing" (p. 22), and that those who are likely to succeed have mastered thoroughly the field’s established principles, but they are aware of problematic aspects and "are not so entrenched in the established knowledge and belief of the domain that they defend rather than extend its boundaries" (p. 23). It also is usually necessary to transport knowledge/tools/concepts from other domains. A chapter on the psychology of creative individuals concludes that that individual must be viewed within a larger social context and domain. Gardner reviews creators’ patterns. Feldman discusses developmental transitions and creativity. In the following chapter, "Creativity: Dreams, Insights, and Transformations," Feldman, in effect, deals with the role exceptional human experiences play in creativity. He begins with an "aha" experience of his own, which led him to see that ‘development does not simply proceed inside the mind of the individual ... but as a result of complex, dynamic processes of coordination, change, adjustment, and new coordination among the individual, the physical environment, the crafted world, and the social world" (p. 109). He calls it "the idea of co-incidence," and he applies it to the phenomenon of prodigies. He provides an interesting discussion of the three-phase theory of creativity mentioned above that is fresh and provocative. He emphasizes a human imperative that is new to me but that sheds much light on the role played by exceptional human experience: the need to transform. He calls creativity "crafted transformation." It seems to me he has put a finger on what happens when a person works with an EHE until it becomes an exceptional human experience; in this case what is crafted and transformed is one’s own identity, worldview, and lifeway. He concludes that creativity is "a special form of development that yields a product that is new and valuable not only to an individual but also to a field" (p. 131). I believe that EHEs are a highly underestimated form of human development in which one’s self and world are transformed and in the process the universe, as well as the individual, becomes more conscious. Chapter 6 is by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, who recaps what he has learned about creativity in 25 years. Like Feldman, he came to see that one cannot understand it by concentrating on the creative individual but one must enlarge one’s conception of the creative process to include the social and cultural context. This coincides with our recognition that one cannot understand parapsychological or other anomalies without enlarging the context. He therefore presents a systems view of creativity consisting of a field, a domain, and a person. He also wrote the penultimate chapter, which is on the role of memes and genes in creativity. He provides an excellent discussion of what makes a meme (a created product) survive, or as he puts it, enables an innovation to "eventually end up in the symbolic system of society" (p. 167) and be transmitted to future generations. "To survive, it has to affect the consciousness of at least some people" (p. 167). Another requirement is that it provide enjoyment, i.e., be an end in itself. This brings us to Maslow’s being-cognition and exceptional human experience. They close with a summary of the prospects for creativity research in the near future.
Publisher Information:Westport, CT: Praeger, 1994. 180p. Chap. bibl; Index: 179-180; 31 refs
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