What is creativity?
by Dave Colangelo
For David Gauntlett, Canada Research Chair in Creativity at X University, creativity refers to any “activities of making which are rewarding to oneself and to others” (2018, p. 25). We should note Gauntlett’s focus on “activities” here and not products of those activities. Gauntlett deliberately presents creativity as a process and a feeling, and de-emphasizes judgment of the self or others.
Offering a longer definition, Gauntlett states that:
“Everyday creativity refers to a process which brings together at least one active human mind, and the material or digital world, in the activity of making something. The activity has not been done in this way by this person (or these people) before. The process may arouse various emotions, such as excitement and frustration, but most especially a feeling of joy. When witnessing and appreciating the output, people may sense the presence of the maker, and recognize those feelings.” (67)
Here, we see that sharing, witnessing, and appreciating of what other people have made are integral components of what creativity is.
“Making is Connecting”
What happens when people make things? For Gauntlett (2018) the answer is quite simple: when people make things, they connect. “Making is connecting” (p. 18).
- Making is connecting because you have to connect things together (materials, ideas, or both) to make something new;
- Making is connecting because acts of creativity usually involve, at some point, a social dimension and connect us with other people;
- And making is connecting because through making things and sharing them in the world, we increase our engagement and connection with our social and physical environments.
Seven Key Principles of Creativity
Gauntlett (2018, p. 182) conveniently summarizes his definition of creativity in seven key principles:
- A new understanding of creativity as process, emotion and presence
- The drive to make and share — we like to make and share things.
- Happiness through creativity and community
- A middle layer of creativity as social glue
- Making your mark, and making the world your own
- All media are social media
- Do it yourself and self-transformation
How can we incorporate these principles into the way we design course materials and evaluations?
One way is by translating traditional forms of evaluation such as tests, quizzes, exams, and papers into more creativity focussed activities and experiences such as the creation of videos, podcasts, drawings, poems, or even LEGO dioramas, as well as creating and supporting safe spaces for the sharing of these works.
These forms are inherently more accessible and shareable than traditional forms of evaluations like essays and tests that are often designed for and read by only two people: the student and the instructor!
We’ll hear from some instructors that have some great ideas about how (and why) to move towards creative assignments later in the module.
Listen to David Gauntlett himself explain what creativity is.
Some key points from Gauntlett’s video:
- Creativity should involve creating new, imaginary worlds and inviting people to join them
- Creativity should embrace strangeness, imperfection, self-expression, experimentation, and ignoring or breaking rules and conventions
- Creativity needs to be considered more broadly, to be more inclusive of what constitutes “creative” work.
- We have to develop platforms that are safe spaces where people can make, share, and inspire each other
Gauntlett, D. (2018). Making is Connecting: The social power of creativity, from craft and knitting to digital everything. 2nd ed. Polity.