Sunday, 2 October 2011

8.9. Creative mind: what is creativity all about?

The first session was a lecture based on some texts referred to on the lists in the right hand column. Here are some excerpts of some central points made:

Marion von Osten: "I do not think that there is such a thing as 'the creative industries' yet, but rather a discourse around culture and economy based on an international desire to realize the creative industries as an actuality. ... Social competency, creativity and intelligence are increasingly represented as separate abstract units and understood as being learned or already possessed by the Post-Fordist workers. Broader questions of what is achieved through these abilities or why and for whom they are directed, seem to be of no relevance."

Matteo Pasquinelli: "The original 1998 definition adopted by the Creative Industries Task Force set up by Tony Blair stated: "Those industries that have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property". As you can see, social creativity remains largely left out of that definition: after many years Tony Blair is still stealing your ideas."

Enzo Rullani: Modernity/ modern society has been enormously successful and productive, thanks to fundamental separation and limitation of different fields of expertise, institutions, knowledge. Each field operates within its own terrain, parting from its own understanding: e.g. economy operates with an economical logic. The problem and eventual crisis comes from the simultaneous growth within these specialized fields - and the complete inability to take into account things that are excluded from those fields or phenomena and issues concerning the influence the fields have on each other. What is excluded are things that are global and complex - like people, ecologies, "commons", public goods; or unique, local and singular - like personal networks, local communities, shared meanings.

Gregory Bateson: "In no system which shows mental characteristics can any part have unilateral control over the whole. In other words, the mental characteristics of the system are immanent, not in some part, but in the system as a whole.

This total system, or ensemble, may legitimately be said to show mental characteristics. It operates by trial and error and has creative character.

Similarly, we may say that “mind” is immanent in those circuits of the brain which are complete within the brain. Or that mind is immanent in circuits which are complete within the system, brain plus body. Or, finally, that mind is immanent in the larger system—man plus environment.
Mind is a necessary, an inevitable function of the appropriate complexity, wherever that complexity occurs. But that complexity occurs in a great many other places besides the inside of my head and yours. We’ll come later to the question of whether a man or a computer has a mind. For the moment, let me say that a redwood forest or a coral reef with its aggregate of organisms interlocking in their relationships has the necessary general structure. 

If, now, we correct the Darwinian unit of survival to include the environment and the interaction between organism and environment, a very strange and surprising identity emerges: the unit of evolutionary survival turns out to be identical with the unit of mind.

Formerly we thought of a hierarchy of taxa—individual, family line, subspecies, species, etc.—as units of survival. We now see a different hierarchy of units—gene- in-organism, organism-in-environment, ecosystem, etc. Ecology, in the widest sense, turns out to be the study of the interaction and survival of ideas and programs (i.e., differences, complexes of differences, etc.) in circuits.

Let us now consider what happens when you make the epistemological error of choosing the wrong unit: you end up with the species versus the other species around it or versus the environment in which it operates. Man against nature. You end up, in fact, with Kaneohe Bay polluted, Lake Erie a slimy green mess, and “Let’s build bigger atom bombs to kill off the next-door neighbors.” There is an ecology of bad ideas, just as there is an ecology of weeds, and it is characteristic of the system that basic error propagates itself. It branches out like a rooted parasite through the tissues of life, and everything gets into a rather peculiar mess. When you narrow down your epistemology and act on the premise “What interests me is me, or my organization, or my species,” you chop off consideration of other loops of the loop structure. You decide that you want to get rid of the by-products of human life and that Lake Erie will be a good place to put them. You forget that the eco-mental system called Lake Erie is a part of your wider eco-mental system—and that if Lake Erie is driven insane, its insanity is incorporated in the larger system of your thought and experience."

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