Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Why can't we be creative? The question of how our society forms our behavior.

The breakthrough of technology gave us many things that led to our convenient life nowadays. From cars to ground-breaking economic theories, they exist anywhere and anytime these days. One might say we owe the creative minds about these things that they've came up with, and we are actually promoting the creativeness in out society. I think that's not the case for the most of the time, and therefore, I decided to write my personal thoughts about our culture these days, and how much hard it is to have one's own time for the creative thoughts. 

My advertisement class mainly discusses the topics related on these things, and the class gave me a lot of thoughts about our discussion mixed as one. So, the current society is running towards a society where consumption is the key. The market develops things like consumer cultures and effective methods for selling their products. In order for a consumer culture to be sustained, some conditions have to be met in the society, and one of them is 'there should be abundance of production.' This is a mainstream concept in the market after the President Franklin. D. Roosevelt performed the New Deal. Initially, the concept was to stimulate the production of the companies by government intervention. However, nowadays, the profit is the main goal, and the people eventually found out ways to sell the produced goods in a timely manner.

I believe the 'obligated consumption' of the people and the companies trying to make the consumption 'obligated' in order to increase their profit is affecting the people to be less creative and more like a good fit that can function in the society the companies have defined. I have no intention to criticize the current education system, but from my sincere thoughts, the university now looks like a prep-school for companies to pick their parts for their assembly line. There are exceptions of course, but most of the companies would make the GPA the baseline of their criteria, while the extra curricular activities which might seem creative be the sidekick of the show. Nowadays, instead of really thinking about creative things that could make oneself unique, the students try to find already made-and-used images to make a brand of themselves. Even classes teach you to make a brand that the company would be interested in you.

The consumption aspect converges with the people's nature of avoiding the change. When people settle down to something, they have a tendency to just stay down and play safe. I felt this with my heart when we tried to discuss about what would the children first do in order to start things that could lead them to creative activities. I wasn't even able to think about trying new foods as something that you could start an adventure with (I'm pretty sure that wasn't the expression, but I was trying to refer to Prof. Arvan's point on that day). People's thoughts are getting fixed up due to the environment that others have created, and if one lives busy enough to earn the money and pay for tomorrow, they don't have time for creative thoughts. At least that's the situation for most of the middle class people and below. Unless you have materialistic abundance, the time, and more specifically, the free time that the society gives you wouldn't let you think about those things.

The Nobel prize winners, at least for the creative breakthroughs, weren't really from a third world country. Instead, they were the people who could actually afford to spend their time to be creative. 

One could say that if you make the time for it, there wouldn't be any problem. However, creative thoughts, as we have discussed so far, isn't really a thing that would come in a snap nor a short-to-moderate time span. If our social conditions wouldn't allow us to actually ponder and appreciate the thoughts, we would have a hard time to actually be creative in the first place. 


  1. Have you heard of Muhammad Yunus? He is an economist from Bangladesh. He came up with the concept now called micro-finance. He won the Nobel Prize, for peace, not for economics. The seeds of creativity are in real problems and somebody wondering whether there is a way to do things better.

    On this issue of no time, because the market demands you to be so over programmed, it certainly is a real issue. I've heard other instructors describe the same problem, without any prompt from me. So I don't want to deny it happening. But I wonder if it is inevitable.

    It seems to me the fundamental problem is this. If you had a "creativity agenda" you could devote time to that, even if it were risky to do so, and then be on your own path rather than on the treadmill that the culture imposes on you. But without such an agenda already, then it seems hopelessly idealistic to abandon the apparent income security for such a haphazard existence. So the issue is whether you can develop such an agenda, perhaps in lieu of other recreation, while still having a decent job.

    I don't know the personal history of too many creative people. I've mentioned Van Gogh before, where I've read a biography of him not that long ago. He didn't start as a painter. He started as an art dealer (that was the family business). Then he became a minister in a very poor mining region of Belgium called the Borinage. His sketching was something he did reflexively to relieve his tension from the work. He only found painting after not succeeding in the other vocations. He failed - a lot, and he went hungry quite often.

    Einstein is another where a bit of the biography is available to me. He was a patent clerk in Switzerland when he came up with Special Relativity. He didn't become a professor till much later.

    So maybe the issue shouldn't be cast as either one or the other but not both. And maybe over time you first opt for one alternative only to ultimately reject that and try the other.

  2. I feel the same way that there are many courses in college focusing on how to brand oneself so that it is easier to make companies be interested. And some students are finding a certain model which regarded as success and trying to imitate. There's nothing wrong with taking other's experience and reflect on oneself. While sometimes the brand-making idea tends to set out certain standards for every student to follow. For instance, in my Econ 198 course, one of the guest speakers talked about ten skills that companies care the most (although I forgot what exactly they are, probably team working skills, communication skills, etc). It might be useful in some way to intrigue self-awareness. But I don't agree that there is a standard fits for everyone.

    Creativity may have a broader range than we typically think. Many people think creativity is creating a new technology or an idea no one as ever thought about. While creativity could also be practiced through daily life. We actually talked about this before such as doing an old thing through a different way or different format (Such as doing our homework through Excel). Recently I watched an interesting music video of "somebody that I used to know", which is covered by a band called walk off the earth ( Five people cover the song with just one guitar, but in a creative way (or different way). So like Professor Arvan mentioned, I believe if we can devote some time during daily life into what we're really interested in, practicing creativity is not that hard. Meanwhile we could still have our studying life or working life.

    1. One thing we haven't talked about yet, it is being creative in a limited domain. (I will illustrate below). We have treated it as the same as being creative in an open ended way. I don't believe they are.

      One would think that by limiting what is possible that would put a damper on creativity, because the person has far fewer choices that are possible. But it turns out that by limiting choices, it makes the task seem much more do-able. I wonder if you might find your own limited domain area to practice in and do so for fun.

      One way I practice is by writing rhymes. In particular, I am fond of limericks. Here is a very well known one.

      There was a young lady from Niger
      Who rode on the back of a tiger.
      They came back from the ride
      With the lady inside
      And a smile on the face of the tiger.

      This is a rhyme where the last word on the first, second, and last line rhyme as do the last word on the third and fourth lines. Further the rhyming lines have the same number of syllables - 9 for lines 1, 2, and 5 - 6 for lines 3 and 4. So this is a limited domain in which to try to construct something with meaning at the same time it rhymes.

      Double major in Econ and Psych
      Both subjects offer something to like.
      Discovering the key
      To learning mastery
      Nicole enjoys each major alike.

      (After years of doing this I'm willing to sacrifice some truth for the sake of getting the rhyme to work.)