Creative Ecologies and Creative Ecosystems

Landscape of creativity

In regards to historical models of western creativity the emphasis is put on the individual and what is inside that individual – their ideas. This gives rise to an approach that is focused on

  1. Individuality and its preservation
  2. Ideas, ideation and the world of the immaterial, and
  3. The brain as the source

But given that we know from the Enactive Approach to cognition that all thinking all the time (including ideation) is not reducible to what is in the head of an individual, but rather it is ecological and distributed – thus, should we not simply put aside such an inaccurate view?

Cognition and Creativity Are Ecological Processes

Cognition and Creativity are ecological processes. They are not “in the head” – they are distributed activities that are intersubjective, embodied, materially extended, and environmentally embedded. And it is not that these “external” things simply “support” the ongoing cognitive or creative activity that is happening “in” the head/brain. Rather the coherant ecological assemblage of these processes give rise to the emergent activity of thinking or being creative. Cognition and Creativity emerge from the middle of the dynamics of the system (eco-system).

Creativity is thus an activity that is always and only practiced “from the middle”. It is a “worldly” practice and not an internal private process.

Being provocative, we could also put it this way: “the landscape is creative”. But this could lead to new confusions if we do not recognize that:

  1. We are of this landscape and we actively shape it as it shapes us
  2. This landscape is not static – it is a dynamic set of processes, and
  3. This “landscape” is an ongoing creative “dance” between others, tools, concepts, environments, etc. that are giving rise to emergent ways of feeling-knowing-doing that feed back into the process.

To recognize this, is to shift the focus of creativity from making individuals and their “brains” more open minded, better lateral thinkers, (etc.) and other such internally directed individualistic activities. And rather shift towards distributed practices – active ecologies that give rise to more novel outcomes than known outcomes.

In this, it is a shift to paying attention to what thinking and creativity have always been – embodied, extended, embedded, intrasubjective and enactive. It is to now actively acknowledge and embrace this reality – others matter, tools matter, habits and practices matter, ways of feeling and sensing matter, environments matter, processes matter – not because they will “support” “our” creativity but because they are creativity…

on What Is Innovation, and How to Innovate

Delivered Every Friday