Nathan Balasubramanian's response to Assignment 17

Fischer, G., Giaccardi, E., Eden, H., Sugimoto, M., & Ye, Y. (2005) "Beyond Binary Choices: Integrating Individual and Social Creativity," International Journal of Human-Computer Studies (IJHCS) Special Issue on Creativity (eds: Linda Candy and Ernest Edmond), p. (in press).

Briefly discuss the following issues:

1.1 What did you find interesting about the article?

What was interesting was the recognition that both intelligence and creativity are generated and sustained through active collaboration, interactions, dialogue, and shared interests between individuals and their socio-technical environments.

1.2. What did you find not interesting about the article?

I thought the article made several claims. For instance, the authors’ “four essential pieces” of creativity – originality, expression, social evaluation, and social appreciation seem arbitrary. For example, I would personally value intentionality as one of the essential pieces, because as the authors quote Rogoff and Lave (1984), individuals need to come up with creative solutions “to cope with unforeseen complexities of real-world tasks.” Also I found the minimal effort in “two barriers to capture information” cited on p. 20 contradicting the “value dimension” for sustaining personally meaningful activities on p. 21 because the authors themselves observe “people are willing to spend considerable effort on things that are important to them” (p. 21). Besides, examining the “not most” creative situations might have also shed some light on both individual and social creativity. I thought of individuals, for instance with disabilities, who are particularly creative. What “essential pieces” might contribute to their creativity?

2. What do you consider the main message of the article?

The challenges – finding personally meaningful activities for individuals, and opportunities – enjoying the advantages of distributed cognition, that lie ahead in the design of socio-technical environments would be a big contributor in fostering individual and social creativity.

3. Pick ONE of the four systems described in the article (Envisionment and Discovery Collaboratory, Caretta, Renga Creations, CodeBroker) and discuss which aspects of individual and social creativity they support!

CodeBroker: Re individual creativity – seed created by original system developer, and extended creatively, by other users than the original designer had intended. Re social creativity – users value developing and using the original system – a shared and evolving boundary object.

4. Have you encountered interesting “boundary objects?” which ones? what features made them interesting?

In my view, the “STRONG” concept that six of us are currently collaboration on for our class project is a nice example of an interesting “boundary object.” STRONG, STRuctured-scenario ONline Games, was a concept unknown to five of the collaborators but has now definitely become “a locus of production and creativity” for knowledge creating, learning, teaching, and sharing in our reflective community.

5. Describe the most creative activity from your OWN life and analyze the individual and social aspect of your creative act!

STRONG apart, the microeconomics I have used in my classroom, since Fall 2004, where students start with a seed money of $50.00 (fake money) at the start of the year/semester but have to BUY most resources they use (like hot glue sticks, foam boards, cardboard, string, marbles, straws, glue, etc.) – costing varying amounts from $ 1 - $200 to build various things in their classes has surprised me too. What I think has made this effective is the immediate feedback students receive on their performance during any class. Re individual creativity, this activity is highly contextual, challenging, situated, because students recognize easily where they were (in $) and where they have reached (in $), without waiting for an end-of-year summative assessment.

Re social creativity, students easily created and understood the value and meaning of money in their socio-technical classroom environment. The history of this is interesting. What triggered it was students using a packet of hot glue sticks per period before I instituted the microeconomics activity late in August last year. Recognizing, all the TALK about using resources wisely didn’t work, but the moment they had to buy one hot glue stick for $ 5, they used it almost to the last drop before they bought another one was a real eye-opener for me. The monetary system of earning and trading with money, acting as consultants, earning royalties from patenting their prototypes, enjoying the opportunities afforded with money, or borrowing money, in a few cases, from a bank (if they had good credit history) or an alternate loan shark company, coupled with the social capital they earn (green “I helped” card or red “I asked for pointers” card), has been fascinating indeed. The latter, borrowing money from my loan shark company because of their poor credit history (of classroom conduct), when they ran out of money, and their subsequent desperation to earn and return the money at the earliest to avoid interest payment (10% per week) by less than 1% of my students makes me wonder if the statistic of “more individuals declaring bankruptcy in the United States than the numbers graduating from college!!” could easily reversed if more teachers instituted microeconomics in their classes in K-8 settings? The social capital component helps more students understand the real intent of using microeconomics, helping them move beyond a mercenary approach, to a more give-and-take approach afforded through meaningful social interactions. This is also relevant in light of Whybrow’s (2005) book American mania: When more is not enough!

6. Which computational systems do you know which support individual and/or social creativity?

The SWIKI and EDC platforms come to mind immediately.

Nathan Balasubramanian