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Author(s): Burns, Tom R.
Machado, Nora
Date: 2014
Title: The Sociology of Creativity: A Sociological Systems Framework to Identify and Explain Social Mechanisms of Creativity and Innovative Developments
Collection title and number: CIES e-Working Paper
WP nº 196/2014
ISSN: 1647-0893
Keywords: Creativity
Innovative development
System theories
Sociology, psychology
Rule regime
Creative production function
Context of creativity
Context of receptivity
Abstract: Creativity is a universal activity, essential in an evolutionary perspective, to adaptation and sustainability. This manuscript on the sociology of creativity has three purposes: (1) to develop the argument that key factors in creative activity are socially based and developed; hence, sociology can contribute significantly to understanding and explaining human creativity; (2) to present a systems approach which enables us to link in a systematic and coherent way the disparate social factors and mechanisms that are involved in creative activity and to describe and explain creativity; (3) to illustrate a sociological systems theory’s (Actor-Systems-Dynamics) conceptualization of multiple interrelated institutional, cultural, and interaction factors and mechanisms and their role in creativity and innovative development with respect to diverse empirical bases. The approach shares with key psychological theory approaches in the area consideration of key concepts such as “persons”, “processes”, “products”, and “places “but extends these to include additional factors such as social structures and resources, social powers, selection mechanisms (acceptance or rejection), and institutionalization. Moreover, the complex of factors identified and analyzed are specified in this article in sociological terms. The resulting model enables one to address and answer key questions relating to creative actions and innovative developments such as “who” is involved, “why” are they driving these activities, “what” are they doing or trying to do concretely, “how”, “where”, and “when” in diverse instances/illustrations which illuminate human creativity. The general model enables us to distinguish between and analyze processes of creative origination/formation, on the one hand, and processes of institutional acceptance and realization, on the other hand. Innovation in these distinct phases is distinguished analytically. It formulates a phase structure model in which the phases of origination and innovation generally and the phases of acceptance and institutionalization are identified and analyzed. Finally, the work introduces and applies key concepts such as rules and rule regimes -- norms, roles, institutions, and cultural formations -- in general, social structure. Moreover, it identifies socially based creativity production functions and particular cognitive and action mechanisms as features of rule regimes that generate innovations. Applications and illustrations in the article are diverse ranging from, for instance: (i) “the lone coyote” who exercises creativity based on absorbing a field of knowledge, concepts, challenges, problems, solution strategies, creativity production functions or programs (and who is likely to be in contact with libraries, relevant journals and may be directly or indirectly in contact with a network of others); (ii) groups in their particular fields operating greenhouse driving problem-solving and creative activities – both self-organizing groups as well as groups established by external powers (whether a private company, a government, or a non-government organization or movement); (iii) or entire societies undergoing transformations and radical development as in the industrial and later revolutions. The article introduces and applies a model stressing the socio-cultural and political embeddedness of agents, either as individuals or groups, in their creative activities and innovative productions. The agents are socialized agents, carriers of socio-cultural knowledge, including some of the knowledge essential to engage in creative processes in a particular domain or field. In their creativity, agents manipulate symbols, rules, technologies, and materials that are socially derived and developed. Their motivation for doing what they do derives in part from their social roles and positions, in part in response to the incentives and opportunities – many socially constructed – shaping their interaction situations and domains. Their capabilities including their social powers derive from the culturally and institutional frameworks in which they are embedded. In carrying out their actions, agents mobilize resources through the institutions and networks of which they are a part. As social agents, they are carriers of constructed values and motives and culturally established ideas, strategies, and practices (e.g., “a cultural tool kit.”) Their creative actions are social actions, given meanings in cultural and institutional terms in the domains or fields in which they engage in their activities. Power considerations are part and parcel of the analyses, for instance the role of the state as well as private interests and social movements in facilitating and/or constraining innovations and creative developments in society. In the perspective presented here, generally speaking, creativity can be consistently and systematically considered to a great extent as social, cultural, institutional and material rather than largely psychological or biological.
Peerreviewed: Sim
Access type: Open Access
Appears in Collections:CIES-WP - Working papers

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