Sunday, October 17, 2010

Innovation vs. Imitation

The Difference Between Primary Creativity and Secondary Creativity
Primary creativity is creativity that is initial or original. It is fully unique coming out of the imagination of an individual that refuses to follow models and repeat prior ideas.

Secondary creativity is creativity that is derivative; it utilizes the creative elements of an inventive person. For example, we often see a movie and note that some scene or character or plot element or premise has been done before. In some cases almost the entire film is a composite of the work of other directors.

Secondary creativity comes in good and bad forms, as we shall see.

Primary creativity develops products that have not been seen before. Secondary creation is via a repetition of existing elements – its techniques involve recombination, juxtaposition, repurposing, twisting and negating, playful rearrangement, eclectic composition, adding a new context and meaning so on.

The Golden Age of secondary creativity

Secondary creativity has the advantage of utilizing an existing library of ideas, things, sounds, images and etc. In fact, today this library is fairly large. Given today’s electronic storage, easy access and software tools, secondary creativity is in a kind of “Golden Age”, where an inexperienced novice can have access to works of high creative quality, and use them in a secondary composition.

Much of present day creativity is secondary. We have the tools and the mass access and a culture promoting secondary creativity, but we do not have are a culture and education system promoting a parallel primary creativity. Our world, on the one hand, is highly democratic; on the other hand, we see a lack of standards. Ideally, each needs the other. We are out of balance, our duality is dysfunctional...(not that we were in balance before).

When previously we had no education about creativity there was still an adulation of the creative individual, today, whether the expert of primary creativity is a subject of respect is open question. The secondary creator is competing hard for adulation and reward, how this all turns out will be very interesting. Democracy is major force in this process but also we have the longstanding corporate, marketing and consumerist kinetic of “dummying down”. Often this united front in the US does not turn out well for the people but does please the bank accounts of a few.

The skills of primary creativity are fundamental, without them the best secondary creativity will lapse into bad habits.

Secondary creativity takes various forms, some positive and some negative. Let’s look at some types.

Secondary creativity as a stage of development

For anyone learning to be creative, secondary creative is a necessary stage. This kind of secondary creativity is an inevitable phase where the novice copies ideas and styles from various role models. This gives the learner an education in techniques trying different styles, and then one selects some model to continue one’s growth. The idea is that the student pushes past a school or style and develops her or his independent expression and presentation. (This happens in art school, grad school, in mentoring situations and quite spontaneously for an autodidact...)

Ultimately, the primary creator is driven by the need to be individual, unique, different, novel and new. This is the artist’s “ego”, an ambition that refuses to imitate and pushes against all obstacles to original production.

One seeks to be a “Differa”, someone who prizes difference in the world and most importantly in one’s self.

Innovative secondary creativity – Warhol and Picasso

Another kind of secondary creativity is prized. Some derivative creativity is very original; take for example Warhol’s soup cans. The images themselves are repetitions of course of mediocre advertising art, but when they are done as large silkscreened presentations, and they are repeated (repetitions of a repetition) then something interesting results. We have a twisting of the meaning and a creating of a new purpose (a social critique).

So Warhol is both a secondary creator and also a primary creator with exceptional skill.

You could say the same of Picasso in regards to the influence of African art on his cubism. He has primary-creator skills that take these images into a 3D territory into a realm of multiple perception.

Social cycle of primary and secondary creativity

This interplay of secondary and primary creativity is common. This raises the issue of inheritance and library: Doesn’t every creator, even the most original, use prior creations?

Of course, yes, this is true.

But a very creative person will do something that is highly original, making her or his work a primary work. A good quality secondary work is nothing to denigrate, but one hopes that the average creative person strives for the elevated goal. It is a necessary stage of development.

This idea about creativity is not new. In the I-ching is a double idea of the Creator and the “Receptor” -- thinkers have known about this issue for some time. A primary creator gives to a receptor, who can either repeat and apply the creation, or can put a new spin on the original and thus become a creator too.

This would be the social cycle of creativity – from a primary to a secondary which strives to be a primary itself. Secondary and primary blend over an evolutionary period so that it is hard to untangle the threads, yet we strive for the dominance of primary over secondary. Each individual struggles to turn the secondary into primary, and when successful then her or his primary creation turns into a secondary creation that drives forward another Differa’s work.

Secondary creativity in the conditions of modern culture

When in social conditions where there is NO education in creativity, and there is generally a commercial atmosphere that drives down quality and standards, secondary creativity is bound to go in a negative direction.

We live in a strange world of disturbing paradoxes:

-We have no education or training in creativity, yet we have media that touts are great creativity.

-We have a great engine of mis-creativity and we often think this is creativity. (Mis-creativity is false creativity that is trivial, addictive, manipulative etc.)

-We have commercial institutions which suppress creativity in culture by suppressing invention. These same firms then try to steal the creativity of others.

- We now have the electronic tools for incredible creative uses, yet we do not know what primary creativity is and do not promote respect for the primary creator, thus, we cannot use these tools properly.

-We also have the situation in technology where primary creators develop fundamental devices and techniques. Then firms as secondary creators exploit these inventions and advances for practical and monetary purposes. The work of this secondary wave is mainly derivative, for the greatest creative brainwork has been done but oddly enough the primary creators get little credit and reward.

Mis-creativity, theft of creativity, lack of respect for a primary creator, and lack of skill in the use of modern technologies are the consequences of confusing the relationship between primary creativity and secondary creativity, between innovation and imitation.

Reforming our culture

This leads one to lay out a simple, brief plan to reform our culture.

-Teach creativity in schools, and in adult education. Creativity should be as mandatory as analysis, math and grammar. It is as fundamental as these, and like them supersedes history, sociology, economics etc. because creativity is an essential brain perception and technique.

And because creativity overlaps with psychology and emotions and identity, we are compelled also to bring these issues into the curriculum.

-Reform business culture. When simple profit is the prime goal of a company, then the inevitable result will be the greatest mass production as possible of a single product. This lowers standards to the lowest possible level in a market to maximize sales. This in turn creates a culture of dismal standards and the long term dynamic of dummying down.

The way to correct this dynamic is to add new goals to a corporation, have companies rated according to the quality of their products and their rate of innovation. These would be important metrics in a new Diverse Economy. Human beings do have the power to overcome the institutions they have created, they can give them new charters and missions. (see articles on Diverse Economy on this site)

-Develop a new kind of leadership: The arts of Indirect Leadership and Social Creativity. This kind of leadership promotes individuality, free thinking, creativity, competition, disorder, new types of organization and more , all of these toward a unitary social goal. These methods orient creativity, which is fundamentally individual, toward working in social groups for collective ends, and these methods do not violate the sanctity of personal expression and recognition. (see articles on the site about Indirect Leadership and Social Creativity)

Cage Innoye

Axxiad News

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