At the start of the project I was very interested in teaching the “creative process” using games. Starting the semester I had no idea where to begin or what the creative process really was, at least in a demystified enough way that could then be translated in the logic rule structure of a game. At the time, I had no idea what it was I wanted to teach specifically or who the audience for the game would be. Basically I had no starting point.
Meeting with Dr. Simonton in the morning help start the process in my brain. I was instantly fascinated with the Mutilated Checkerboard problem he described mainly because of the sequential process the experiment took on getting increasingly abstract yielding better and better results.
At the very end of Nancy Nersessian’s presentation during the the Q&A she mentioned how her idea that the doodles in Newton’s notebooks and the importance of abstract relationships was completely lost in the current American education system. That was the void that presented itself for me to fill. That was when I knew where to focus the game and what to focus on.
At this point the common theme that started presenting itself is the idea of metaphor and applying abstract elements to solve seemingly unrelated problems. I knew I wanted to teach an element of the creative process instead of just creating a game that helps facilitate creativity. Metaphor was that element. From here it seemed like the best way to teach this concept of metaphor was by using the Mutilated Checkerboard problem that Dr. Simonton presented to slowly try and get the player to come to the solution.
Meeting Crewdson was reassuring because it was a practical example of metaphor in practice. Crewdson getting his ideas while swimming is a prime use of metaphor and was a huge confidence boost that I was on the right track.
Unfortunately, while meeting Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was incredibly informative, it began a series of road blocks making this challenge increasingly difficult the deeper I looked into the problem. One key road block that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talk about is how to achieve flow in a learning environment. It requires a constant feedback loop between the teacher and the student so the challenge is always matched to the student’s skill and there aren’t any external distractions. This constant feedback is a problem many games deal with. Constant tweaks to AI are required, difficulty levels, and various control schemes are used to try and simplify this feedback loop. Naturally this problem became amplified in this project because maintaing that flow is so important in causing the player to have the “Eureka” moment to solve the problem.
After this first setback was a process of a few steps forward and a few steps backwards. Every time I had a good idea of how to tackle a flaw in the design a new flaw would present itself. By the end I think there are still major flaws with the design that requires a fundamental change in the core concept of how to teach the concept of metaphor.
The “Eureka” forum was very encouraging for me because of Dean Dennis Kratz’s anecdotal story about how the “Eureka” moment may not hit you for years after you stop working on a problem. He too had an idea he was dissatisfied with that he had to continue and see through to the finish, but he was still able to reach the resolution he was searching for years later. This is how I feel right now with this project because it just does not feel right, but I may still come to a realization some time in the future that will give me the breakthrough I have been searching for all semester. I still think games can be used to help teach part of the creative process, but this game is not it. It is a good attempt and sometimes an idea has to fail before it can succeed.
Mutilated Checkerboard Game.pdf
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Raffaello D’Andrea’s approach to the creative act may seem different from most engineers because he believes that one should design, or create, for the mere sake of creativity. He had stated that the engineer does not need to address a certain problem, for with innovation, the application can come later. But does the engineer create without a problem to solve? For instance, D’Andrea offers the examples of the chair, the balancing object, and the flying objects, and for each of them, there is a problem that needs to be solved: the chair needs to reassemble, the objects needs to balance, or the objects need to fly. Perhaps, it is that there is no reason, either monetary or practical, for the innovation. But this approach to technological innovation is nothing new. Tesla had the same approach over a hundred years ago. For example, during the 1893 world exposition in Chicago, he displayed the “Egg of Columbus,” which is an egg that will stand up from spinning. With the Egg, Tesla used a spinning magnetic field to prove that he could make an egg spin.
Check it out on You Tube:
Innovation is important and necessary, but there is a cost. When asked about the ethics of robotics replacing jobs, D’Andrea responded that technological innovation is a must, and he used the tractor as an example since it has made farming easier and less tiresome. But I am not sure that this is a valid excuse. When one considers the food industry today, she must be reminded of all the small farmers across the world that were forced out of work because of technology. Industrial farming has forced many small American farms to close because they could not keep up with the production of the larger, industrial farms that had the money for technology and thus, the capability to charge lower prices; moreover, small farmers in third world countries struggle even more to compete with technology. Many of them were still using older methods like the plow, and since they did not have the money for a tractor, they went under.
There is a fine line when it comes to the ethics of technology. Jobs are at stake, and not only that, but our health too. Again, when one looks at the food industry and its reliance on technology for production, she must ask herself who the technology is good for.
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First off I thoroughly enjoyed both meeting Csikszentmihalyi in the morning and his presentation at night. He is very insightful yet down to earth which made conversing with him all the more enjoyable. Coming from the field of video games, Csikszentmihalyi’s work on flow is something that is used throughout the industry as many games are trying to put the player in a state of flow by balancing the challenge the game is providing with the skill set the game has taught thus far in a pleasurable way.
From a happiness perspective I think this accurately describes the state a person enters when they are deeply enjoying something. My problem though is I don’t think this accurately reflects the moments of creativity. I think that there is a second type of flow that is achieved in the low challenge, low skill “apathy” column. Many times I’ve been in this state and still meet many of the criteria of flow outlined such as timeless, focused, etc. In terms of creativity I’ve also come up with my best ideas while doing things listed in this category such as taking a shower. In fact there is other evidence supporting this notion of having creative “Eureka” moments in this state. Kekule staring at a fire, Einstein working in a patent office, are both examples of people coming up with these ah-ha “Eureka” moments while doing something that puts them, according to Csikszentmihalyi’s chart, in the apathy quadrant. I’ve also been in a state of high level flow while not engaged in a creative act at all.
An Alternative Flow Graph
At one point Csikszentmihalyi briefly showed a chart with a diagonal area for flow caught between anxiety and boredom. I think this chart might actually be a better representation of flow in the creative process because it allows for the creative process to occur at any point as long as there’s a balance of challenge and skill, not just at high levels of each.
In regards to my creative project another element of difficult is that games strive to reach this state of flow which may be an element of the creative process, but it is not about the act of discovery and how the cultivation of ideas work. Csikszentmihalyi’s idea on flow and the connection to video games is almost in a state of contradiction with what I’m trying to do by teaching the cultivation of ideas.
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The Csikszentmihalyi lecture continues the theme I keep noticing of the balance between the individual and the group in the creative process. Since I have decided to use this aspect as the basis for my creative project, I believe I will continue to search for this thread in every lecture and reading. In the Csikszentmihalyi’s readings is where I found the theme. He spoke of the individual’s obligation to his/her mentors, or the gate-keepers of the creativity as he identifies them. In the afternoon meeting with Csikzentmihalyi, he spoke of specialized school in Finland that hones in on the child’s creativity. The model for this school does not follow such rigidness, but allows time for students to get out of the classroom. He spoke about the necessity for students to enjoy learning. In the pursuit of flow, this enjoyment is critical to a child’s growth. From his/her educational enjoyment, the child may feel more obligated to create or accomplish something significant because of the school. A more effective teacher contributes to a child’s desire to succeed because that child wishes to make the teacher proud.
At his lecture, Csikzentmihalyi spoke also about the need for challenges in life. In the example study of chess players, he demonstrated how the individual only enjoyed playing chess when s/he was losing the game. That challenge engages the participant. The individual feels invested in the game, and as result finds him/herself enjoying the time more. Of course, I believe this only works in one’s field of interest. An amateur chess player would not have the same enjoyment because s/he would become frustrated with his/her ignorance about the game. I speak from experience on this exact matter. When first learning to play chess, I played against an experienced friend. He took my inexperience of the game as an opportunity for an easy win. He freely admitted to me when he set me up for a trap. I found no enjoyment in the game, and I wonder if he enjoyed the easy victory.
Returning to the education setting, I have seen students fail classes out of boredom. For many students, completing worksheets and regurgitating superficial facts disinterests them. They withdraw from the subject material, and even though they may be capable of earning higher grades or enrolling in advance classes, they never complete any work because of the boredom. It spawns a cycle where these students remain in low-level classes, never proving their high-level capability. The problem then becomes how to challenge those students, so they can find their flow. Returning to the ideas I considered in the Nersessian response, we have to move past just the concrete knowledge and provide opportunities for these students to explore. Education needs to be a process of self-discovery for the individual. Creativity in itself is a self-discovery, an opportunity for the individual to learn more about him or herself through the creative process. When we are fortunate enough to reach our flow, than we not only produce something worth sharing but also something that better defines ourselves.
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I was eager to meet Mr. Crewdson after watching his Ovation channel documentary. I find his photographs to be captivating, darkly beautiful and compelling. Many of his images take place in the suburbs-at home. My favorite of which is Ophelia from his Twilight series and is very recognizable. In the image a woman is floating in a pool of water inside her living room. The room has three windows, three photos on the wall, three stairs leading to the landing and three sources of artificial light. This image makes me think of the “housewife” archetype from the 1950’s. The woman is floating not drowning…however, the title “Ophelia” carries weight.
I asked Mr. Crewdson about this particular image and his response shifted to that of water. He mentioned that he had already swam laps in our Universities’ pool and told our class that he shapes his ideas for future projects while swimming. I thought of Simonton who told our class that some scientists cool down and recharge by doing something creative like music or creative writing…and that this aids them in their work.
I found it intriguing that Crewdson’s father was a psychologist and couldn’t help but notice that suburban family spaces are a recurring theme in many of his pieces. He quipped about trying to listen in on the sessions that his father conducted in their family basement. Crewdson didn’t talk much about his mother, which is interesting because a feminine figure (especially a mother figure) is the subject of so many of his images. If I could turn back time (and not in a Cher way) I would tactfully ask Crewdson about his mother and the reaccurance of this figure in so many images.
I also asked Crewdson about his thoughts on modern technology (Digital cameras, Photoshop etc.) I asked him this question for a number of reasons. Some of my photographer friends are very old school- they prefer working in darkrooms and spend ungodly amounts of money on different lenses and filters. Others are more technically savvy and use modern digital cameras, are happy to boycott the dark room and tweak the nobs in photoshop to fix any imperfections. Now my old school photographer friends are very nostalgic and reject more modern technology…even so far as saying that relying on computers to create art is lazy and not authentic. I asked Crewdson for his thoughts on modern technology because he seems to straddle both camps. His shoots rival movie shoots in terms of production value, yet in many of his images appear to have been squeezed through the photoshop press. His response was very pro-technology which was refreshing.
In the Ovation doc, during our class meeting and throughout his DMA lecture Crewdson nailed home his attraction to different sources of light. I imagine studios shrugging their shoulders when they receive the electric bill following a shoot. I think a psychologist could come to some interesting conclusions with this artists focus on illumination.
All in all I found his lecture well worth the headache that is the DMA parking garage. I can see why the exhibition necessitated two auditoriums and look forward to viewing future work.
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Dr. Neressian’s ideas concerning scientific concepts adhere to a much more rigid philosophy than Simonton’s belief. She focuses on closing the gap between the initial hypothesis and the Eureka moment. Specifically she demystifies the Eureka moment and provides a more concrete explanation. While I can appreciate and agree with the crux of her position- the modeling process does contribute greatly to new concepts- I felt bogged down by the details of her study. My own lack of scientific knowledge hinders my opinion towards Dr. Neressian’s argument; however, so much empirical research does leave little room for contemplation. It is difficult to contradict the idea that modeling benefits scientific concepts because I view it as an inarguable statement. I do not believe it is the only method for creativity in science. What I found most interesting in her presentation stemmed from the question and answer portion of the lecture. Her belief that the science textbook hinders education is a valid argument, and one that I could definitely consider in the realm of the creative process.
In the past few years, school districts have placed greater emphasis on math and science than on the humanities. The state assessments gauge student performance, and the low scores of both the math and science tests repeatedly reappear in the education discourse. Two very different schools of thought argue which method works best in improving test scores: the traditional, textbook drill and kill method or the more hands on/ experimental learning process. The latter clearly reflects more of Nersessian’s position. For the former, many educators believe students must simply regurgitate the necessary information long enough to perform well on the tests. The discovery method lends itself to more long-term results. What is most unfortunate for this issue is that the state assessments dictate the majority of an educator’s concerns with a student’s education. They, the educator, simply look for the quick fix for improving test scores (This is not true for all educators, but far too many). The scores put a heavy burden on education, and the creativity in science quickly vanishes.
One important point Neressian makes in her book is the need for an individual to know what to disregard in the model process. She states that if the person lacks the necessary knowledge to comprehend the model, ancillary details may distract the individual. For me personally my lack of scientific knowledge lead to my confusion during both the reading and the lecture. I found myself repeatedly trying to ascertain the specifics of the exemplars. Due to my own lack of knowledge, I had to attempt to overlook the details and just focus on Neressian’s philosophy. I do find it interesting that the distractions, from Neressian’s perspective, can interfere with the creation of scientific concepts. Simonton’s position argued that the distractions sometimes benefit the creative mind. While not completely validating the need to focus on distractions, I do believe there must be some value in the details we overlook.
In the end, what I gathered from Neressian’s argument is the need for some basic scientific knowledge. The prior knowledge behaves as a springboard into new scientific concepts. The individual must not pine over the facts because this could cause him/her to miss the larger picture. He/she must be able to find the balance between the scientific facts and the need to experiment with ideas. Only through this balance can one create innovative concepts.
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