Posted by: Liz Massey | May 28, 2008

Surf’s up: Creativity links for May 28, 2008

The creative waves of the blogsphere are swelling, and we’re back to ride them, after a few days of sabbatical for me in fabulous Sedona, Arizona, one of my favorite places to go to get creatively recharged. Here are the links of the week:

1. All those hours your children (or you) spend playing video games may not necessarily be standing in the way of creative activity, according to a new study by S. Shyam Sundar, professor of film, video and media studies at Penn State.

Sundar and his team measured the arousal (the degree of physical excitation — as measured through skin conductance) and valence (the range of positive or negative feeling) of 98 volunteer college students playing Dance Dance Revolution, a popular video game. The researchers found that two totally different groups with high creativity scores: those with a high degree of arousal and positive mood and players with low arousal and a negative mood.

In other words, Sundar’s subjects with medium amounts of arousal and a blasé mood weren’t terribly creative. The professor interprets these results as meaning that the creatively enhanced groups were likely engaging in two different aspects of the creative process:

“When you are highly aroused, the energy itself acts as a catalyst, and the happy mood acts as an encouragement. It is like being in a zone where you cannot be thrown off your game,” explained Sundar. A negative mood, especially when there is low arousal, brings a different kind of energy that makes a person more analytical, which is crucial to creativity as well, he added.

Sundar’s research is aimed at discovering if the emotional elements of games can serve as an engine to spark creative thought and new problem solving skills. This will be an interesting line of research to follow, as more and more educators are becoming interested in using games, simulations and “immersive learning” to communicate content to students.

2. The mobile (art) revolution continues! A tip o’ the blog to ArtsJournal for alerting me to these terrific links.

First, Seattle’s Colleen Chartier, a professional photographer, recounted to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently the story of her plunge into developing cell phone art, including “Th tale of ltl br” (The Tale of Little Bear), a photo-text story designed for the cell phone. Her work is part of a growing body of art (pictures, photos, ringtones, text-based stories) created specifically for cell phones and other mobile devices.

In that same vein, the Australian Network for Art and Technology recently unveiled its exhibition of mobile phone art, Portable Worlds 2nd Edition.

As the exhibition’s site reports, “the works utilize mobile phones for both display and creation, exploring connection and intimacy, portability and community, scale and distance.” The site has an intriguing educator’s pack for this year’s Portable Worlds works, as well as links an archive of the original Portable Worlds show, which toured Australia in 2007.

3. Elaine at Musical Assumptions posted a wonderful essay on what it is like for her as an “echo boomer” adult to play with musicians from the so-called “Generation Y” or “Millennial” generation—that is, musicians born in the 1980s (or even 1990s!) who are now filtering into professional music ensembles and community groups.

She notes that many of these young musicians have had a very different experience with their teachers than she had. She writes,

“Growing up in a system that boosts self-esteem helps prepare musicians for the kind of constant competition (and constant failure) that is the “currency” of finding a place in the musical world. Nobody can stand up and play for a group of people without a strong sense of self…. When I was approaching adulthood, I knew a great many excellent musicians who were fine and well-respected teachers. Very few of them were nurturing.”

Elaine also notes the explosion of Web 2.0 tools and other media-related software has allowed younger musicians to take greater charge of publicizing themselves and their music and says she notices that young musicians seem more interested in playing newly created music. Most important, perhaps, is her observation about how ensemble playing can bring artists of all ages together:

“When I play chamber music with people old enough to be my own children, I think of them as musical equals. I really enjoy it when people who are old enough to be my parents think of me as a musical equal when we are playing together. Music, unlike most things in life, has a way of eliminating generational differences.”

To which I can only say, amen.



  1. Thanks Liz!


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