The first wave of research on creativity after Guilford's American Psychological Association Presidential address (Guilfrod, 1950); by the 1980s scholars had begun to realize that a narrow focus on the solitary individual could provide only a partial explanation of creativity, so several researchers began to explore the social and cultural dimensions of creativity (Amabile, 1983; Csikszentmihalyi, 1988), which gained inspiration from a similar shift in cognitive science from focusing on internal mental states and processes, to an analysis of how cognition is distributed across people, tools, and environments (Hutchins, 1995; Salomon, 1993).
Through the 1900s, a second wave of creativity research pursued the idea that creativity is found in collaboration and group dynamics. In the last few years, this research has resulted in several books that explore collaborative creativity (Farrell, 2001; John-Steiner, 2000; Paulus & Nijstad, 2003; Sawyer, 2003, 2006).
The 2nd wave of research has provided a new perspective that creativity is embedded in social groups, and how creative products emerge from collaborative networks.
Even studies of individual creators, when researchers focus on the social and cultural origins of their ideas, have revealed a high degree of collaboration behind their ideas (Cskiszentmihalyi, 1996; Farrell, 2001; John-Steiner, 2000).
One potential path forward is for creativity researchers to borrow methodologies and frameworks from cognitive scientists who have contributed to our understanding of distributed cognition. When cognitive processes are distributed across groups, they become visible, and scientists can observe them by analyzing the verbal and gestural interactions among the participants. Studies of distributed cognition typically use qualitative and observational methods that enable researchers to capture the real-time processes of distributed cognition. Perhaps the dominant methodology is interaction analysis--Videotaping collaborations over time, and documenting the step-by-step emergence of cognition from the contribution of each group member (Jordan & Henderson, 1995).
- contribute to our understanding of the interactional mechanisms that occur when creativity is distributed throughout a group;
- to demonstrate the potential power of interaction analysis as a tool that could contribute to our standing of group creativity.
We use the term distributed creativity to refer to situations where collaborating groups of individuals collectively generate a shared creative product.
We are specifically interested in collaborating groups that are relatively unconstrained, such that unexpected creativity could result. We use the term collaborative emergence to refer to these group processes (Sawyer, 2003).
Collaborative emergence is more likely to be found as a group becomes more aligned with the following characteristics:
- the activity has an unpredictable outcome, rather than a scripted, known endpoint;
- there is moment-to-moment contingency: each person's action depends on the one just before;
- the interactional effect of any given action can be changed by the subsequent actions of other participants; and
- the process is collaborative, with each participant contributing equally.
Because collaborative emergence results from interactions among participants, it must be analyzed as a discursive, distributed process. The distributed creativity perspective locates creativity in the symbolic social interactions among members of a group.
Improvised narratives are good example of collaborative emergence because they are so obviously created by the collaborative efforts of the entire group. No single speaker creates the narrative; it emerges from the give and take of conversation.
When groups of individuals work together to generate a collective creative product, the interactions among group members often become a more substantial source of creativity than the inner mental processes of any one participating individual.
Distributed creativity can occur in single encounters and across multiple encounters. In this paper, we extended the scope of the methodology by applying interaction analysis to repeated rehearsals of an improvised performance. To reveal the mechanisms by which groups are collaboratively creative, group creativity research could incorporate the methods of interaction analysis to closely analyze the processual, turn-by-turn dynamics of collaborative dialogue.
The goal of interaction analysis is to identify recurring patterns in collective behavior, and processes that result in the emergence of these recurring patterns. It roots in ethnography, sociolinguistics, developmental psychology, and conversation analysis. The central focus of an interaction analysis is the collective behaviors of a group of interesting individuals.
Interaction analysis is particularly valuable when each individual's behaviors display a moment-to-moment dependency on the behaviors of other individuals--a characteristic that we referred to above as ''contingency." In situations of contingency, one person's action at a given moment is highly influenced by the actions of their partners immediately before--such that prediction of a person's action cannot be made successfully independent of the sequence of preceding actions of others.
In collaborating creative groups, creativity is an ongoing social process, and a full explanation of processes of distributed creativity requires an empirical study of the moment-to-moment processes whereby individual creative actions result in the emergence of a collective creative product.
Standard interaction analysis procedures generally involve six steps
- Videotape naturally occurring encounters as part of a broader ethnographic study, using participant observation when the researcher is an active participant in the interaction;
- Once videotapes are made, the first analytic step is to watch through the videos and prepare a content log--each identifiably distinct episode is given a heading and a rough summary of events;
- Perhaps the most critical stage is the identification of general patterns--sequences of interaction that occur repeatedly and that provide insight into the nature of distributed creativity; (index video data so that instances of similar events can be observed together: 1) key narrative elements of the performance emerged from the collective improvisations of the ensemble, foundational elements of narrative as character, relationship, and plot; 2) within the emergent narrative structure, short segments of dialogue and action emerged collectively and were retained through subsequent performances-bits)
- Depending on the researcher's interest, some portion of the video dataset is selected for transcription.
- For many research questions, it can be valuable to quantify video data by coding the data (1) delimit the stream of data into distinct episodes; 2) develop categories, or codes, within which the episodes can be grouped; 3) use two or more researchers to assign codes to each episode, and then calculate intercoder reliability of the coding scheme. Iterative process, once a reliable coding scheme is developed, and the many episodes found in the video data have been coded, quantitative methods can be used to identify generalizable patterns. If we eventually choose to analyze the emergence over time of a single scene, coding was not appropriate. If we eventually choose to conduct similar analyses over a larger number of scenes, then application of a coding scheme would allow for quantitative analyses of similarities and differences in processes of collaborative emergence across scenes, actors, or even ensembles. )
- Many interaction analysts ask the original participants to watch the videotapes with the research team, with the goal of eliciting the participants' perspectives on what was happening.
After step 1, 2, and 3, identified 2 types of dramatic structure that collaboratively emerged: foundational elements of narrative (character, relationship, and plot); and short segments of dialogue and action, known as bits, emerged collectively and were retained through subsequent performances.
Our findings are consistent with theoretical perspectives that emphasize that collective nature of situated social activity, perspectives that include distributed cognition (Salomon, 1993) and sociocultural theory (Rogoff, 1990, 1998).
Several prominent creativity researchers, influenced by the onset of sociocultural and distributed approaches to cognition in the 1980s, have begun to analyze the role of collaboration and context in creativity. This second wave of creativity research focuses on how novelty emerges from unstructured and improvised group collaboration. This collaborative turn in creativity research has provided us with a deeper understanding of how new things are created--not only by solitary individuals, but also by collaborative teams and social networks.