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Tools for collaborative creativity

Art and MusicPosted by john sloboda Mon, January 21, 2013 09:52:41

Tools for collaborative creativity

A “touch paper” from John Sloboda

Monday 21st January 2013

The problem

Many important and interesting problems require human collaboration for their solution.

In the field of art, however, the vast majority of solutions (i.e. published work in music, through visual art to literature and drama) are the product of one person (the named author).

In cases where there are two or more authors, the contribution is often on different aspects (as in when an opera has the libretto created by one person, and the music by another).

The number of celebrated “integrated” collaborations are tiny (I can think of Gilbert and George in art, and that’s about it!).

Where work is developed in a more collaborative space (e.g. the films of Mike Leigh) one person retains the final artistic judgement.

The relative absence of artistic collaboration strikes me as strange.

Is there something inherent to the artistic process that requires that one person dominate the creative space, or is true and meaningful collaboration a “missed opportunity”?

I’d like to collaboratively explore some of the issues around creative collaboration, both intellectually and practically. By intellectually, I mean getting a clear understanding of the underlying processes (informed by any relevant intellectual discipline or body of knowledge). By practically, I mean that I want this to lead to actual attempts to collaborate creatively (on art) in which I am in some way involved.

Here are some questions that occur to me.

Are there certain kinds of artistic problem which can only (or best) be solved by individual effort?

Can artists learn from models of collaboration developed in the non-artistic world (e.g. science, politics, business, government)?

Are there tools / processes which could assist creative collaboration? [just for a start, something along the lines of the toolset developed by Wikipedia]

Are there constraints on collaboration which need to be understood and overcome? For instance, in a space governed by some sort of democratic process how does one shape decision-making so that outcomes are excellent rather than “lowest common denominator”? How do resources (of skill, time, materials) get consensually shared. Does the value of collaboration necessarily decrease as a function of the number of collaborators increases, or are there smart ways of managing large-n collaborations?

Are there socio-emotional issues at stake (e.g. ego, status, reputation, intellectual property, respect, trust), and how are they best addressed?

Reasons for wanting to work on this problem

There’s a broad interest in the organisation I work in (Guildhall/Barbican) in potentials for creative collaboration (see: By and large, this interest has focused on existing or emerging collaborations mainly in the area of performance art (where there is already an established tradition of collaboration through improvisatory and related practice) I’m interested to go beyond this work onto a broader canvas (both institutionally and artistically) – and tackle head on a more difficult issue, such as what it would be for a group of artists to collaboratively author a painting, a poem, or a musical composition that would have the potential to gain recognition as a significant creative contribution (4* in parochial UK terms).

A wish to understand and capitalize on the potentials of new technology and new forms of communication and dissemination (particularly the web and social media) in the production and display of creative work.

An awareness that some of the world’s most pressing problems (political, social, economic, environmental) are stymied by a lack of creative solutions and a “zero sum” approach to decision-making which leads to blocked progress and “lowest-common-denominator” outcomes. I’m interested to see whether artists could incubate new forms of creative collaboration which could have transformational value outside the world of arts.

A belief that work in this area could be fun, rewarding, and capable of attracting the energy, enthusiasm, and resources of a high-expertise collaborative network.

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