recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : robertburton   4

Wunderkammer - Chris Marker
"The essayist’s aesthetic is that of the collector, or the ‘amateur’ in an archaic sense: such works seem destined for the writerly equivalent of the Wunderkammer – the essayist thrives on miscellanea. Except to say: the discrete essay may itself be an omnium-gatherum; there’s no duty to thematic unity, and because the notion that the essay is necessarily a short text is just a convenient rule easily broken, none to concision either: in his Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Robert Burton starts composing an essay about a single affliction and ends up writing a book about everything – but everything – he can think of." —frieze, “Energy & Rue”, Issue 151 (November-December 2012)
chrismarker  2012  collectors  collections  essayists  amateurism  amateurs  wunderkammer  miscellanea  gathering  cv  robertburton  essays  everything  eclecticism  collection  commonplacebooks  writing 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The End of Creativity — Medium
"People living in the twentieth century heard a lot of talk about “creativity.” People living in the twenty-first century will not. Creativity is not dead yet, but its end is in sight. Alfred North Whitehead invented the word in 1926."

75 years later, it was one in every 70,000 words published and had become the name of a popular hypothesis: that new things are created by “geniuses” who solve problems by deliberately not thinking about them — a step called “incubation” — until they receive answers in sudden, dramatic moments of “insight.” One of the most frequently cited examples is attributed to Mozart:
“When I am, as it were, completely myself, and of good cheer, my ideas flow best and most abundantly. My subject stands almost complete in my mind. When I write down my ideas everything is already finished; and it rarely differs from what was in my imagination.”

These words, which I have edited for length, first appeared in a letter to Germany’s General Music Journal in 1815, then in many other places, including Jacques Hadamard’s 1945 The Mathematician’s Mind; Creativity, edited by Philip Vernon in 1976; and Roger Penrose’s 1989 The Emperor’s New Mind. They remain popular: in 2015, they have already appeared in at least one book and one journal.

But Mozart did not write them, they do not describe how he composed, and we have known this since 1856, when Mozart biographer Otto Jahn showed that they were forged.

"Why do so many people writing about creativity keep citing them as if they were true? Because there is little else to cite. Psychologists have been trying to prove the creativity hypothesis for nearly a hundred years. Their results are, at best, mixed.

In the 1920s, Stanford’s Lewis Terman sought to prove the existence of the general, hereditary superiority called “genius” by testing 168,000 children and placing them on a scale “from idiocy on the one hand to genius on the other.” He identified 1,500 “geniuses,” then tracked their accomplishments for the rest of their lives. Some did creative work, like making movies, but many did not. And what of the “non-geniuses” Terman rejected? Two, William Shockley and Luis Alvarez, won Nobel Prizes. Terman’s results are typical: all other attempts to predict future accomplishments by measuring “genius” have also failed.

“Incubation,” or solving problems by not thinking about them, has been widely studied. Berkeley’s Robert Olton spent the 1970s looking for it. In one experiment, he asked 160 people to solve a brainteaser, giving some breaks, while making others work continuously. The breaks made no difference. Olton was forced to conclude that,
“No evidence of incubation was apparent,” and added, “No study reporting evidence of incubation has survived replication by an independent investigator.”

And “insight” — the fully formed solution in a flash? German Gestalt psychologist Karl Duncker was one of the first to study that. In his most famous experiment, he gave people a box of tacks and a book of matches, and asked them to fix a candle to a wall so that it could be used as a reading light. The solution is to tack the tack-box to the wall — to see it as a thing for holding the candle, not a thing for holding the tacks. The shift from “tack-box” to “candle-holder” is the supposed “insight.” By having people think aloud, Duncker showed that the solution came incrementally, not instantly: everyone who discovered it thought of making a platform out of tacks, then realized the tack-box would be a better platform.

These experiments, although a few of hundreds, are representative. There is probably no such thing as creativity. But Duncker’s work laid the foundation for an alternative hypothesis: that extraordinary solutions come from ordinary people doing ordinary thinking. Robert Weisberg, a psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia, put it this way:
“Although the impact of creative ideas and products can sometimes be profound, the mechanisms through which an innovation comes about can be very ordinary.”




"This idea that extraordinary creations come from ordinary people and ordinary thinking has become more popular recently. Jon Gertner wrestled with the problem of “the great men versus the yeomen,” in The Idea Factory, his history of Bell Labs, and concluded that innovation needs both; Walter Isaacson found he had to tell the story of many lives, not one, to describe the invention of computing in his latest bestseller The Innovators; and Steven Johnson refutes the “non-explanation of genius” and argues that “innovation comes out of collaborative networks” in his new book and PBS television series, How We Got to Now.

It is an important change. We are rejecting the myths of “creativity” and developing a better understanding of how we create at a time when, because of the growing problems of our growing population, we need creation more than ever. We are not all equally creative, just as we are not all equally good at anything. But each of us is more like Mozart than not. We can all create, we can all contribute, and we all should."
via:anne  2015  creativity  incubation  ideas  ordinariness  kevinashton  jongertner  walterisaacson  stevenjohnson  innovation  robertburton  georgeherbert  diegodeestrella  johnofsalisbury  bernardofchartres  alberteinstein  ernstmach  carlfriedrichgauss  bernhardriemann  marcelgrossman  gregorioricci-curbastro  mozart  karldunker  ottojahn  alfrednorthwhitehead  lewisterman  genius  williamshockley  luisalvarez  psychology  robertolton  history  insight  ordinary 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Book of Barely Imagined Beings by Caspar Henderson - review | Books | The Guardian
"Henderson's project: a spellbinding book that seeks to astonish us with the sheer intricacy, diversity and multiplicity of life forms that share our planet. In what he modestly calls a "stab" at a 21st-century bestiary, he fuses zoology, literature, mythology, history, paleontology, anecdote and art through 27 brilliantly executed essays…"

"These are essays in the original, Montaignesque sense of the word, and range freely over whatever topic takes the author's fancy."

"In 1959 CP Snow delivered his famous Rede lecture on "The Two Cultures", in which he lamented the gulf between intellectual elites fluent either in the sciences or in the humanities, but all too rarely in both. Fifty years on, the landscape seems as divided as it was in Snow's day. It's a gulf of which the likes of Leonardo could not have conceived, and one that Henderson – an English graduate turned science writer – seeks to bridge. We have a great deal that we can learn from one another…"
gavinfrancis  anniedillard  toread  books  laurencesterne  sirthomasbrown  enlightenment  philosophy  art  anecdote  paleontology  history  mythology  literature  zoology  julesverne  darwin  italocalvino  robertburton  wgsebald  cv  essays  micheldemontaigne  writing  borges  multid  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  leonardodavinci  bestiary  casparhenderson  2012  cpsnow  animals  montaigne  charlesdarwin 
december 2012 by robertogreco
Our Eyes Ache With Reading - Déjà Vu | Lapham’s Quarterly
"2010: It’s hard to accuse the public of not consuming enough media—constantly reading, writing, texting, gaming, watching, reacting, in an endless circle of action and inaction. The New York Times, always concerned for the health of its readers, reports that scientists urge consumers to take a break, for the good of one’s brain."  [Quote here.]

"1621: Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancoly was a digressive masterpiece, part of which detailed life in the burgeoning age of mass media. Here he bemoans the onslaught of books newly available to the public, but also recognizes that he, as the writer of a thousand page tome, is part of the problem." [Quote here.]
reading  books  education  science  history  infooverload  information  media  via:preoccupations  2010  1621  robertburton 
january 2011 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read