Monday, November 1, 2010

The social network propagates creativity myths

The Washington Post (click here) recently slammed the movie "The Social Network" for its inaccuracies.  The WP criticizee the film's characterization of Zuckerberg as a loner and Saverin's innocence in his ejection from the company.  The focus of the review, however, is on the inaccuracies of Facebook as an idea.  In the film, Zuckerberg experiences a series of eureka moments that result in the Facebook we know today.  Even though these sparks are socially derived, WP is unhappy that the collaborative nature of innovation is ignored as Zuckerberg is portrayed as an individual creator.

Our concepts of creativity are socially constructed. Americans have held romantic notions of creativity, believing that artists and scientists are uniquely gifted to experience more and better "ah ha" moments than the rest of us.  Our intellectual property system is based on this view of creatives. We can see our concept of creativity changing as a mainstream media, like WP, breaks down our creativity myths.  The article even offers a quote from leading researchers: "The idea of the lone genius who has the eureka moment where they suddenly get a great idea that changes the world is not just the exception," says Steven Johnson, author of "Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation," "but almost nonexistent."

The article then calls for a change in the education, intellectual property and tax systems to spur creativity. If we continue to study creativity in a rigorous way, we will not be as susceptible to concepts of creativity that lead us down the wrong policy paths.  On a side note - I really liked the movie.

Meg Ambrose is a second year doctoral student in the ATLAS Technology, Media, and Society Ph.D. program. She is researching the impact privacy and intellectual property laws have on creativity and innovation.

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