NetCreativity: How The Internet Can Help Every Creative Person

In this article I will quickly talk introduce creativity in general, why it matters and how the internet can help every creative person.

So what is creativity?

It is the process of producing something new. Something then new to you without anybody else telling you how to do it. This novelty can take any form, from a design object to a mathematical equation. It just has to be new and that’s where the fun is.

It is a very pleasant process and being playful helps a lot. As a kid you played with Lego, dolls, color pens or just a piece of wood. Back then, the key element has been pretense1 . You put yourself in a new situation, often mimicking your surroundings, and invented a whole story.That very playfulness you had is very valuable now. Having fun by being playful allows to generate plenty of possibilities. Most of them will not work in the end and probably only one will be selected, but that’s OK2 . That’s actually necessary to remember that each idea discarded bring you closer to your objective, so now is the time to generate a lot.

In order to propose plenty of suggestions, one has to be playful but also curious. I don’t think there is a specific time to be creative but I am sure there is no specific time not to be curious. You should always be and not just about what you know! Two good reasons: discover the history of the most famous ideas and the history of the most famous creatives3 . You will quickly see a pattern, big ideas come from the merging of different works. The classical way and a little touch of craziness, something that was not supposed to be there. From the theoretical physicists or mathematicians to abstract painters, all of them in your history books shared a passion for activity totally outside of their realms. Is that a coincidence that those who generate creative ideas have plenty of different interests and are very curious? I don’t think so, I think it’s a form of pollination of ideas.

The more curious and playful you are, the more ideas you can generate.

Why does it matter?

Above all, before business, art or any other objective4 , to me creativity is a form of freedom. Maybe the most important one.

On a much more pragmatic approach, you can witness 2 trends today :

  1. the continuous rise of automation5
  2. the continuous rise of tools to build practically anything6

From those 2 trends my naive conclusion is that :

  1. if what you do can be automatized, a machine will do it, you probably won’t
  2. if you have an idea (even a crazy one about nanotech or biotech), you won’t need a 5 billions grant to actually make it happen

What does it imply? That you’d better be able to do something hard to automatize and you’d better be able to have something to produce. How can you blend the two? By being creative, obviously7 . To be honest, I think the ability to create has always been fundamental and there is no key difference between now and centuries or eons ago8.

How can internet help?

Since creativity matters, how can we use the internet to support the process?

Basically internet connects people and people share their work. It really is an ideal place for creativity since it is limitless.

Instead of giving a list of websites I will suggest what I consider the best practices, and only 1 website per each. Those are suggestions from my personal experience, try each as an example, then refine to something more adapted to your own needs.

Feeds for staying on the edge

In order to reach the state of the art of a domain, RSS feeds (most popular feeds according to Bloglines) allow to follow the news of a website when they are published. It means you never have to visit a website wondering if there is something new to check, the novelty gets directly to you. With an RSS feed reader (like Google Reader which provide nice statistics) you can aggregate feeds in folders and organize the whole process, it’s definitely a key tool, if you don’t want to miss a trend.

Serendipity through suggestions and randomness

The risk with an RSS reader is that you will have news from the same websites and you will loop amongst the same topics. Why not add a grain of salt to it? So if you want to be more curious, you can use suggestion engines (to StumbleUpon interesting novelties). They study your interests and suggest new links based on what others with similar tastes enjoyed but that you don’t have checked yourself. If you really want more serendipity, “random engines” allow you to reach a random pages, the result is totally uncertain but that’s good, you will be surprised (try a randomwebsite).

Learning constantly to open new windows

open-mind
Photo by: crystalflickr
If you want to learn, beside RSS feed, you can find plenty of websites to educate yourself (enroll in the P2P university). Learning is a real stimulation for the mind and gives you a broader ability to innovate. Each new field you discover (with glimpse to state of the art thanks to the now famous TED) expands the realm of the possible and the extra flexibility is really important to generate more ideas.

Participating to new dedicated groups

Social networks, of course, are an invaluable source. The internet connects people first, even if through technology. Social networks are not limited to “friending” and short messaging. You can find virtual (Rhizome) and non-virtual community (don’t be shy, try Meetup). The key is that you can find communities about anything, and I mean anything. Once again, for pretense and eventually to lower the barriers of social norms, those are key opportunities.

Going further

And… that’s not all, you can find anything from mindmapping software (Mind42) to collaborative drawing (with the crazy DrawBall), from task management (thanks to Trac) to image repositories (Flickr) and even mashups (with the technical yet key ProgrammableWeb) bringing all them together. The internet is really an invaluable creativity resource and the pace of new emerging tools is simply incredible, so be sure to dive in, use it and even share your own productions and tools.

Conclusion

Creativity is fun, creativity is useful, creativity is fundamental. Throw away the Dr Kawashima and create, it’s one of the most passionate experiences in life, so be playful, be curious, use the net and show us what you build with it πŸ™‚
go-on-create
Photo By: fotologic

References

1 – Human creativity: its cognitive basis, its evolution, and its connections with childhood pretence by Peter Carruthers
2 – Failure: The Secret to Success by Honda, 2009
3Dean Keith Simonton from Indiana University
4The Day We Learned To Think, BBC Horizon, 2003
5 – Marshall Brain speculates on how robots will change the economy and replace human workers, Singularity Summit 2008
6TechShop, Menlo Park, California
7 – The Flight of the Creative Class by Richard Florida, George Mason University, 2006
8Le Geste et la Parole, tome 1 : Technique et Langage by AndrΓ© Leroi-Gourhan, 1964 (in French language)

Links sum-up

fabien-simpsonsized-thumbAbout the Author

Fabien Benetou, 26year old entrepreneur who followed a classical french education on engineering, but mostly a 24/7 curious.
More about this curious guy at: Personal Wiki




6 thoughts on “NetCreativity: How The Internet Can Help Every Creative Person”

  1. gaz - website design

    really great post fabien, top drawer. i think you have summed up well what a creative person does/should do. I am also a big fan of taking breaks and cutting my own creative flow. It’s a technique I have used for a few years, when I am in ‘the creative zone’ it is difficult for me to break off, but, usually when I do I come back to the process with fresh eyes and tonnes more ideas!

  2. thank you for your encouraging feedback gaz!
    I think writing about it forces me to step back and clarify my own process and, hopefully, to improve it.

    When you say “cutting my own creative flow” do you mean moving from the current task to something entirely unrelated? If so it definitely works for me too. I think Dean Keith Simonton wrote in Origins of Genius: Darwinian Perspectives on Creativity that’s it’s mainly a matter of … luck! To be a bit more precise of permutations. You prepared your mind so much before and explored all the possibilities you knew that now, by moving-on, you put your task in the background but when, by chance, something “clicks” the solutions just naturally appear to you. I guess time also gives often give new perspectives.

    So do you have any tips to get in “the creative zone” ? Even if they work “just for you” and sound silly I’m sure I’m not the only curious here πŸ™‚

  3. Great blog entry and very appropriate banner for this entry.
    LEGO just happens to be one way I express myself creatively and the online world is how me and other local LEGO builders connect with fellow AFOLs (Adult Fans of LEGO). We have our own “social networking” sites. specifically for LEGO, such as bricklink and LUGNET.
    Kirsten

  4. Hi! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

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