Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Bundy: What is the difference between real creativity and mere novelty?

This is a paper published in 1994 as part of a collection of commentaries on Margaret Boden's 'The Creative Mind' book, which had been published 4 years previously. (At some point I really need to sit down with this entire journal section and read through it, when I know the Boden book better...)

Alan Bundy has seized on two distinct concepts from Boden's book, of 'real creativity' and 'mere novelty', and has critically examined both Boden's viewpoint and other ideas on the distinction between these two.

Boden's definitions of the two, as quoted by Bundy, are:

Real creativity: "mapping, exploration and transformation of conceptual space"
Mere novelty: "Generation of new objects from existing conceptual space"

(I haven't found these exact quotes in the Boden book yet so can't add page numbers yet)

From reading the paper,  I think that Bundy's point is that the difference between the two (definition wise) is that real creativity involves some changing of the conceptual space parameters (i.e. the realm of all possible ideas in that domain). So he challenges Boden, saying that real creativity can be present even when new ideas are generated without changing the conceptual space. However I think Boden's definition of real creativity acknowledges this, under the use of the words 'mapping' and exploration'?

This paper does give a very thought-provoking discussion of what is needed to justify labelling something novel as being creative. Bundy suggests that the complexity of new objects being generated is important in how creative they are perceived to be, and that there has to be some kind of self reflection on the part of the creator, to judge the worthiness of such new objects. 

Some points for consideration:
Why isn't mere novelty creative? Is this the right distinction to be making? What is creativity if it isn't just mere novelty? (the paper deliberately only hints at an answer to this question rather than attempting to solve it comprehensively; little has been done to follow up Bundy's suggestions). Assuming creativity must incorporate novelty, what must else it have to distinguish itself as definitely creativity rather than just the generation of novel but uncreative ideas?

I can't find the definition of 'real creativity' that Bundy cites, in Boden's book, although I can find the definition of mere novelty easily enough. I would like to see this definition for myself in Boden's own words.

Interesting sentence: '"Real" intelligence appears to arise from the interplay of a number of relatively mundane processes.' (preceeded by: 'it is usually a mistake to regard one aspect of an intellectual process as the key with the others playing only a supporting role')

This sentence makes me think: is Bundy confusing creativity with intelligence in this paper (deliberately or accidentally) - and actually where is the distinction here, the dividing line?or is creativity a sub-part of intelligence? or is creativity = novelty+intelligence? or less guided? more guided?

(but also this sentence links in with some ideas I have had on creativity emerging from concurrent processes, linked to Koestler's bisociation matrices perhaps....)

Is Bundy presenting creativity as intelligent generation of new concepts/ideas? I think he is. Do I agree with this? What are the alternatives? Seems a logical viewpoint to have.

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