Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Coming Anarchy 3, Identity
Note: This is a selection from Coming Anarchy, part of tdaxp's SummerBlog '06
“We want [people] to be doers --- deciding, not being decided for, self-directed and not acted on by external nature or by other people as if they were things, or animals, or slaves, incapable of playing a human role, that is, of conceiving goals and policies of their own and realizing them (Moshman, 1999).”
Identity is an explicit definition of self. That is, it is a description put into words that define an individual. Because of this, identity cannot be inferred but must be explicitly stated. We began this project wanting to look at how expertise in blogging and the identities of the bloggers would interact. As is shown below, our very first attempts showed that our initial hypothesis was incorrect. Explicit conceptions of self and expertise do not seem to be correlated. While this study remains quite useful for surveying different aspects of creativity, and also leads to some interesting questions about it, our original hypothesis was quickly abandoned.
Relevant Quotes From Interviews (Select):
When asked the question, “Do you find that your work in your media is an important part of your description?” the following answers were elicited:
Chirol: “Partially. The important part of that is the search for intelligent input, discussion and a challenge. I've been bored with most of the people around me ever since I can remember.”
Curzon: “Yes. There's so much happening in the world that I want to discuss with like-minded individuals. …Contributing is now a part of my life, to the point where if I don't write for a few days, I get antsy. I'm always thinking of world affairs and war and peace in the 21st century, and this is my creative outlet…”
Organizing The Information From The Quotes (Organize):
There were dissimilar answers as to whether or not their activity in the domain of blogging defines them. This implies that creativity may be more a function of the domain, than of the person. We will see that this theme is repeated and continued in later findings.
Association With Our Course Readings (Associate):
“To say an individual's identity is, at least in part, explicit, is to say it is not simply an implicit theory of self that is inferred by a psychologist to explain behavior (Moshman, 1999).”
“Perceptions that the [learners] were special for the [creative] abilities led to actions that would increase [their] opportunities to learn and to succeed (Bloom, 1985).”
Nagging Questions (Regulate):
Is this as bad as it looks for research streams that are trying to establish the connections (or interactions) between creativity and identity? Even though some of the subjects we interviewed may not explicitly say that blogging is an important part of who they are, doesn’t the fact that they are willing to sacrifice so much for blogging, the obsession they seem to have with it, and the joy they get from the recognition they receive from doing it lead us to believe that it may indeed be an important part of their identity.
Coming Anarchy, a tdaxp series:
Coming Anarchy 1: Introduction
Coming Anarchy 2: Methods and Analysis
Coming Anarchy 3: Identity
Coming Anarchy 4: Failure
Coming Anarchy 5: Obsession
Coming Anarchy 6: Sacrifices
Coming Anarchy 7: Humility
Coming Anarchy 8: Geography
Coming Anarchy 9: Recognition
Coming Anarchy 10: The Gap
Coming Anarchy 11: Conclusion
Good post. I wish I could comment more. Nice use of a "Nagging Questions" slides. Although you missed the two question marks which are part of the standard operating procedure (SOP) for nagging and natural question slides.
Posted by: Sonny | Wednesday, June 07, 2006
I just checked my Boyd's patterns of conflict -- you're right! The line
? Raises nagging question ?
appears on slides 27 and 71.
(You'll know note the nifty, and slightly mischievous, use of SOAR methodology  here. too :-) )
Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Wednesday, June 07, 2006
I'm not sure I'm understanding the explicit hypothesis being critiqued here.
Is it that "identity must be explicitly stated"? Or is it that "identity comes out of expertise (which is being implicitly equated with creativity"?
I don't see that only "experts" are "creative".
Posted by: phil jones | Thursday, June 08, 2006
The research project was to determine the relationship between identity and creativity. Particularly, determining the nature of the "creative identity." According to identity theory (as described by Dr. Dave Moshman), identity is an explicit definition of self. It's something people have to be able actually say in words.
So when we asked Chirol, Curzon, and Younghusband how their work effected their identity, the answer had to be in what they explicitly said. Because their answers were so different, this blew a whole in our theory.
During the Q&A afterwards, the professor in the course suggested that future research focus not on "identity" but on "attitude' (which is implicit).
The course was "Creativity, Talent, and Expertise," and (much to my initial skepticism) uses similar definitions for these three terms. "Creativity" was defined as creating symbols that are valued by the field in a domain, or by changing the definition of a domain.
So while those described as "experts" may not be creative, creative people must first have expertise. (Of course, this can be a narrow vertical slice -- such as the expertise Watson & Crick brought to the discovery of DNA.)
Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Thursday, June 08, 2006
OK. So "identity" in this case means something like a label you accept for yourself.
"I am a creative" is like saying "I am white" or "I am a male" or "I am a geek"?
Agreed that "creativity entails expertise" isn't very intuitive. Maybe if "expertise" is read as something more like "competence" then it sounds more plausible.
I certainly believe that creativity is something that can be *practiced*, and that you can learn to get better at it. So I guess people who self-describe as "creative" are those most likely to be practicing their creativity.
OTOH, you don't seem to address the obvious nagging question that arises : Are all three "Coming Anarchy" bloggers equally creative or competent? If not, then there's an alternative explanation to the different self-descriptions they give that wouldn't falsify the original hypothesis.
Even if they appear equally creative in their writing, there's still the possibility that, behind the scenes, one of them is doing a lot more work guiding and inspiring the others and working on the common parts of the blog. Have you checked that possibility out?
Posted by: phil jones | Friday, June 09, 2006
'OK. So "identity" in this case means something like a label you accept for yourself. '
'"I am a creative" is like saying "I am white" or "I am a male" or "I am a geek"?'
Yup... though we were looking for something like 'I am a blogger' or 'I am a graphic artist.'
'Agreed that "creativity entails expertise" isn't very intuitive. Maybe if "expertise" is read as something more like "competence" then it sounds more plausible.'
Agreed with that too. There is some terminological confusion here. For example, one of the texts set horizontal and analogical thinking as opposites, when I previously considered them to be synonyms.
'I certainly believe that creativity is something that can be *practiced*'
Here the course was skeptical. It would say that blogging can be purposefully practiced, and thus one can be become creative at blogging, but was skeptical of horizontal transfer of creativity. Except to the extent one carries over analogies from one's previous expertise, the course was skeptical of horizontal creativity as such.
OTOH, you don't seem to address the obvious nagging question that arises : Are all three "Coming Anarchy" bloggers equally creative or competent? If not, then there's an alternative explanation to the different self-descriptions they give that wouldn't falsify the original hypothesis.'
And here's the academic response: "Give me funding, and I'll find out." ;-)
One of the other groups did such a critical comparison, and there's was fantastic, but I think content-wise we had the second-best material and the best presentation. (/end self congratulations)
"Even if they appear equally creative in their writing, there's still the possibility that, behind the scenes, one of them is doing a lot more work guiding and inspiring the others and working on the common parts of the blog. Have you checked that possibility out?"
To an extent, this is complicated by the self-reporting issue. See the upcoming section VII, Humility & Pride, for more on that.
There's also the fact they work in slightly different domains. Younghusband's expertise in graphic arts, for instance, would make a lateral comparison troublesome.
PS: Thanks for all the tdaxp comments recently! I've been a fan of Platform Wars  for some time, and I'm excited about your other projects as well. Apologies for not responding quicker -- Lady of tdaxp and I are on a mini-vacation, hence the sketchy comments and short posts.
Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Friday, June 09, 2006
"Which makes one wonder if perhaps self-reporting is a flawed mechanism for determining identity..."
In R.W.Emerson's journal, he notes:
"Goethe in this third volume Autobiography, which I read now in new translation, seems to know altogether too much about himself." (July 10, 1847)
Emerson, in his essay on "Uses of Great Men," wrote these three things, which I highlighted long ago when reading it:
1) "Each man is, by secret liking, connected with some district of nature, whose agent and interpreter he is..."
2) "In the history of discovery, the ripe and latent truth seems to havefashioned a brain for itself."
3) "We speak now only of our acquaintance with them ['districts of nature'] in their own spheres, and the way in which they seem to fascinate and draw to them some genius who occupies himself with one thing, all his life long."
There are other like comments in the essay. It is interesting to note that, not only in this essay but in many others, Emerson was quick to point out that all geniuses appear to be one-sided; i.e., they can go leagues and leagues with ease in one direction (that domain most suited to them), but that in every other direction they are stunted, halted, limited. In each of his 5 essays on "Representative Men," he finds flaws in his heroes.
Posted by: Curtis Gale Weeks | Sunday, June 11, 2006
I agree completely. I started this project expecting to find overlap between Creativity and Identity , but the Identity-based thesis became increasingly untenable. The identity field's insistence on vocalized or written statements is odd. It seems to assume that the more linguistically gifted one is the more one has an "identity."
(An interesting, if fictional, example of a character who is linguistically very gifted and intellectually incoherent can be found in CS Lewis's "That Hideous Strength."  The same book describes a 5GW program in some detail...)
You are also right on "stunted, halted limited" geniuses. See also the "Sacrifices" portion of this series. 
Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Sunday, June 11, 2006
Nicely post about "Coming Anarchy 3, Identity".
Posted by: Pharma Leads | Sunday, November 07, 2010