Creativity is More Than a Trait: It’s a Relation

The  field and the  domain constitute an individual’s environment. The  field represents a part of society, i.e. a social group in the position to decide how much impact individual creative output will have. The  domain represents a part of the individual’s and thefield’s culture. It is a symbolic system including ideas, behaviors, styles, etc. Csikszentmihalyi (1999) uses the term “meme” to describe these symbols. Furthermore, a society can have many fields just as a culture can be composed of more than onedomain. To illustrate the model in Figure 1, think of schoolchildren (individuals with specific backgrounds and experiences) participating in an art contest to decorate the walls of their otherwise dismal school hallways. The school art teachers (a  field) will select the most creative pictures to put on display, so their vote will decide which types of art will go down in this school’s history ( domain). Even though parents or the children themselves (other fields) could disagree with the art teachers’ selection, the latter social group is the relevant  field for deciding on which art types (memes, e.g. motifs, color choice, material) are deemed creative enough for the school’s hallways. In representing different fields, parents and art teachers can use varying judgment criteria for deciding on the  creativity of schoolchildren’s artwork, and their decisions affect how long and where a creative product spends its life (domains, culture). For example, even if a particular artwork does not make school (hallway) history, it could very easily make it on the family’s refrigerator door. Several researchers, such as Hargreaves, Galton, and Robinson (1996) as well as Hennessey (2003), have investigated the evaluation of schoolchildren’s artwork from different social group perspectives.

In Csikszentmihalyi’s (1999) view,  creativity occurs when a change in the  domain is made. For this to happen, an individual must first produce something new, and this is done on the basis of the existing memes in the  domain. A child participating in the art contest, for example, could study the existing pictures in the school’s hallways and decide to deviate from all the landscape pieces by painting a space scene. Once an individual produces a new  meme, it is judged by the  field and either rejected or accepted into the  domain, e.g. the school’s art teachers may find the space scene totally revolutionary compared to the previous pictures.

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