The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity
O'Neill, Susan, Canadian Psychology
The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity, by James C. Kaufman and Robert J. Sternberg (Eds.) Cambridge University Press, 2010, 508 pages (ISBN 978-0-521-51366-1, CA $145.95 Hardback; ISBN 978-0-521-73025-9, CA $65.95 Paperback)
Reviewed by SUSAN O 'NEILL
Over a decade has passed since Sternberg edited the Handbook of Creativity for Cambridge University Press. In the intervening years, Kaufman and Sternberg tell us that more than 10,000 publications have been devoted to the topic of creativity. In our modern world, manifestations of creativity have become practically synonymous with what it means to reach our human potential. Today, companies such as Research In Motion, the creators of the Blackberry Smartphone, are almost as likely to hire graduates from the liberal arts and humanities as they are from science and technology. Creativity has become a valued resource. And yet, as Kaufman and Sternberg point out in this volume, even after six decades of research, definitions of creativity remain elusive. Creativity research continues to be the subject of much debate. Still, the chapters in this volume demonstrate that progress is being made with an increasing convergence of components, contexts, and complexity. The handbook is informative for students and newcomers to the field, as well as for those looking for up-to-date reviews of major theories and applications of creativity research.
A quick scan of the contents reveals an impressive array of topics by esteemed authors. The book is divided into three main sections: 1) basic concepts, 2) diverse perspectives on creativity, and 3) contemporary debates. The sections relate to three main questions: 1) How can we define and measure this complex construct? 2) How can we make use of its potential in a variety of areas and contexts? 3) How can we recognise and negotiate the constraints on creativity?
Section 1 presents an introduction to creativity that examines historical contributions to research, theories of creativity, assessments of creativity, and the roles of creativity in society. Aspects of creativity have long been known as the P' s of creativity: person (or personality), process, product, and place. More recent conceptualisations have added persuasion, because creative people change the way other people think, and potential, which is the actualization of personality and place in combination with attitudes and values. According to Seana Moran in Chapter 4 "The Roles of Creativity in Society," it is the function and purpose of creativity that has become more important than traits or positions. I found her chapter compelling as she described how Internet communities provide people with opportunities for "creativity-as-expression" as a way of coping with the challenges of living in today's world. She argues, "creativity results from a community," which is similar to participatory cultures that both inspire and support young people's creative engagement in digital media. Participatory cultures foster creative engagement by providing relatively low barriers to artistic expression, strong support for creating and sharing one's creations, informal mentorship, and a sense of social connection. I believe that these online communities offer a rich area for future creativity research.
Section 2 offers a broad selection of topics that include key perspectives on creativity such as cognitive, developmental, educational, cross-cultural, and evolutionary approaches. As a music psychologist, I was particularly drawn to Paul Locher' s Chapter 7 entitled, "How Does a Visual Artist Create an Artwork?" Reading through the real-life case studies of the art-making process, I was reminded of past research involving protocol analysis and similar approaches that explored the process composers engage in while composing a piece of music. Creative activity is not only a byproduct of being involved in a creative process; it can act as a catalyst for moving through blocks and blind alleys in the creative process. …