Tl;dr: The Invention of Creativity

Creativity is a new idea. Hasn’t been around long. Maybe it’s a fad.

Here’s the book by Reckwitz, that I am very surprised seems not to have been written before.

Reading Reckwitz on The Invention of Creativity

14 new photos · Album by Amol Sarva Extra

A different book has been written before — the one by Marx, Horkheimer and Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and so forth. The one that says Ford and the Industrial Age changed culture into industrial product. Sameness everywhere. Grandmother’s recipe…at every corner restaurant. The signature fabric print of your ancestors’…for sale to every teenaged consumer.

Fast forward a few decades, and now we look back on these “product designers” and marvel at their creativity. They took control of Ford’s factories and churned out fresh aesthetic and functional variations on a stolid warhorse.

It went further. Capital, according to the Marxists, was stifling creativity. (Hopefully, that would undermine it, hence terms from the Baudrillard-types like “very, very late modern capitalism” to describe 1997.)

But capital struck back. Forget Henry Ford’s “any color you like as long as it’s black”. The world’s largest industrial colossus makes a pocket-sized gadget that every single one has a different baby picture on the home screen — Apple and the iPhone. Creativity at scale. A new one or two every year. Always different, never the same.

There’s more to it, and this book reaches back to the Romantics and Nietzsche to locate the origins of the creativity cult (übermensch has something to do with it). But I think the place to leave this topic is by noticing we are in the age of mass customization: Nike sneakers that say sweatshop, Starbucks orders just like all the others except with Amol written on the side, profile pages on social networks that let you plant a flag on the media empire, and advertising targeting that’s so personal you actually find it creepy sometimes.

So what’s next? Return to the impersonal, uncreative, cookie cutter? Or is the maker-made world the one that comes after the mass-customized one?