Judging creativity in new digital art domains

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Journal/Book Title/Conference

Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association

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While current research on creativity has focused on the traditional visual and performing arts, we know far less about creativity in the digital arts, which are at the heart of our omnipresent visual culture and youths’ production practices today. Research on digital arts creativity has revealed interesting findings that are not congruent with prior research on creativity in the visual and performing arts. For example, while experts and non-experts seldom agree in more established art forms (Hickey, 2001), the correlation between expert and non-expert assessments of quality is much higher in ubiquitously consumed newer domains, such as film, where “quasi-experts” garner high exposure through their informal experiences (Plucker, Kaufman, Temple, & Qian, 2009). Given the seemingly inverse relationship between the longevity of an arts domain and the likelihood that experts and non-experts see that domain similarly, Plucker et al. (2009) argue that creativity involves an expertise continuum related to our context and experience. But what of new domains built upon unexplored technologies? Does the lack of a codified canon put novices and experts on equal footing in terms of assessing creative merit?

In this paper, we turn to the new domain of electronic textiles (e-textiles) to better understand creativity in emergent disciplines. E-textiles are fabric artifacts that include embedded computers and other electronics (Berzowska, 2005; Marculescu et al., 2003). Only rising to international prominence in the past decade or less, e-textiles provides a rich context for creative productions of new digital media artifacts with a foundation in the arts. This study examines how raters with varying degrees of expertise in this new domain--including e-textile pioneers (“experts”), teachers with over 20 hours of non-professional experience in e-textiles (“quasi-experts”), and pre-service teachers with no prior knowledge of the e-textiles domain (“novices”)--judge digital artifacts for creativity.

Each group evaluated e-textile artifacts for creativity from an online gallery using the Amabile Consensual Assessment Technique (CAT). After submitting their results, judges participated in focus group discussions within their degree of expertise. The panels were instructed to use their own subjective definition of creativity as they rated artifacts. We build on prior research that established the validity of using the CAT in rating non-parallel creative products (Baer, Kaufman, & Gentile, 2004). We found high inter-judge reliability both within and across groups, suggesting high levels of agreement irrespective of expertise regarding creativity in this emergent art domain. This implies consensus regarding what is valued as creative in this emergent domain. Further research is needed to understand the agreement between novices, quasi-experts, and experts in other emergent digital art domains, such as videogames, digital photography, and animation among others. This work is particularly important as new artistic domains flourish in online spaces, where expertise is distributed amongst members and crowdsourcing is becoming an increasingly common way to determine what constitutes the most creative contributions.

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