Panel: Creativity as a Social Ontology
People on the Rai Coast of Papua New Guinea take responsibility for the fertility and reproduction of land and people. Through gardening, hunting, ceremony and initiation, they are continually ‘creating’: both people/places, and the conditions for the emergence of these things as recognisably human. Engaging in the continual creation of the human world is not optional for them but intrinsic to what it means to be a human being. Creativity is necessarily distributed in such circumstances, power over creation or destruction oscillates, but to be a person means participation. As such, the emergence of persons or things, as objects of contemplation, or exchange, or value and beauty, are achieved momentarily as elements of the wider process of which they are part and through which they have meaning. By briefly reflecting on this example (of a people still located outside the reach of digital culture and historically unconnected with the conditions under which electronically mediated collaboration takes place) I wish to highlight questions about what we mean by ‘creativity’ in the realm of electronic literature and networked art (for example). In a culture where every action is a part of making the self, one with a very different history and technology from Reite, what is the analytic import of singling out digital arts practitioners from others as an example of a social ontology of creative practice? What (or who) is being made? What are efforts and actions directed through such channels making? If we accept (the premise of the panel rubric) that no action is outside creative process, then what kind of world is created by digital arts practices? Why do we use the language of creativity and of community here? Is it the recognition of creativity as such that makes such practitioners into a ‘community’?
- James Leach studied Social Anthropology at Manchester University, UK (B.Soc.Sci 1992, PhD 1997). He is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. His interests are in creativity, knowledge production, and ownership; in art, science and collaboration; and in the development of new technologies and their implications for social form. His published works have focused on kinship and creativity, place/landscape and art in Papua New Guinea, on creativity and the person, intellectual and cultural property, knowledge production and exchange in cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary contexts, gender and free software, and on the relation of law (specifically intellectual property law) to artistic and collaborative practice.