‘A Positive Legacy? Creative Subjectivities in the Wake of the Pandemic’
Sue: What’s this talk all about, Stephanie?
Stephanie: This talk is about creativity. We all understand the word and probably share some similar views about what it means and about the kinds of people who are creative. The understanding and views are part of common sense, like many of the other big topics of psychology – intelligence, prejudice and so on. My special interest is in the power of IDEAS about creativity.
Sue: A complex subject, how did you get interested in this topic?
Stephanie: Through research with art college students and graduates. My research participants were facing the same challenges and uncertainties that have traditionally characterised the careers of artists and creative practitioners, but they were also part of a prospering global creative sector that policy makers and educators started celebrating in the late 20th century. I was interested in the different perspectives on creativity – artistic, economic, political, social and of course psychological –, how these fitted together, or collided, and the implications of the perspectives for the kind of people I was researching.
As a critical social psychologist, I study how our social and cultural contexts shape us, including through the ways we understand, monitor and manage ourselves in complex self-marking processes of identification and subjectification. Ideas are central to these processes and I wanted to investigate how ideas about creativity function in self-making, for example, by defining who can be creative and how to be creative. All of the perspectives I’ve mentioned – artistic, psychological etc – contribute to these ideas. My research centres on the analysis of talk, because when we talk we are always using the ideas that are part of the taken-for-granted knowledge or common-sense of our social and cultural contexts.
Sue: Why are those results important?
Stephanie: This research is important on one level, because of the supposed significance of the creative sector and creative work as contemporary phenomena, and on another level, because the research can expose some of the implications of taken-for-granted ideas about creativity, including unacknowledged conflicts. For instance, who is excluded by ideas about a creative ‘type’ of person, and who is entitled to prioritise creative occupations over other claims on their time? What are the ‘promises’ attached to creativity that make work in the creative sector supposedly more attractive than conventional jobs? These kinds of questions consider creative work and creativity from the ‘inside’, looking at the meanings they carry for the people involved, rather than from the outsider perspective that is common in policy discussions.
Sue: Fascinating, what’s next in this line of research?
Stephanie: There has been considerable publicity about the negative impact of the pandemic on the creative sector and creative workers, and some speculation that policy-makers will turn away from the celebration of creativity. I want to use the insights that a critical discursive psychological approach can provide into creative practitioners as creative subjects in order to explore a possible ‘creative legacy’ in their responses to new life circumstances.
Sue: Thank you so much for your comments and thoughts. Indeed an important study as we are living through this time, and are yet to see the long term effects.
Please see below the original blog about Stephanie’s talk and the link to the recorded talk.