Creativity and the Media - Edited






Ian Mills

I begin with the assumption that, in the modern context, education ought to be a process of creation, that it should give us an environment in which each one of us can achieve his creative human potential and consequently society, the human race, can achieve its creative potential. If this is not done humanity will certainly achieve its destructive potential. I would like, first, to refer to some of the disastrous limitations of our present educational system. The main problem seems to be that we are fearfully or blindly suffering an outdated collection of educational institutions which are no longer adaptable to our necessarily changed and changing personal needs and social structures. I would like to suggest, secondly. that the mass media, as contemporary forms of perception and expression, may have something to offer as alternative forms. I want to look at the creative nature of the media and suggest ways in which they may inform a new learning, and assist implementation of a more first period, and it is made virtually impossible for most to study systematically for the second period. It provides care under guard for persons thought to be undesirable elsewhere. We imprison children to keep them off the street, away from the family, and out of the labour force. We select those most likely to succeed in regurgitating what is wanted, give them a dole to accept incarceration in a university, and finally a badge of respectability, a piece of paper which tells them they have now got what they always wanted. If anyone should happen to miss out on such privileges, he can always participate in 'adult education', which is not free or compulsory and very definitely secondary and therapeutic in estimation. There is nothing which stifles self-actualisation and creativity more than pressure to conform ; and the latter would seem to be the main aim of schooling to-day. Schools are acceptable in our society to-day because they dampen the likelihood of subhuman, creative, personal pursuit of knowledge how they may better assist the process of self-other-actualisation. Perhaps their mode of communication and perception may be more relevant, more ecological (mutual relations collectively viewed); perhaps better provide insight through leisure than the present teacher-student model.


Creativity and Present-day Education 

Far from achieving self-fulfilment of the individual in society through creativity, schooling today might well seem to an impartial observer from another world to be deliberately aimed at stifling both. One of the major reasons for the alienation existing in our society is the acceptance of the assumption that our schooling is an assurance of social integration and acceptability—of self-realisation. We still suffer from the nineteenth century hangover that pre-schooling ensures every person equality in the economy, effective participation in society, and the capacity to achieve personal happiness. This is blatantly not so in our age of competitive specialisation.


Today schooling involves year round compulsory class room attendance. Regardless of individual differences of temperaments, and needs generally, basically the same curriculum is imposed on everybody for at least ten of the most joyful years of life. It divides our lives into two artificial segments. We are forced to be indoctrinated for the versive activities. In fact, one needs to acquire the habit of conformity to survive in schools and then only those who have been schooled into compliance in lower classes are admitted to the establishment of the elite. Our interests are not someone else's, but school for the most partactively prevents us from exploring what is most intriguing or of most interest to us. School kills our sense of mystery by excluding the examination of what is most mysterious and puzzling. School keeps silent, also, about those things which would seem to be the most important for example how society really works —and too often concentrates on what is most trivial. Too often teachers feel inadequate in these areas because they themselves were hedged off from them. The educational institutions exist to maintain dominance and privilege rather than to encourage explanation and change.


We need schools which are interested in the creative process, the creative person, the creative spirit, as ends in themselves. It is no longer as important to teach a person to become an architect or an economist as it is to teach that person to be creative. What we need is the process person, the creative person, the flexible person, then the architect or economist, for what we teach about architecture itself to-day will be out of date tomorrow. But in our age only the inflexible person will be out of date, the adaptable person will be in demand everywhere. We should be helping students, not to produce goods, but to be creative generally first, then, later, specifically.


What students need to replace the intellectual numbers game is a higher degree of intuitive and personal contact as a means of enrichment. Schooling has vulgarised the creative process and has made it both anti-personal and anti-social. There is a lack of identification and a corresponding increase in the alienation of students from schools. What is needed is a place of personal encounter. The belief in the capacity of schools to label us accurately leads us to accept our vocational fate with resignation as inevitable and proper, so that as adults we forget, or disbelieve in many cases, the talents we really possess. What is needed is an arrangement for creativity that has so much variety and mobility that it enables people to cope with the mobility of life to-day and accustoms them to the inevitability of changing jobs and life styles when it means living life more fully. People don't need a rationale for their own inferiority, they need a recognition of their potentiality for humanness. The production of too many uselessly numbered entities has resulted in too many people feeling useless. The person who knows how to create should never feel useless.


Finally, though not exhaustively, if a cultural revolution is to be effective in the educational sphere, we have to rid ourselves of the notion that most learning results from teaching. Teachers contribute to certain kinds of learning in certain situations, but most people acquire most of their learning , their skills, and their 'insight through leisure ' outside the classroom. More important than teachers are 'Learning Centres', such as libraries or resource centres. They are much more effective transformers of human energy. Such centres allow the student to choose what he wants to know, a freedom which amply compensates for the risk that he may not end up knowing what someone else wants him to know. When the teacher does intrude in to-day's learning scene he is most effective in his role of fellow learner and as a model of a particular skill ; only then ought he be a commentator and critic. Last of all should he be a purveyor of facts, for in the modern world in process today's facts are to-morrow's garbage. The most urgent priority, then, is for a consideration of alternatives in education alternative content, but more important, alternative forms. We urgently need not only alternative views of education itself, its nature and possible functions in the society of the future, but also the creation of new forms more relevant to our twentieth century environment. What is real to-day is the immediacy of new events ; what is most needed is creative minds to cope with this reality.


One possible model of creativity which may provide a relevant form of perception and communication is the media. In the past it would seem that science education has been used as the model for education generally. What I am advocating for the present age is a model based on art education as the most obviously creative and, in particular, the media arts as the most relevant for our age.




As long ago as 1908, in his book Creative Evolution, Henri Bergson outlined a necessary revolution in perception when he stated : 'Let us try to see, no longer with the eyes of the intellect alone, which grasps only the already made and which looks from the outside, but with the spirit. I mean with that faculty of seeing which is immanent in the faculty of acting and which springs up, somehow, by the twisting of the will on itself, when action is turned into knowledge, like heat, so to say. into light. To movement, then, everything will be restored, and into movement everything will be resolved.'


This faculty of 'seeing' Bergson refers to as the intuition . He sees the necessity for using the intuition as a means of knowing. His concrete illustration for this principle is the cinema.


We live in a complex world, bombarded with multifarious and fragmented images, which move faster and change faster every day. The analogy of frames of film moving through a projector seems an appropriate one. It is significant that the cinema was invented when it was, for it is a means of expression and perception which is most relevant to the rapid movement of fragmentary entities. Bergson points out that in observing movement and change we need to use the faculty he calls 'intuition'; the 'intellect' being used to examine what is apparently static or 'essential' or seemingly unchanging about an entity. But, of course, everything is constantly changing, and this is more evident the more quickly things change, as in our own age. Bergson is, therefore, opting for a greater use, in the twentieth century, of the faculty of intuition. Not that the intellect is to be excluded, because we still need to have a knowledge of the 'essence of a thing', to be able to identify the individuality of persons or objects or events.


'We take snapshots, as it were, of the passing reality, and, as these are characteristic of the reality, we have only to string them on a becoming, abstract, uniform and invisible, situated at the back of the apparatus of knowledge, in order to imitate what there is that is characteristic in this becoming itself. Perception, intellection , language so proceed in general. Whether we would think becoming, or express it, or even perceive it, we hardly do anything else than set going a kind of cinematograph inside us. We

may therefore sum up what we haVe been saying in the conclusion that the mechanism of our ordinary knowledge is of a cinematographical kind.


'The cinematographical method is therefore the only practical method, since it consists in making the general character of knowledge form itself on that of action, while expecting that the detail of each act should depend in its turn on that of knowledge. In order that action may always be enlightened, intelligence must always be present in it ; but intelligence, in order thus to accompany the progress of activity and ensure its direction, must begin by adopting its rhythm. Action is discontinuous, like every pulsation of life ; discontinuous, therefore, is knowledge. The mechanism of the faculty of knowing has been constructed on this plan.


It is a fact that we are living in a world whose images are as fragmented as the images on a reel of film. The real world is a reel world, and is every bit as discontinuous. One of our greatest problems is how to cope with the continual presence of this discontinuity, these myriad sensations, and demanded activities. Today it is impossible to know everything we want to know, let alone everything that is knowable. Yet for mere survival we have to know (oven the simplest living of us) a hundred times as much as our great grandfather. And we are attempting to do this with his model of nineteenth century (and earlier) schooling. In such a montaged world this seems nothing short of ridiculous; yet we plug away at our logical, linear system of education.


The media offers a FORM of learning process which is much more relevant to our age. With this form learners assume from the beginning, the role of creative subjects ; they create their own meaning in between the visuals in the act of filling in the gaps.

Yet what we need is not only an increased emphasis on visual literacy as an alternative, but also the adoption of its mosaic, free-wheeling form, its subjective way of looking at the world. The media can teach us the necessity of a more intuitive perception of people, objects, and events in our increasingly complex and fragmented world. The alternative is an accumulating inability to cope, and an intensification of alienation.


But there is not only a montage of images, sounds, and facts to be encountered and dealt with, somehow or other, in our world today. There is something behind, in between, infusing any selection of these audio-visual-olfactory-tactile-sapid-kinaesthetic mosaics, which is perhaps more important, more essential, and more satisfying as a form of knowledge, than the images themselves. There is another kind of knowledge dwelling in the interstices, in the silence, between the images, between the words. This is, perhaps, an indefinable kind of knowledge, but not for that any less important. It is also the kind of knowledge that is often inexpressible, but not for that any less real. It is the knowledge Michael Polanyi refers to in his book, The Tacit Dimension, when he points out that 'we can know more than we can tell'.


Our problem, then, becomes - how can we impart or imbibe this kind of knowledge? How can we express the inexpressible, perceive the imperceptible? And yet there does seem to be a feeling in our age that this kind of knowledge is the most important of all. In fact, the only people untouched by our linear education methods, the very people we don't try to teach, know this way. I mean babies. Babies learn outside formality. They take what comes their way and choose meaning from a montage of presented experiences ; they learn how to cope, and how to live and adjust socially. They probably learn much more, much more quickly

than they will at any other stage of their lives after they have first encountered our educational system. The 'Free Schools' seem the only present education forms that approach to this method, but even in most such schools there are inconsistencies and compromises which prevent the implementation of tacit knowledge.


Tacit knowledge is acquired when a form (often inexpressible ) emerges from environmental diversity. A film is a collection of diverse images, but if it is a good film the artists will have arranged that image in a form which is significant. There ought

to emerge a central theme or idea, though it may be quite intangible, even inexpressible perhaps even necessarily so. As Kurosawa said, of one of his films. 'If I could tell you what it meant in words I would not have needed to make the film'.


What is essential, then, in our world is to give form to our inevitable diversity. Our educational system has to supply both. We have probably failed in the past to make available the full range of our modern world ; but the answer is not to let loose

this torrent of images without models of creative form. What our students need are models of the making of forms, so that they can learn to create their own. They need educators who are authorities without being authoritative. The inevitable outcome of such a process is an active shaping of experience performed in the individual pursuit of knowledge. This shaping and integrating of a montage of effects is what I mean by the acquisition of tacit knowledge. This is the way the media act on us as we act in them. The media are a new and relevant (potentially if not actually) means of perceiving, and coping with, and embracing, and dwelling in our world'. They are a means of knowing more than we can tell the things we can't express.


We live in a time of frenetic external movement to make sense of which, to find peace in which, we have to discern the quiet consistency of an internal movement. The cinema is an example of external movement, but has form only if an internal movement is made luminous. We may not be able to describe the particular features of our best friend's face, the shape of his ears, nose or mouth, but we could pick out his face quite easily in a crowded street. We know the indescribable pattern which is a result of the montaged particulars. So a baby learns through awareness of his mother's angry or delighted faces the meaning of events, and eventually how to create meaning himself. These kinds of knowledge are the result of intuition, the means by which we perceive mosaics and movements.


As the nineteenth century progressed there was an increasing emphasis on the importance of internal, imperceptible movements as the controlling forces in our world. In science there was the discovery of current electricity and moving atoms, indefinable and imperceptible, yet fundamental determinants of the material world. In the discussion of our mental world there came to be much more emphasis on the unseen movements of the unconscious. In philosophy reality was seen in terms of process. In art painters turned to abstract art, to the expression of the inner meaning or movement, often without any reference to the secondary,

external world. So the arts in general tended towards the ideal of music where internality of movement is everything. As James Joyce said 'rhythm is everything'. So Truffaut claims that he goes to a film, not so much for the story, as to listen to the music, meaning the internal rhythms.


What is important to our students to-day, then, is not the facts so much as the rhythm of the facts, the significant form discoverable below the superficies. What destroys knowledge so often is the detailing of particulars, the over-intellectualising and rationalisation of small areas.


Perhaps it is time we gave up the sound and fury of words, so often too evident in our classrooms, and invested more in the silence between images. Much more is relayed from one person to another through and in silence than in words. It's the spaces

between the spokes that make the wheel. Perhaps we need more of the free spacing, systematic to each individual, of schooling, leisure, and work. It is silence that gives the rhythm to words. Silence has its pauses and durations, its rhythms and expressions and inflections, its duration and pitches, and time to be and not to be. This silence is a necessity in education. It is necessary for the individual to create his own rhythms by being allowed his own silences, his own rests, as it is in any art

for the creation of an original rhythm. Our students need learning created by themselves if they are to realise a self-satisfying rhythm in their lives. They need the availability of significant forms, if they are to create a significant order in their lives.


The more varied, the more fragmentary, the more quickly moving our environment, the greater would seem the danger of alienation and the need for identification with someone or something of value as a source of unity. Like the characters in an O'Neill play, perhaps the most urgent need of a person to-day is 'to belong'. In fact, the process of identification can be both a means of knowing as well as a means of combating alienation. We can learn by in-dwelling. Our body tends to extend to

objects in the world, to know objects by dwelling in them. I feel a table ; I know it better by my fingers dwelling in it. My eyes extend to trees and know them by dwelling in them. My tongue extends to the orange and knows it by dwelling in it. Sounds penetrate my ears and I know them because they dwell in me. It is by in-dwelling that we understand the joint meaning of things. So we say, seeking a friend's understanding, 'put yourself in my place'. This is basically the process by which we become involved in a film, by identification. We identify with a character, or place ourselves in a scene, temporarily suspending another order of reality, in order to better explore the reality on the screen. How often do we allow this process to happen in the classroom? It can only happen in comparative silence and freedom. It is the kind of process which allows a person to re-create his own world , to consider other orders of reality.


Besides the learning of what already exists so much of it—and learning to cope with it, another indispensable aim of education would seem to lie in the future, in the discovery of new knowledge, in the solving of problems. Research is of rapidly increasing importance in education. The more automation frees people, the more energy ought to be channelled into research, so that progressively the individual and society can move at an accelerated pace. Material inventions ought to free us for more intense inventions of the mind. One of youth's problems to-day is that adventure is not being supplied to them; and young people need adventure. But by far the most exciting and satisfying kind of adventure is existing in more spheres than ever the adventure of ideas; and it calls especially for personal creativity. Columbus would never have discovered his physical new world without his own commitment to idiosyncratic ideas.


Plato has pointed out in the Meno that to search for the solution to a problem is an absurdity : for either you know the answer and so there is no need to search, or you don't know what you are looking for, and so there is no use searching. But, of course

we can know things, and important things, which we cannot express. We may have only a hunch, an inner movement, an intuition, but if we feel strongly about it, we ought, as far as education is concerned, to be given the opportunity to test it out.

Such an act of knowing enables us to solve the paradox of the Meno by the exercising of personal judgment, by relating internal experience to external reality, an aspect of which we are trying to apprehend.


Arthur Koestler has pointed out the necessity of a montage of diverse disciplines if new discoveries are to be made. He illustrates how most great discoveries have been made by people who have passed from one field to another, thus moulding together the otherwise pedestrian findings of each to form a greater third set of discoveries. This is the principle of montage. The media are, of their nature, the creators of new meaning to a greater degree than many other forms because of their greater emphasis on the principle of montage. So our students, if allowed sufficient freedom and example, can actively use the media forms as models for examining the world. By montage they can put together different parts of the world in ways that seem to them significant and create new meanings as revealed by original emergent patterns. They can invent new themes and ideas with

which to identify in their search for self-other-actualisation.


But to implement such an intuitive mode of perception, a form of education or re-creation which is relevant to our fast-moving and diverse world, we have to at least qualify, if not overhaul or demolish , our linearly-structured scholastic system.

To cope with continual change our students have to be allowed to change often. To cope with the different structure and meaning of change for individuals, each student has to be allowed freedom to change at his own pace, and at will, according to what he discovers is best for him. We have to do away with common syllabi and common exams, we have to allow mingling of work, learning, and leisure , and make our institutions and factories or offices flexible enough to cope with this. There is so much (new) knowledge that learning has to be life long . Life around us will soon be so different every few years that we shall have to spend much of those years coping with the new meanings and new forms around us.


So far there has only been reference to the media as models of forms of perception and expression. But specifically, and practically, the media might also be used in the actual learning process because of their capacity to impart knowledge in any particular field in a creative and free form which emphasises the importance of the tacit dimension. Too often, broadcasting organisations, like our educational system, impose programmes on us with an incarcerating and numbing lack of personal choice or relevance, so that the greatest potential of the media probably lies in the production of tapes and cassettes to be placed in libraries or resource centres where they will be at the disposal of individuals to use when needed. Visual literacy is a weapon for social change and cultural revolution. But we can only look at the world in this new way if we unmask the old method of being schooled. The people we should feel most sorry for are the most deprived, those who are well established in

positions guaranteed by the old system of education, for they are the least likely to experience the new, or benefit from it.

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