Response to Abraham Maslow’s “The Creative Attitude”:
Maslow’s idea of art as a universal form of education and a lens for interacting with the world was initially very appealing to me. I consider art to be the most direct way of expressing emotion and in some cases understanding. This is a crucial aspect to our lives as individuals and to society as a whole. However, I don’t equate art or creativity with intelligence, as Maslow does in his comparison of art and science. Art is a means of expressing intelligence, but so are many other human endeavors, science being one of them. I agree that the ability to be creative and spontaneous are necessary skills of an artist, but not that they are necessarily the most crucial. As a photographer, I’ve learned to shoot first and think later but also that ultimately what separates great photographers from good ones is the ability to be ruthlessly self-critical of one’s images. A great work of art is defined in part by its underlying idea, but often more by its execution. Maslow acknowledges this, but spends the remainder of the essay extolling on the virtues of a spontaneous life free of critique.
His is an unrealistic ideal of art: one which seems to deny all value of self-consciousness. I would never deny the value of self-expression, nor of spontaneity: both are critical to healthy people and healthy society. However, Maslow’s advocacy of spontaneity belies a certain self-entitlement. He denies the value of everything that has made his particular existence possible. In particular, his dismissal of scientists as inferior to artists is a dangerous comparison. Since the first cave painting, art and science always have necessarily had a symbiotic relationship, wherein artists adopt, bend, break, and otherwise tests the limits of technology, developing the state of the art. Even to separate artists and scientists seems to me a false dichotomy. Who is to say that the employment of years of experience and experimentation by oneself and one’s peers in order to expand our collective understanding is exclusively a feature of art or of science.
In fact, why should we even view art in a different light than other human achievements? If spontaneity is the criteria, there are few relevant creations, in science especially, of which a spontaneous thought was not the seed.
“Another danger: Just as 24-hour cable channels transformed the news cycle, Facebook’s 24/7 reportage on your friends’ moods could transmit groupthink faster than ever, and in so doing, endanger the world economy, by spreading panic more efficiently than ever before. Computers have previously accelerated the process of computation. How will things look when society itself is what they speed up?”—
I’m thinking about doing a project on facebook in 5 years and looking through some press about social networking. Groupthink could be a real consequence of social networking, and it’s only getting bigger.
Has the web done more to empower or disempower the society of control? If corporations run the Society of Control, what role does the government play? What kind of weapons are effective against the society of control and beyond? Who gets to “modulate” behavior and who does “modulation” affect the most? What does he mean by “dividual”?
CBS Interactive is in the process of moving to a Google-based e-mail and intranet system. This “Communication and Collaboration Platform” will replace a hodgepodge of unreliable, outdated, and just generally icky systems. I’m helping…