Creativity is a difficult word to define. It can have a diversity of meanings, but in its essence, creativity refers to the act of creating something original, innovative or unique through the use of imagination.
Creativity is often viewed as being the opposite of functions or disciplines that require logic or are governed by fact. This isn’t necessarily true, of course. However, it is widely believed that artistic fields require creativity, while scientific fields do not. People often think that creativity is a messy, unpredictable, man-made phenomenon, whereas science, mathematics and machinery are bound by a concrete set of rules. This has led to people sharing in the fear that society’s increased dependence on technology is limiting creativity.
When presented with the question, ‘is technology limiting creativity’, many people agree that - yes, it is. In a recent article, entitled ‘Is Technology Killing Creativity’, the writer states that “often the crux of the argument [is] that we’re sacrificing original thought for keeping ourselves constantly entertained”. The writer then goes on to state that, “if we can find everything online somewhere, we don’t give ourselves room to problem-solve and innovate on our own”.
While it’s undoubtedly true that a majority of people use smartphones and the Internet to fill the idle time in their lives, the other side to the argument, however, is that technology is simply redefining creativity.
The fear is, of course, that children have substituted conventionally creative hobbies such as painting, building and experimenting for passive screen activities, such as gaming. Yet, despite the fact that modern children do have higher rates of media consumption than any previous generation, it’s not always true that their screen activities lack creativity. Many children use the Internet to write blogs, build websites, or dabble in coding.
“Technology needs to be thought of as a new medium built to improve and enhance creative design and expression and not as just an information-supply machine.” (2)
When asked ‘is technology limiting creativity?’ Anne Libera, Director of Comedy Studies at Columbia College Chicago, replied:
“There’s a great George Carlin quote where he talks about [the fact] that he likes to push people’s buttons, he likes to find out where they draw the line; deliberately step across it, take them with him, and make them glad they came. But the Internet, and social media, doesn’t give you the opportunity to learn where people draw the line… and to learn how to take care of them while you step across that line.” (1)
As Libera’s observes, pushing boundaries goes hand in hand with creativity; yet creative people still have a responsibility to their audience. One of the drawbacks to young people expressing and exploring their creative identities in online environments is that they are less regulated than real world ones. It is clear that, in order to truly thrive online, young people still require rich and diverse interactions with the real world.
In summary, it is fair to argue that technology can limit creativity in young people, but it’s not necessarily fair to say that technology does limit creativity in young people. We need to give children credit for the fact that they’re often simply using the tools that are at their disposal.
Yes, creativity may look vastly different now from how it looked during our Internet-free childhoods, but we need to remember that we’re preparing our children for their own, digital futures.
“[That’s] the thing about creativity — it’s not supposed to be what we expect. It’s supposed to be innovative, startling, stretching. Sometimes it’s us parents that need to stretch a little, too” - Sharon Holbrook.
1. Rosa Inocencio Smith & The Atlantic, 2017. Does the Internet Breed Creativity or Destroy It?
3. Sharon Holbrook, What Are The Effects Of Technology On Creativity?