Research and Advances
Computing Applications Creativity and interface

Collaborative Creativity

  1. Introduction
  2. Creative Collaboration through Partnership
  3. Supporting Interdisciplinary Collaboration
  4. Conclusion
  5. References
  6. Authors
  7. Figures

Tools that support articulation of creative ideas and allow for better exchange between different disciplines can eliminate some of the barriers in interdisciplinary collaboration.

There are a number of potent directions for providing support in devising a shared language. One way is to help team members understand and learn each other’s professional jargon with automated interpretation systems [8]. Frequently, however, the vocabulary needs to be task-dependent, custom or unique to the team and the environment, and developed by the team over an extended period of time and during multiple projects. In cases like this, teams need tools that allow them to capture, annotate, and reuse custom vocabulary. In our earlier example of successful metaphor use, the collaborators would benefit from the ability to reuse successful metaphors or to learn from unsuccessful ones. In their work discussing communities of practice, Brown and Duguid [2] note the natural tendency for people to develop and communicate stories as a way of informally disseminating important on-the-job information. Another approach developed by Thomas et al. [10] and discussed in this issue is the development of a pattern language that captures solutions to a recurring problem in patterns and is meant to stimulate thought without providing an inflexible, possibly inappropriate structure.

Developing a Common Understanding of the Artistic Intentions and Vision. A shared language is a great asset in developing a common understanding of the artistic intentions and vision. However, the language of creative exchange does not have to be verbal. People often use design artifacts to express their creative vision. For example, during a brainstorming session, an interaction designer might start drawing flow charts, whereas a composer would create musical sketches using a keyboard. These demonstrations of creative ideas and visions, when the right tools are available, greatly reduce the risk of misunderstanding and fruitless arguments.

Fluid and open communication is a necessary condition for reaching a shared vision. One way to encourage communication in an interdisciplinary team is to provide lightweight ways to support articulation of thought. For example, there are multiple commercially available tools supporting the development of low-fidelity design artifacts, such as sketches and prototypes. There are also multiple practices developed in the HCI community, such as paper prototyping, Wizard of Oz prototyping, storytelling, and role-playing. What is lacking in some of these tools is the ability to easily develop, store, annotate, and share multimedia and multiformat prototypes and sketches.

Engaging in Extensive Discussions and What-if Sessions. Development of a common understanding of the artistic intentions and vision requires that collaborators engage in extensive discussions and what-if sessions. Within this phase of collaboration the interdisciplinary nature of the group confers multiple benefits to the participants. They can present different, often complementary views on the problem and help each other break away from obvious solutions. During such discussions, the ability to capture ideas, annotate them and store them for future reference allows the group to build a shared knowledge resource that has innumerable benefits.

In creative work it is also important to be able to track the progress of an idea or revisit design decisions. To this end, there are encouraging developments emerging in lightweight capture and annotation of design histories [8]. Interdisciplinary collaboration presents a new context and new benefits of design histories. Participants can refer to captured design progress to learn each other’s approaches, or to track the development of a creative idea without having to explicitly discuss it. However, it is important to remember the need for multiformat sketching and allow information designers, visual designers, composers, and other creative professionals to explore creative ideas within the same environment.

Developers of tools for creativity support should be mindful of differences in cognitive styles, which are typical for different disciplines or even for individuals with the same professional backgrounds. For example, when working on an audio interface, an interaction designer might start with building a conceptual framework concentrating on logical flow and relationships between elements, using tools that support and encourage it, such as flowchart applications. A composer, on the other hand, is more likely to engage in a free-form exploration, creating and discarding many musical ideas simultaneously, possibly without capturing them. Development of tools that support creative exploration should reflect these different approaches, allowing for structured and linear explorations, as well as free form and parallel discovery.

Sharing Knowledge Resources. An effective working relationship exists where both parties exchange knowledge resources in order to make progress and resolve difficulties of both a technical and artistic nature. The sharing of knowledge is an important facilitator of creative collaboration. It also depends upon the parties having complementary rather than identical skills. A partnership that aims to be self-sufficient must also know its limits and be willing to carry out the necessary research when the knowledge is insufficient. Indeed, self-sufficiency in technical know-how, or at least the quest for it through research, can be in itself a stimulus to creative thought. Being able to learn through knowledge sharing is beneficial and it particularly applies where having a direct contact with a new way of thinking stimulates the generation of options.

Tools like CoWeb, mailing lists, and newsgroups are commonly used by commercial enterprises to enhance communication and share knowledge resources. Capturing and distributing successful practices in case studies can foster this sharing. Computer-based methods that enable users to broadcast Web site information to one another combined with shared drawing and knowledge-based support to decision making have been developed in prototype form but are not yet commercially available [7].

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