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  • Special Section Introduction:Creativity and Cognition 2007: Materialities of Creativity
  • Elisa Giaccardi (bio) and Linda Candy, Special Section Guest (bio)

New concepts emerged during the 6th Creativity & Cognition conference in June 2007, indicating a growing convergence across disciplinary boundaries and an enriched language of discourse between artists, designers, scientists and technologists.

Notions of materiality—from physical objects for playful exploration to processes and materials by which to think and connect—represented a common thread in many contributions. In this special section a selection of significant articles from the design, engineering and aesthetic traditions has been brought together to offer a reasoned collection of current understandings of materiality and its application in support of creativity.

Many recent advances in the arts and sciences can be related to a deepening knowledge of the nature of materiality, understood as both the applied use of various materials and substances and the formation of objects of thought such as images, concepts and memories [1]. Understanding the new status and properties of objects and materials for invention and creativity that emerged with the advent of new industrial products in the 1970s and the spreading of information technologies later in the 1980s has been a continuing effort [2]. In particular, the "metamorphosis" of materials into processes produced by information technologies and telematics gave rise to the idea of an immaterial space freed from the physical quality of a material substance. This notion of immateriality [3] promoted the exchange and relation model over the substance model, replacing the structural principle of a stable substance with an understanding of materiality as an unstable set of relations and interactions. Similarly, the notion of a "synthetic universe" [4] promoted the idea of an isomorphism between language and object, as the result of structures of numerical calculation and representation that do not mark formal boundaries between objects but rather passages of status and linguistic transformations. The switch from an understanding of materiality as a system made of physical and identifiable objects to a continuum made of communication surfaces has since then stressed the criticality of the interface as the place where the actual materiality of the object is defined through exchange of energy and information [5].

Today, new technologies, interfaces and metaphors have emerged and are being explored to inform the convergence of disciplinary boundaries. The five articles included in this special section further deepen our knowledge and understanding of materiality. By exploring perceptive, expressive and performative dimensions of creative cognition and interaction, the articles provide an account of the changes produced by emerging technologies with respect to today's "materialities of creativity."

Materials of Imagination

When materiality is connected to memory and imagination, understanding how sensory experience informs memory and how memory of physicality and materiality, in turn, influences creative cognition, may be critical in creative digital practice. Cathy Treadaway [6] investigates these issues in the context of case study research in textile art and through collaborative art-making. Her strategy is to challenge the detached role of the researcher and engage in an empathic experience with the artists' creative processes, so as to provide insights into how digital tools can stimulate remembrance of physical experiences and support creative practice and expressivity.

On the software side, ideas of emerging materiality are explored in creative software development. Through a musical instrument perspective, Olav Bertelsen, Morten Breinbjerg and [End Page 194] Søren Pold [7] focus on the nature of software materiality and raise new problems for traditional human-computer interaction (HCI). They see computer-mediated activity as chains of complex mediation in which the dominant form of representation is metonymy rather than metaphor. This poses the challenge of how to conceptualize and further "metonymical design" as a way to creatively work with software as both object of thought and material of invention.

Affordance of Play and Tinkering

When materiality is addressed as affordance for design and critical reflection, then tinkering and the play instinct must be encouraged to support creative engagement with the material of the design situation. Contributing long-established educational experience in computational design and supported by a small number of relevant examples, Mark Gross and Ellen Yi-Luen Do [8] explore characteristics of the learning environment and patterns of...


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pp. 193-196
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