Less Creativity, More “Recreativity” Please…

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You know what creativity is – producing something different that has impact – but what about recreativity?

Today’s post from WordSpy gives you the lowdown on recreativity:

recreativity n. Repurposing or remixing existing artistic works to create, in whole or in part, a new work.

Of course, as an innovation agency and proponent of the everything-is-a-remix school of creativity and co-creation, you’d guess that Brand Genetics would be a fan of recreativity as an innovation technique – and we are; we think recreativity is not just about remixing artistic works, but also products. Recreativity is about producing something new by remixing the old.

WordSpy gives some useful citations from people using the recreativity moniker. The term appears to have been coined in a TED talk in 2007 by Harvard Law Professor Larry Lessig, and has been integrated into models of creativity:

[A]n emerging movement of critics, theorists, writers, and artists argue that techniques of appropriation and quotation are inherent to the creative process. Not only are the concepts of originality and innovation obsolete, they’ve always been myths. Let’s call this movement recreativity.

The most high-profile proponents of recreativity are Jonathan Lethem and David Shields. Both published manifestos—”The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism” and Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, respectively—that put into practice what they preach by being assembled almost entirely out of quotations.

—Simon Reynolds, “You Are Not a Switch,” Slate, October 5, 2012

Once a term of derision, “recreativity” is establishing itself as a powerful technique for innovation.  Sure, it sounds less sexy than the ‘miracle’ school of thought on creativity where ideas are magic’d into existence ex-nihilo.  But recreativity has one big advantage over miraculous creativity – you don’t need miracles for it to work! Maria Popova, writer for The Atlantic and Wired, nominated as one of the 100 most creative people in business, and author of, defends the concept;

As a proponent of combinatorial creativity and remix as a tool of innovation, I am always fascinated by how famous creators think about inspiration, influence, and the origin of ideas, recognizing their combinatorial nature — and how bystander critics often dismiss these creative transmutations with terms as derisive as “recreativity.”

Maria Popova, “Transformation as Authorship: From Igor Stravinsky to Philip Glass by Way of Disney and Beck,” Brain Pickings, October 10, 2012

So next time you need to innovate – try recreativity; you’ll be in good company.


Paul Marsden

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