Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Review: The Dark Side of Creativity

Kimberly T. Cardina, State University of New York/Buffalo State

The dark side of creativity does exist according to most chapter authors of this book and has been left aside in favor of positive psychology and consequent research in recent decades on it and its relation to creativity. Due to this lack of research and knowledge on the dark aspects of creativity, much of what exists tends to be primarily descriptive rather than knowledge in this area of creativity. This book represents the start of a movement towards more research and knowledge on it.

Knowledge basic to of the study of creativity may be helpful to the reader to understand relationships certain authors may make, but overall an individual interested in human behavior and characteristics that constitute the dark side of what otherwise is considered desirable for one to be, namely creative, is the primary requirement needed to read this material. Authors and the fields they represent encompass psychology, sociology, engineering, history, criminal justice, and education; in each area they encounter creativity and have demonstrated needs to understand its dark side as a result of these studies. Development of countermeasures to protect against negative and malevolent creativity have been proposed and addressed by many.

There are types of negative creativity categorized as either unintentional, or intentional, and have been termed as negative, or malevolent creativity. Unintentional creativity, that is negative, is labeled as such due to unintended outcomes of what was originally perceived as benevolent and useful, and, of course, is relative to a given individual or population. Examples of negative creativity are introduction of a predator species to a pest in an environment to naturally dispose of the pest, but results in overpopulation of the predator causing further damage, or the scientific creativity of Pasteur yet resulting in paving the way for biological warfare. Malevolent creativity involves the use of the person, process, product, and press, or any combination of, as do other forms of creativity, resulting in what is useful to the actor, or a group of individuals. For example, history has given examples of infamous leaders, such as Hitler who by most accounts is considered representative of the dark side of creativity. Prisoners or criminals use malevolent creativity in a domain specific manner, namely for criminal activity, and in response to combat this we need to learn to “think thief”.

The first chapter outlines what the remaining readings suggest and debate, giving readers an initial view of the many implications of the dark side of creativity. In Creativity has no Dark Side, Runco initially made me skeptical of the remaining content of the book, but upon finishing the reading, I understood how he makes his case against the existence of a dark or light side of creativity, by proposing that it is blind to the values and products of the person. Further issues addressed are positive and negative creativity and the factors at issue within each concerning a person and characteristics. History and biological weapons, warfare, and the atomic bomb generate good discussion especially if one has been less previously engaged by history, and may serve as motivational to someone’s desire to learn more about major historical events.

The Dark Side of Creativity also discusses the side of creativity in relation to politics and government, and the implications of creativity whether for good or less desirable intentions on its proponents and citizens. Then, the criminal element and the relation of the dark side of creativity are explored to help, or develop, countermeasures against harmful activities. Followed by criminal justice, discussion turns to neuroses and creativity less desirable and considered even negative. In the end, the book turns to education to what can be done to help creativity become positive when identified as negative, and support teaching of decisions and choices we encounter in our lives and others.

I would highly recommend this book to read about an aspect of creativity that needs to be addressed. The dark side of creativity, whether unintentional or not, does exist, and more research needs to done. The title of the book is simple enough to understand, and gives a thorough treatment of the issues negative to creativity; the content deserves more respect and acknowledgement than is currently given. If you read a chapter every night before going to sleep, bedtime stories will never be the same again.

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