Workshop on Creativity Support Tools
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Workshop on Creativity Support Tools
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Sponsored by the National Science Foundation

June 13-14, 2005, Washington, DC


  Ben Shneiderman, University of Maryland (Co-Chair)

  Gerhard Fischer, University of Colorado (Co-Chair)

  Mary Czerwinski, Microsoft Research

  Brad Myers, Carnegie-Mellon University

  Mitch Resnick, MIT Media Lab

Creativity Support Tools, is a topic with high risk but potentially very high payoff.  We will organize a 25-30 person workshop to bring leading academic and industrial researchers together to share experiences, identify opportunities, and formulate a research agenda.

Innovation, discovery, exploration, and creativity are potent terms in academic communities such as the data mining, knowledge discovery, information visualization, search interfaces, product design, and collaboration technologies.  Consulting companies claim expertise and software entrepreneurs promote products with little more than testimonial support.  A small number of cognitive and computer scientists, information systems researchers, and industrial designers have begun to develop theories and software tools that may have widespread benefits, but their work could be dramatically accelerated.  At the same time there is a long history of collaborative projects between technologists and artists, musicians, poets, and writers that are inspiring new tools.

The potential for enhancing human creativity has long been a theme of some visionary types such as Edward DeBono whose ‘lateral thinking’ ideas have had a warm reception, internationally, but a cool reception from academics.  During the past decade respected psychologists who work on creativity, such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (his books are the widely cited Creativity (1996) and Finding Flow(1997)) and Robert Sternberg (his remarkable edited collection is the Handbook of Creativity (1999)) have drawn popular and academic interest.  This work provides useful intellectual foundations concerning motivations, strategies, and assessment for human creative work. However, we propose to extend this work by focusing on software tools that promote, accelerate, and facilitate creativity.  We see compelling opportunities for applications in the sciences, engineering, medicine, knowledge work, humanities, arts, and beyond.

Creativity has been rightly recognized as a key to economic growth and social transformation in the well-document analysis by Richard Florida (2002), The Rise of the Creative Class and How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. Ben Shneiderman’s Leonardo’s Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies (2002) attempts to show how more people could become more creative more of the time.  Indeed, many commentators, including the National Academy of Sciences report Beyond Productivity: Information Technology, Innovation and Creativity (2003), have argued that the challenge for the 21st century is to “work smarter, not harder.”

We believe the workshop on creativity support tools could:

(1) Accelerate the process of disciplinary convergence: Creativity support tool research must bridge multiple disciplines including psychology, human-computer interaction, information systems, information visualization, and software engineering.  Researchers from one discipline rarely reference outside their discipline, thereby failing to take advantage of progress already made by others. Promoting awareness of interdisciplinary work would accelerate progress for all and improve quality.

(2) Promote rigorous research methods: The commercial promoters of current creativity support tools emphasize testimonials rather than research results.  Attempts to apply controlled experimentation have been only marginally successful, because lab-like settings and toy-like tasks are fundamentally at odds with the goals of innovative thinking.  Rigorous research methods in creativity research will have to be developed because insight, discovery, and innovation are so difficult to assess. Researchers will benefit from development of appropriate benchmark tasks and replicable evaluation methods.

(3) Increase the ambitiousness of research programs: Creativity support researchers have proposed theoretical frameworks and innovative ideas that are slowly being refined through testing with small groups of users.  With increased funding these projects could grow and researchers could grapple with more significant design issues. Also establishing an effective community of researchers will enable more extensive collaborations and support larger scale projects.

We believe that we know enough about creativity methods to integrate these concepts into many software tools.  Such tools are one of computer science’s most fruitful contributions, amplifying the skills of millions of users of word processors, email, web browsers, spreadsheets, data management, graphics.  Current tools are merely the first generation, which now can be enhanced with richer creativity support features.

This two-day workshop of 25-30 people will create a seed for a community of practice, encourage inclusion of issues in existing curricula, and develop a research agenda.  We will solicit participation of leading researchers and get graduate student participation to bring a new generation of researchers to this topic.

Outcomes would be a report (1) describing the current state of research in several disciplines, (2) identifying future research directions, and (3) proposing ways to create greater interest among researchers, students, and industrial developers.  This report would likely be published in an appropriate journal on human-computer interaction.

Confirmed participants of the workshop:

Arias, Ernesto University of Colorado
Candy, Linda University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
Czerwinski, Mary Microsoft Research
Eden, Hal University of Colorado
Edmonds, Ernest University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
Ehn, Pelle University of Malmö
Eisenberg, Michael University of Colorado
Fischer, Gerhard University of Colorado
Florida, Richard Author of “The Rise of the Creative Class”
Freeman, Peter National Science Foundation
Gero, John University of Sydney
Giaccardi, Elisa University of Plymouth,UK
Greenspan, Sol National Science Foundation
Guimbretiere, Francois University of Maryland, College Park
Hewett, Tom Drexel University
Jennings, Pamela Carnegie Mellon University
Ko, Andy Carnegie Mellon University
Kules, Bill University of Maryland, College Park
Maeda, John MIT Media Lab
Myers, Brad Carnegie Mellon University
Nakakoji, Kumiyo University of Tokyo
Nunamaker, Jay Univ. of Arizona
Olson, Gary University of Michigan
Pausch, Randy Carnegie Mellon University
Pazzani, Michael National Science Foundation
Resnick, Mitchel MIT Media Lab
Selker, Ted MIT Media Lab
Shneiderman, Ben University of Maryland, College Park
Streitz, Norbert Fraunhofer Institute
Sylvan, Elisabeth MIT Media Lab
Terry, Michael Georgia Tech
Whang, Kenneth National Science Foundation
Zemankova, Maria National Science Foundation

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