Creativity in everyday literacy practices: the contribution of an ethnographic approach
In this article, we explore creativity in everyday literacies. We argue that much creativity can be found in the seemingly mundane and repetitive acts of text production and text use that are part of everyday life and work. Such creativity, however, can only be identified if we look beyond the texts themselves and examine the practices of making and engaging with texts. Once we leave aside conventional text-based notions of creativity, which focus on aesthetic features of language, we can understand creativity as a ‘popular’ and ‘ubiquitous’ event. To support our argument, we give examples ...view middle of the document...
Creativity is not a concept which has so far enjoyed a great deal of focus in this work. Now that the socially situated nature of literacy practices has been established, it is of value to explore in more depth what this means for various aspects of our understandings of text in people’s lives.
This article explores creativity in everyday literacy practices. We have already explained that literacy practices are socially situated, and need to be understood in relation to their social contexts. However, this does not imply that they are socially determined. There is a great deal of creativity in the way people respond to the potentials and limitations of different social contexts, to produce and interact with written texts. As we have argued previously (Papen and Tusting 2006), by exploring practices involved in text production we can see that there is creativity even in seemingly routine or mundane literacy practices. We will give examples of this creativity from our own research, and explain how this can be understood in relation to the social practices and the social and cultural context in which the literacy-related activities are situated.
2. Understandings of creativity
There are many ways of being creative with written language. Only some of these, however, tend to be identified as important or legitimate forms of creativity. Banaji and Burn (2007: 62) suggest that the notion of ‘creativity’ is ‘constructed as a series of rhetorical claims’, and identify several rhetorics of creativity associated with different philosophical or political traditions. The first, ‘Creative Genius’, argues that creativity is a ‘special’ quality, associated with highly educated and talented individuals, and elite artistic and cultural products. This notion remains implicitly the dominant one in much of the discourse around creativity. It is close to what Craft (2001) calls ‘high’ creativity: the creation of something remarkable, new and original, unlike anything which has been made before. Such a creative product changes our perspective on the world. This position is challenged by the rhetoric which Banaji and Burn term ‘Democratic Creativity’, which shares the position that creativity is associated with artfulness, but highlights the existence of similar ‘creative’ aesthetic features in popular cultural products and patterns of cultural consumption.
Much research into creativity in language shares the focus on aesthetics of both ‘Creative Genius’ and ‘Democratic Creativity’. Academic studies of creativity often focus on aspects of language use which foreground Jakobson’s ‘poetic’ function (Jakobson 1960); that is, language which draws attention to its own form, through features such as parallelisms, repetition, rhyme and other sorts of ‘word play’ (Cook 2000, Carter 2004, and see Maybin and Swann forthcoming). This conceptualisation of creativity in relation to aesthetic and poetic features of language tends to lead to a position...