Affect, Creativity, and Place

Monday, October 22, 2012

Speaker: Alison Williams

Title: Affect, Creativity and Place: Their interrelationship in distributed and collocated work

When: Monday, October 22nd at 12:30pm
Where: HCDE Large Conference Room (Sieg Hall, Room 420)

Abstract: This presentation looks at the interrelationship between physical environment or press, distributed and collocated creativity, and affect.

Anecdotally people have long sensed the importance of place to the creative process. However the impact of the physical environment on people's ability to be optimally creative has only now, in the past decade, started to receive detailed research attention. I propose that the physical press has a mediated impact on creative behavior and that the discrete elements that create this impact can be identified and codified as a visuospatial grammar. Building on recent work done in the field, and on earlier theories of pattern language and shape grammar, I present a grammar of creative workplaces.

I call forward affect as the grammar's meaning. This meaning results from the ordering of the grammar's lexis (the creative properties of place) through its syntax (creative behaviors). I demonstrate that physical press has an impact on socio-emotional interaction and hence particularly on group creativity. An awareness of the affective impact of physical press on creativity is, I suggest, essential in supporting distributed as well as collocated working. Creativity in distributed groups, seen in terms of complex systems, is an iterative creative process that loops between the individual and the group, generating creative resonance. Physical press is a key component in fostering and supporting this iterative creativity. In this presentation I examine how the grammar supports creativity in distributed groups, referencing previous work on distributed creativity and affect.

Designer in Residence with responsibility for design of SMARTlab environment University College Dublin, SPIRES Research Assistant, Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh.

A grammar of creative workplaces, Alison Williams' doctoral study on the interrelationship between physical space, creativity and collaboration, is grounded in her professional practice as a specialist in organizational creativity. As an independent consultant, Alison has worked for over twenty years with individuals, teams and departments in organizations as diverse as UK government departments, multinational manufacturing and engineering companies, advertising companies, whisky distilleries, universities, schools and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Alison has been an honorary lecturer in creativity at the Universities of Strathclyde and of Abertay, designing and delivering an undergraduate seminar programme (thinking for creativity) in Strathclyde University. She is currently Designer in Residence for SMARTlab, University College Dublin, and RA for SPIRES (supporting people who investigate research environments and spaces) in Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh.

Alison is one of 12 invited international participants at the Learning Spaces Collaboratory symposium ( in Michigan, October 2012. The symposium (funded by the John Sloane Foundation) will explore the impact of physical space on undergraduate creativity, and make recommendations towards the final report.