Good artists copy, great artists steal. Borrowing, remixing and stealing is an important part of the creative process.
You can steal something very literal such as the idea to paint a ballerina.
Or you can steal something abstract, such as a style or view of the world. (This is an analysis stolen from a NYTimes article)
We prototyped a website for remixing abstract AND literal aspects of creativity. The site is called “Inspired By…” Our plan is that every week, we issue a challenge of something to sketch. We chose sketches because images are faster to consume than text or video. Users may:
- Contribute an original sketch
- Submit a sketch that acknowledges an influencing sketch
- Label elements of the sketch using hashtags. This includes:
- Literal elements: #computer, #stickfigure, #words
- Abstract elements: #simplified, #futuristic
By explicitly naming more abstract elements such as the gestalt of the image, we hope that users will remix the abstract elements just as they do the literal elements.
The design for “Inspired By..” was born from creativity exercises our group did during CrowdCamp. We completed three challenges – sketching a logo for UIST, sketching a logo for CrowdCamp, and writing a verse of a song. We observed our own process of creativity, and how we were influenced by the designs of others and the explanations of those designs. We then designed (although didn’t build) a website called “Inspired By…” that could enable us to collaborate as effectively if we were remote.
The image above shows how our group could have complete the UIST logo sketching contest if we had used ”Inspired By..”
- The first user, Scott Batemen, contributed 3 original sketches and labeled them with the literal elements they contained such as #hand, #human, and #computer. He also included more philosophical descriptions such as evoking the idea of “freeing ourselves from traditional UIs.”
- The second user, Greg Little, riffed on Scott’s abstract idea of freeing ourselves from a traditional UI by having an image that places a human inside the monitor and controlling himself.
- The winning post started as a simple logo with the #words “UIST” done by Greg Little. Greg Little riffed on his own image by making the #words more #flowing. Another user, Lydia Chilton, #simplified that image and added the comment that it was evocative of rockets and was #futuristic.
Our inspirations for “Inspired By..” were Scratch and Lolcatz. Scratch encourages children to remix computer programs written by other children and clearly shows the trail of influence. Lolcatz is the internet trend of taking an image of a cat and changing the caption. Both of these demonstrate the importance and ease of remixing literal elements. However, ”Inspired By…” encourages remixing of literal AND abstract ideas.
Note: CrowdCamp is a weekend-long hackathon focusing on rapidly iterating crowd ideas. At CSCW 2013, 40 people participated in CrowdCamp. Their results will be summarized on the blog.