Richard Florida?s The Rise of the Creative Class and Joy Malnar and Frank Vodvarka?s Sensory Design

Richard Florida?s The Rise of the Creative Class and Joy Malnar and Frank Vodvarka?s Sensory Design
Of all my positive attributes, creativity is not one of them. I think of creativity as the ability to come up with new things, using one?s imagination to create beauty, induce laughter, and/or provoke emotion. My jokes are always corny, my drawing skills are comparable to a toddler?s, and I suck at telling stories. ?Creative? definitely does not describe me.
Richard Florida, in The Rise of the Creative Class, describes creativity as a separate entity from intelligence, and I totally agree. He also describes it as something acquired through experience. I have always been a nerd, but that doesn?t make me a creative genius?and my tunnel vision hasn?t helped either. Florida mocked me with these words: ?Creativity is favored by an intellect that has been enriched with diverse experiences and perspectives.?

I thought that creativity was something you were born with, and that I just wasn?t present when God was giving it out. Florida describes that theory as the ?romantic myth of creative genius,? and says that creativity is inherent in all people. Ordinary abilities foster creativity. I never thought of it that way.

Richard Florida also goes on to say that creativity is energy-absorbing, tiring work. To come to think of it, it can be very laborious. My husband likes to design clothing, and sometimes he stares into space for hours daydreaming. Suddenly, he?d sprint into the bedroom, grab his notebook and start drawing. He could eat up a whole pencil, eraser and all, for that one drawing. Beads of sweat would form on his brow, and the nerve in the middle of his forehead would protrude. And I?d know to keep our daughter away and leave him at peace. You see, I think my husband is creative. He?s got a great sense of humor, and he?s an artist.

Geniuses like Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison were not only smart, but they also devised new theories, solved mathematical mysteries, and pioneered new gadgets. So, I learned from Florida, you CAN be book-smart and creative at the same time. On the other hand, creativity is so demanding that many geniuses throughout history remained single, without spouses or children. That sounds a lot like the lives of many doctors and lawyers today.

Another interesting point raised about creativity is that it is a social process. ?Creativity flourishes best in [an environment]?that is stable enough to allow continuity of effort, yet diverse and broad-minded enough to nourish creativity in all its subversive forms.? Going back to the example about my husband, after scribbling and erasing for what seems like hours, he would call me over to him and ask me what I think about his work. Only after my opinion would the work seem satisfactory to him. So creativity must be perceived as a good thing by a second or third or fourth person before it is approved by the creator. Even when I think something I say is funny, it goes into the corny-joke dump if no one else laughs.

Finally, I was struck by the view of creativity from the economic standpoint. Creativity drives forward movement in the economy. It?s like what I?m learning in marketing class. Long ago in ancient times, recorded music was played back on LP?s. Then someone thought of making this music portable and longer-lived, so the audio cassette was born. Years later, humans got bored with cassette tapes ?vomiting? into the player and going bad, so the CD was born. Now we can enjoy our music on MP3s. All of these ?upgrades? are examples of creative innovations. TV, radio and billboard ads have to be creative enough to spark interest in a prospective customer. Each season, new fashions have to be creative enough for buyers to actually go out and buy them instead of choosing what?s already in their closets. Creativity is all around us, and it?s not only in the painters, musicians, and software designers. It?s also in the kindergarteners, stay-at-home moms, and library-dwelling geeks, too.

Sensory Design

The pages I read of Sensory Design reminded me of my middle school?s broadcast journalism teacher. We did this exercise once, in which he asked us to define some simple words, including the word ?apple.? Each student gave his/her definition, but he could name a fruit that fit the same description every time. None of the definitions was quite the right one for an apple. He said, ?You can?t tell an apple until you see one.? This relates directly to what Malnar and Vodvarka explained as tactile experience. Unless you actively touch a surface, you won?t know if it?s hard or soft, smooth or rough, wet or dry.

Malnar and Vodvarka explain something called the statolith theory. Statoliths are stabilizing organs in the brain, and when a walking path is uneven, the statoliths are repositioned to a sensitive position which thereby heightens the awareness of the person walking on the path. So the position, surface and level of the ground you walk on force you to pay attention. As the class walked through the butterfly rainforest, I did become more alert as we turned corners and descended/ascended slopes.

Reading Sensory Design gave me some ideas about how to design our garden for the blind. These ideas will be outlined in the following paragraphs.

Garden for the Blind *I can see the garden in my mind. I hope I can do a good job describing it.

From entrance to exit, there needs to be some sort of handrail to guide visitors through. I?d like it to be not the traditional metal handrails, but short marble walls rounded at the edges. The marble could be engraved with forest art: trees, flowers, river, etc. And descriptions of different plants and ?maps? in Braille could extend from the wall away from the path, of course. Does that make sense? I need to have some reflective surfaces?I?ll explain why later. I?d like a path made of smooth stones?bumpy but not dangerously so. I?d like a winding path that leads to and around a fountain. The fountain should have benches around it for people to sit and mingle and relax.

From the fountain the path should lead to a gazebo-like structure, on the southern part of the garden. A large one, like a stage, where live groups can play music and sing, people can tell stories or read poems. Open in the direction of the fountain, like an amphitheater, sort of. Sound travels up the hill. Can you see this? I?m no architect, so I don?t know the technical words to describe what I see in my mind. Seats made of rust-proof metal maybe. Arranged like in a theater. Only a couple of rows, a total of 6 benches maybe. 12 people can sit and enjoy performances, and others can hear while wandering through the garden. Some sound can reflect off the marble walls and the stones?catch my drift?

Flora I?d like for the entrance to be lined with fragrant plants, to stir the senses early in the experience. Some mint and lavender bushes along the path entering the garden should work. Down where the ?gazebo? will be, I?d like some cocoa plants, anise shrubs, and maybe some vanilla, if possible. The senses of hearing and smell will be stimulated in this area.

I?m not really picky about what plants should be included in the garden or where they should be placed, but I think it would be interesting to have different areas stimulating different senses. For instance, we could have the flora set up in three different phases. Phase 1, closer to the entrance, could feature plants that predominantly stimulate the sense of smell: herbs, jasmine, banana shrubs, lilacs, etc. Phase two, the middle part, around the fountain for instance, could have plants that stimulate touch: glory bush, lamb?s ear, weeping ilex, etc, where visitors can enjoy the textures of different plants while enjoying the refreshing sounds and mist from the fountain. Near the ?gazebo? we could place some citrus trees and rosebushes out of reach. Since people will be more into the music, they might not venture to touch these thorny plants; we?ll put warnings up in Braille anyway so they won?t touch them.

Some details about the ?gazebo?/stage structure. Could it be outlined on the outside with a gate-like fixture, so vines can grow on it? We could put some fragrant vine or other, like creeping wintergreen. When someone looks at it from a bird?s eye view or from behind, they should see all green. The structure should be made of some reflective material, maybe concrete, with a hardwood floor. Or maybe it could be made all in wood. I don?t know what limits there are to architecture. It needs to allow good sound projection even without microphones.

I?m apprehensive about where to put trees in the garden, because I don?t want the music to be absorbed by their bark. I can see a few near the fountain, camphor and crepe myrtle. The fountain could possibly be tucked away in a thicket of trees. It seems like we?d need more land for what I?m imagining though. If this is possible, then the fountain area would be more peaceful, an escape from outside sounds, an area for meditation maybe. That would be cool.

Can you visualize these images? More importantly, can you smell the flowers and hear the music? Can you feel the coolness of the fountain as you meditate in quietude? Can you feel the cool marble as it guides you along? Can you tell where there is a description of the plant you smell? Can you tell when the road is going to turn by reading the ?map?? If you can sense these things like I can, then we are on our way to building the perfect garden.

Richard Florida?s The Rise of the Creative Class and Joy Malnar and Frank Vodvarka?s Sensory Design 8.6 of 10 on the basis of 4359 Review.