Steven Johnson and Creativity

Meg sent me this short YouTube promotion for Steven Johnson's upcoming book on creativity. Its worth the time. My one-line response: one book's distraction is one browser's connection.

I like this talk because I've been thinking of Richard Miller's recent discussion of "slow reading" (which I discovered browsing through Facebook, and then browsing over at the Blogora). From what I gather, Miller developed the idea out of Roland Barthes' Pleasure of the Text (in my quick searching, I couldn't find anything by Miller on this subject, but I did find a recent ADE Bulletin article by Jonathan Culler on Close Reading). From what I gather from reading about it, Miller's idea is for students to read one book over the course of the semester (about 15 pages a week). There's no pre-planned syllabus, student assignments develop from the reading on an idiosyncratic basis, negotiated by teacher and student. As a commenter on Facebook gestured, I have a fun time thinking about how USF's recently minted "Office of Assessment" would respond to such an idea (but I dwell in a completely enframed, technological, bureaucratic UNIverse). Such an idea, however, seems connected to the premise of Johnson's upcoming book--that great ideas are a result of careful contemplation and chaotic encounter.

Thankfully, today, our libraries provide opportunity for both.


fabulous said...

Culler may mention Pleasure of the Text, but Miller didn't while giving the talk here (though he may be influenced by Barthes, I have no idea). Slow reading, though, wasn't posed so much as close reading, but taking the time to explore and investigate allusions, references, context, etc. In the end, there is a type of quest to discover meanings one wouldn't if reading for coverage. This reading, though, produces a writing methodology - now we see, for instance, how Sontag wrote On Photography, let's do our own writing on a subject.

Insignificant Wrangler said...

Thanks fabulous. I didn't have time to read the Culler piece yet, but my feeling from a quick skim is that he's probably going to try and rehabilitate it to mean something closer to what you posit here then what I, a product of a small New England liberal arts University, was trained to do (dissect and explicate a poem with attention to literary techniques and prosody). I do like the emphasis you place here on reading as a path to invention--this is something I try to enforce in my Expository Writing as Digital Citizenship (blogging) classes, and why I like using They Say, I Say as the text for that class.