Our colleague Keith Sawyer recently commented on Katherine Gieuffre’s recent essay on the relationship of social network density to a population’s creativity. Given the lone soul mythos associated with many writers (such as Emily Dickinson, Paul Gauguin, and Charlotte Bronte), Gieuffre set out to compare the level of correspondence of many artist’s during their creative and non-creative periods. After a thorough weighing of the evidence, she conclues that “[i]t was not when the artists were alone…that they were most creative, but when they were attached to others in a more moderate way and when those others were close to each other, although, again, not so close as to form one cohesive group.” We encourage you all to read both Sawyer’s and Gieuffre’s thoughts on the matter, as it shows that creativity thrives in a dense (though not viscous) medium of collaboration.
To whet your appetite we have reproduced the abstract from Gieuffre’s abstract below:
“Social scientists investigating the attributes associated with creativity have for the most part confined their research to the study only of creative people. This re- search attempts to compare creativity with non-creativity by comparing creative with non-creative periods in the lives of three famously isolated creators (Emily Dickinson, Paul Gauguin, and Charlotte Brontë) to argue that the social networks of the individuals are different during creative periods than during non-creative periods. By using the correspondence of each of the artists to construct social networks, it is possible to analyze the artist’s relationships with regard to density and betweenness and to compare those across creative and non-creative time periods. The average network density of the first order zone network around each of the artists was 0.475 during periods of creativity. There was no correlation with a particular betweenness score.”