Constructing the creative self
Radical Animal: what play tells us about culture, evolution, human potential and societal change
We live in a society which obsesses about ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’. Creativity is seen as the special ingredient that can improve any organisation or institution in our lives – something to be sprinkled over otherwise grey and moribund situations, somehow unlocking reserves of motivation in routinised employees.
Yet what so many of these initiatives fail to understand are the genuine and enduring conditions of human creativity, and what they imply for how we design our productive and civic lives. Evolutionary psychology, ethology/primatology and affective neuroscience all point to the behaviours and capacities gathered under the title of ‘play’ as the true seat of our creative lives.
Educationalists (and every parent) knows how inexhaustible the appetite for play is in children’s lives. Educational reform (for example, calls for a 3-7 play-based kindergarten system) is amassing multidisciplinary evidence to show how much later learning depends on a vigorous play-life at this crucial developmental stage.
But the same mind and body sciences also show that our ‘neotenic’ human natures – where we maintain youthful responsiveness throughout our adult life-span – afford many more opportunities for play (or its adult manifestations in culture, sports, technology, science, and so on). We are ‘radical animals’, in that sense. But are we radical enough about the societal structures that could support this ‘well-becoming’?
In this lecture, its title taken from his (and Indra Adnan’s) forthcoming book, Pat Kane will draw connections across a range of disciplines to make a different case for the ‘creative and innovative’ society – one that fully answers the powerful evolutionary call of play.
PAT KANE is a musician, writer, activist and consultant. His 2004 book The Play Ethic (www.theplayethic.com) became the basis of a global consultancy on issues of creativity, innovation and the power and potential of play. He was Rector of Glasgow University in the early 90s, a founding editor of The Sunday Herald newspaper in 1999, a leading figure in the Scottish independence campaign of 2012-14, and is currently curator of FutureFest in London (www.futurefest.org). He writes, sings and plays with his brother Gregory in the band ‘Hue And Cry’.