by adrianpark on September 27, 2011
[The progress of the project so far has been documented extensively in Evernote. This series of posts pulls together this documentation in a more coherent form and provides an account of the progress so far rather than the documentation itself]
I have recently become interested in the relationship between mental disorder – specifically schizophrenia – and creativity and have discovered some interesting parallels with my thinking around the Poetic Camera.
I am conscious that the relationship between mental disorder and creativity is topical, particularly in the realm of pop psychology. A quick review of literature on the topic is all that is required to reveal that this is a contentious, and sensitive, issue. I don’t intend to use my research to draw any conclusions nor make comment on the matter, but only to consider how current thinking may inform the development of the camera.
In the introduction to their article Relating Schizotypy and Personality to the Phenomenology of Creativity, Nelson and Rawlings summarise the discussion of their research as follows:
These findings indicate that “positive” schizotypy is associated with central features of “flow”-type experience, including distinct shift in phenomenological experience, deep absorption, focus on present experience, and sense of pleasure. The neurologically based construct of latent inhibition may be a mechanism that facilitates entry into flow-type states for schizotypal individuals. This may occur by reduced latent inhibition providing a “fresh” awareness and therefore a greater absorption in present experience, thus leading to flow-type states.
As suggested in previous posts on the Poetic Camera, my aim is to collapse the temporal divide between acquiring a photographic image and editing it further in the digital darkroom. I am aiming to create an experience in which the phenomenological exploration of the world, the interpretation of that experience and the recording of the perceptual response is unified and holistic – a “flow”-type experience. The aspects of this type of experience which Nelson and Rawlings describe – a “distinct shift in phenomenological experience, deep absorption, focus on present experience” – correspond exactly with features of the type of experience I would like to enable with the Poetic Camera, and also with the features typical of pinhole photography.
How might research on schizophrenia, particularly with regard to creativity, inform the design and development of the Poetic Camera?
In the same article, Nelson and Rawlings discuss in detail the concept of latent inhibition. They define it as:
Latent inhibition is a neurologically based concept that describes the phenomenon of attenuated attention to stimuli upon repeated exposure. It is based on the notion of a gating mechanism that allows organisms with complex nervous systems to cease responding to stimuli with no apparent motivational or emotional value.
The less effective this gating mechanism, the more latent inhibition is said to be reduced and the more the organism’s nervous system responds to external stimuli. Nelson and Rawlings state “reduced latent inhibition has been found to be characteristic of the schizophrenia spectrum” and “has also been found among creative individuals…and associated with personality traits that correlate highly with creativity.” They go on to observe “it has been suggested that reduced latent inhibition may facilitate creativity by allowing access to a greater inventory of unfiltered stimuli during early processing, thereby increasing the possibility of combining this information in an original manner.”
It may be argued that traditional camera devices respond to and process only one external stimuli – light. This may be thought of as a high latent inhibition. The Poetic Camera, in it’s current incarnation, forms an image over a period of time (it will almost certainly remain this way) and this provides ample opportunity for the device, and the output, to be exposed to multiple other stimuli, thereby reducing latent inhibition. Examples of stimuli it may respond to and which may influence the output are auditory noise, temperature, and movement, both of the device itself and within the scene in front of it.
Nelson and Rawlings go on to suggest “it is precisely this newness of appreciation, and the associated sense of exploration and discovery, that stimulates the deep immersion in the creative process, which itself may trigger a shift in quality of experience, generally in terms of an intensification or heightening of experience.” It is my hope that by understanding the nature of flow and creativity, especially as revealed through existing research on schizophrenia, and embedding these concepts into the device, it may better afford this type of experience when using it to explore and record the phenomenological world.
It is important to highlight at this point the Context Photography project by Ljungblad, Håkansson, Gaye, and Holmquist. The team built a application to run on Nokia 6600 and 6630 phones which used various sensors on the phone to map input to visual affects in the final still images in a manner very similar to that proposed above. One of the conclusions they arrived at through the project was that these “mappings and representations need to be thoroughly designed, but should still be open for the user to use, interpret and appropriate”. As part of the development and testing of the Poetic Camera, it is intended that the means to ensure any such mappings remain open tested. Needless to say, it is hoped that the Poetic Camera project builds on and adds another perspective to the Context Photography project.
Nelson, B., & Rawlings, D. (4 August 2008). Relating Schizotypy and Personality to the Phenomenology of Creativity. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 36, 388-399. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbn098