The creative block of the contemporary research university and the collective imagination

Murphy, Peter (2012) The creative block of the contemporary research university and the collective imagination. In: 2012 Higher Education Creativity Conference. pp. 7-21. From: 2012 Higher Education Creativity Conference, 11-14th June 2012, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China.

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There are ever-more, ever-larger research universities across the world. These, though,are characterised by waning conceptual vigour and creativity. More, it turns out, means less. There is strong empirical evidence for this, which the paper elaborates. The decline in the short-run extends from the late 1980s. In a much more sweeping historical sense, it extends from the late 1920s. It affects both the arts and the sciences. Having reviewed the empirical indicators of decline, which are striking, the paper goes on to explore the more testing question of what it is that explains the decline. It briefly reviews the larger social conditions for high-level creativity. It suggests a number of key factors that stimulate and deflate the collective social imagination. What this supposes is that the creative power of societies, and key institutions, including universities, waxes and wanes over time. It is cyclical. While the expressions of this are different in different national settings the outcome is much the same across the board when we focus on high-level creation. This means that, in truth, our era is not a very interesting one. This is so no matter how much money is spent on universities and no matter how many students they enrol and no matter how many PhDs are produced. To offset this narrative of decline, the paper sets out a model of the causes of creative surges in the arts and sciences. The paper discusses the central role that objection-creation and paradox play in this. We know when the collective imagination is roused. The desire for object-creation is widespread. This is accompanied by a pervasive love of form, pattern and figure and the correlated command of irony, metaphor and apposition. Societies and eras that master such media of imagination on a large scale exhibit a high degree of inventiveness in the arts and sciences, a formidable scale of innovation and entrepreneurialism in business, and produce ingenious models of social prosperity. The paper asks what kind of university would fit into this picture. The answer is a university that is dominated by an ethos of objection-creation rather than one of dissemination. As the paper suggests, that is a lot easy to say than to achieve.

Item ID: 23141
Item Type: Conference Item (Research - E1)
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Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2013 03:32
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1301 Education Systems > 130103 Higher Education @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 50%
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