Participatory Creativity in Practice

Lecture Series in Creativity and Innovation, hosted by the Webster Center for Creativity and Innovation (WCCI) 

March 19

LLC Commons Room, Webster University Geneva

Presentation by Dr. Michael Hanchett Hanson, Teachers College, Columbia University, USA, followed by a networking reception.

This event is free but we request that you please register here.

About the event

A leading edge in creativity theory are newly emerging participatory approaches. Theorists advocating this approach have argued that we should move away from the ideological commitments to extreme individualism that have characterized much of creativity research. At the same time, we should not abandon the central question that the construct of creativity has raised: the relationship between agency and change.

At the level of theory, this may sound good, and debunking the genius myth in relation to “great ones” is actually not difficult. What does the participatory approach work in the real world, though? To consider this question, Dr. Hanchett Hanson will describe five years of research on a theater-based program for adolescents in New York City. In this program, teenagers from across New York City come together to build a full-scale musical based on their life stories. The result is a moving and hard-hitting work of art, addressing such issues as sexual abuse, gang violence, drug abuse, depression, homophobia and the nature of community and love. The process is creative, and participants call the experience “transformative.” The practical questions for us: why and how is this transformation occurring? Individualist creativity theories would seem to apply at first glance but ultimately fail to explain key aspects of the program’s structure and outcomes. Participatory models, in contrast, fit the data better and give a richer description of how the program works. Through this analysis we can see how the participatory lenses can change research and practice in a program designed to facilitate creative development, as well as a number of related outcomes.

After reviewing this case through the lens of participatory creativity, Dr. Hanchett Hanson will reflect on how the lessons from this research can apply to other contexts, such as businesses and more traditional educational settings. He joins other theorists who see “creativity,” not a thing within people or the world, but as a powerful value that has come to characterize personal and social life. How we choose to conceive of this value and the practices that we associate with it have many practical implications.


Speaker Biography


MICHAEL HANCHETT HANSON is a psychologist and Director of the Masters Concentration in Creativity and Development at Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Hanchett Hanson is one of the leading advocates for participatory views of creativity. Working with colleagues internationally, he has helped articulate these views, which emphasize the diversity of roles people take up as participants in change, the importance of social traditions to our concepts of creative agency, and the limits of earlier views of creativity as decontextualized individualism.

He has written on the use of ironic thinking in creative work; the history of the construct of creativity within psychology; the ideological uses of the construct; the uses of creative practices in the construction of the self, and the pragmatic uses of creativity by individuals and groups. In particular, Dr. Hanchett Hanson has written about the pros and cons of educators’ use of the construct of creativity. In his recent book, Worldmaking: Psychology and the Ideology of Creativity (2015, Palgrave Macmillan), he provided an analysis of the history of the concept of creativity within psychology and the emergence of the new participatory views, with emphasis on opportunities in educational practices.

He strongly believes in the grounding of theory within real-world practice. He has conducted extensive research on both school-based and community-based programs that use arts as a modality of teaching, including the Guggenheim Learning through Art program, the American Architectural Foundation Better Schools Through Design program and The Possibility Project (theater-based youth development). He has also consulted specifically on curriculum design for arts organizations, youth development programs, individual schools, boards of education and corporations.

Dr. Hanchett Hanson received his BA in architecture from Yale University and his PhD in developmental psychology from Teachers College.

This event is free but we request that you please register here.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Webster Geneva Campus, LLC Commons Room
Route de Collex 9 1293 Bellevue, Switzerland

Event Type

Global Campuses, Geneva


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