Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

How’s your year of 2019?

When 2019 began I suggested making it the year or attention and creativity. How’s is it going for you?

Photo from 25sweetpeas.com
Photo from 25sweetpeas.com

I began reading Csikszentmihalyi’s book on ”Creativity” and he speaks about the relation between attention and creativity at the introductory chapter. He says,

“… consider the price we must pay for creativity to occur. It takes effort to change traditions.… memes must be learned before they can be changed”

Memes are units of information we must learn for a culture to endure throughout the ages. And creativity is a process by which the symbols in a culture change. But it depends on your learnability developed in your learning mind. However,

“ if we want to learn anything, we must pay attention to the information to be learned. And attention is a limited resource. There is just so much information we can process at any given time.”

When Csikszentmihalyi wrote his book in 1996, the internet had just begun. And culture was far from the enormous amount of information we produce by the minute.

“The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it.” (Galadriel, Lord of the Rings)

We count on our smartphones and the power of the internet to remember phone numbers, addresses, codes… all kinds of memes. And immersed all the time in the net, we let our attention be consumed by screen time and all sorts of distractions. We begin to forget things and don’t even realize it.

But as Csikszentmihalyi says,

“ To achieve creativity in an existing domain, there must be surplus attention available.”

If we gradually lose our attention, we run the risk of losing the one thing that makes us unique as a species. Our creativity. We need to do something to ensure our cultural evolution. Csikszentmihalyi suggests that

“ in cultures that are uniform and rigid, it takes a greater investment of attention to achieve new ways of thinking. In other words, creativity is more likely in places where new ideas require less effort to be perceived.”

We have to take care of our creative environment. I find the excess of digital noise one of the sources of cultural pollution, but I recognize the digital space as a great human achievement with the potential to be a cultural creative garden. But I think there is another place. Our mind.

Stimulating mind-wandering with boredom moments is a simple way to form small habits allowing the flow of ideas. Having said that, how’s your year resolutions going?

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

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