Participants and abstracts

Eeva Anttila works as a professor in dance pedagogy at Theatre Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki, Finland, and leads the MA program for dance pedagogy. She completed her Doctor of Arts degree in dance at the Theatre Academy, Finland in 2003. Her research interests include dialogical and critical dance pedagogy, embodied learning, embodied knowledge and practice-based/artistic research methods. During 2009-13 she lead a development and research project in collaboration titled “The entire school dances!” Anttila is actively involved in national and international dance and arts education organizations and journals. She served as the Chair of Dance and the Child International (2009–2012), and has published several articles and book chapters nationally and internationally. Anttila is co-editor of the International Journal of Education in the Arts and a member of the editorial board of the Nordic Journal of Dance: Practice, Education and Research. Currently she is involved in the ARTSEQUAL -research project (see

Randall Collins is Professor of Sociology Emeritus at University of Pennsylvania. His books include The Credential Society(1979), The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change(1998), Interaction Ritual Chains(2004), Violence: A Micro-sociological Theory(2008), and most recently a sociological novel, Civil War Two(2018).

Paper abstract: “Shakespeare’s Creativity: Networked Techniques for Transforming Older Plays into New Plays”

Shakespeare’s career took place in a network linking actors, playwrights, and theatrical production companies; and a network of aristocratic patrons and poets. Like creativity in philosophy and mathematics, new literature was created by reversal and recombination of previous elements: both from others’ plays and from one’s own previous plays.

Shakespeare transformed early bloody shockers into plots driven by complex villains and then self-destructive tragic heroes. A key resource for Shakespeare’s success was  searching through recent literary collections to extract plot elements that could be recombined according to the dramatic trends of contemporary theatre. Creativity is largely judicious recombination of previous literature by persons with network connections to those who have made previous success.

Ugo Corte is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the Department of Media and Social Sciences at the University of Stavanger in Norway. He received a Ph.D. in Sociology from Uppsala University and has been an Erik Allardt Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. His work has been published in journals like Sociological Theory (2017, 2017), the Social Psychology Quarterly (2013), Teaching Sociology (2017) and Music and Arts in Action (2008) among other outlets. He is co-editing a special issue of the Social Psychology Quarterly on the social psychology of creativity, and he is currently writing a book on the social world of big wave surfing (under contract with University of Chicago Press).

Paper abstract: “Binding Expectations: A Theory of Reciprocal Influence in Collaborative Circles”

Recent research has shown that creative advances in a field often cluster within collaborative circles, such that several members of the same circle make creative advances within a relatively short period of time. However, there is little research on the interaction processes that motivate such clustering of innovation. In this paper I use published interviews, biographical studies, and videotape of work sessions to examine a pioneering circle in skateboarding– The Bones Brigade, and to formulate a theory of binding expectations, a theory of reciprocal influence in collaborative circles. The cascade of innovations made by this group over a four-year period became the canon of skateboarding culture. Making use of case study data, I show how “push” and “pull” group pressures within the group led the members to match and attempt to exceed one another in doing creative work that culminated in stunts that the field now recognizes as breakthroughs. Once escalating reciprocity is established in a circle, members find themselves in an emotional force field characterized by shame if they lag behind (push), and respect and approbation if they keep up or exceed their peers’ performances (pull). Findings are pertinent to any field in which creative work is done within collaborative circles.

Michael P. Farrell received BA, MA, and PhD degrees from Yale University.  Currently he is professor, emeritus, of sociology and former associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University at Buffalo, SUNY. He is author of numerous articles on the group dynamics of families, work groups, and collaborative circles of artists and writers. His current research is focused on how properties of discipline networks and collaborative circles in the arts and sciences affect the creative work done by their members.

Paper abstract: Cascading Creativity in a Collaborative Circle: The Case of The Abstract Expressionist

One of the most remarkable episodes of creativity in any discipline occurred in the Abstract Expressionist (Ab Ex) circle between 1947 and 1949.  It was during this two-year period that the core members of the circle found their own distinctive “voice’s,” their signature styles of art.

The objective of this paper is to examine this period in the life course of the Ab Ex circle through the lens of three theories of the social interaction and interpersonal relations that accompany creative advances: Randall Collin’s theory of the effects of high status mentors on creativity; Ron Burt’s theory of the effects of bridging across structural holes on creativity; and Michael Farrell’s theory of periods of creativity during the life course of collaborative circles formed by marginal peers in a field.  Rather than focus on the cognitive processes or childhood development patterns associated with creativity, each of these theorists focus on the interpersonal relations and social interaction that surround a person as she or he does creative work.  Using journals, letters, interviews, and biographies, I reconstruct the friendship groups that formed within the network of painters and sculptors that lived and worked in Greenwich Village between 1935 and 1955, and examine how the interaction and interpersonal relations within and between the groups changed over time.   Findings suggest that while mentors and bridging played an important role in the early stages of the development of the members, peer interaction in a set of marginalized circles account for their “deviant” artistic styles and the timing at which the styles came to fruition.

Gary Alan Fine is the James E. Johnson Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University. He received his Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Harvard University. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies in Uppsala. His most recent book is Talking Art: The Culture of Practice and the Practice of Culture in MFA Education.

Paper abstract: The Culture of Practice and the Practice of Culture in MFA Education.

 Based on an in-depth analysis of the practice of the artistic critique, classwork, and other aspects of the visual arts curriculum at university-based art schools, I reveal how MFA programs have shifted the goal of creating art away from beauty and toward theory. Technique takes a back seat to the role of talk and identity in training students to be creative workers. Contemporary visual art today is no longer a calling or a passion—it’s a discipline with an academic culture that requires its practitioners to be verbally skilled in the presentation of their intentions. I suggest that it is the structure of universities that leads to this change in the goals and intentions in the making of art.

Henrik Fürst is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Uppsala University. His research is about careers, gatekeeping, and conditions for cultural production in creative industries. He has studied how uncertainty in the evaluationof unsolicited fiction manuscripts are handled by aspiring authors and publishers. He has recently been published in Acta Sociologica, Symbolic Interaction, and Valuation Studies.

Paper abstract: Sequences and Stories: A Model for Studying and Theorizing Artistic Careers

Artists in the culture producing industries are freelance workers who move between projects and temporary employment. A multitude of artists want to be engaged in the creative industries, but few have a continued career after their debut. Why do some artists have a continued career and others have not? An answer to this question would shed light on key workings of creative industries. In the end, the cultural goods produced and offered in society depend on why some artists and not others achieve a continued career.

A model for studying and theorizing artistic careers is suggested. Through statistical analysis, sequential career data is analyzed to identify typical career patterns among fiction writers. Analyzing writers’ stories about their own career sequences may also show how writers enact and create their literary careers through these stories. The project may, therefore, show how career sequences are structurally patterned for ‘success’ or ‘failure’ and how people act and react to these sequences to shape their future courses of action and thus the outcome of their careers. The research contributes to research on creative industries, freelance careers, and labor markets.

Alison Gerber (PhD 2014, Yale University) works on the intersection of value, culture, and public life, from tax audits to noise music. Her current research focuses on value and valuation processes in memory institutions; images and visual veracity across disciplinary contexts; and sensation and attention in scientific research.

Paper abstract: The Work of Art: Value in Creative Careers

Artists are everywhere, from celebrities showing at MoMA to locals hoping for a spot on a café wall. They are photographed at gallery openings in New York and Los Angeles, hustle in fast-gentrifying cities, and, sometimes, make quiet lives in Midwestern monasteries. Some command armies of fabricators while others patiently teach schoolchildren how to finger-knit. All of these artists might well be shown in the same exhibition, the quality of work far more important than education or income in determining whether one counts as a “real” artist. In this presentation, I explore these art worlds to investigate who artists are (and who they’re not), why they do the things they do, and whether a sense of vocational calling and the need to make a living are as incompatible as we’ve been led to believe. Based on research with artists across the United States, I show how patterns of agreements and disagreements are shared by art-makers from all walks of life. For professionals and hobbyists alike, the alliance of love and money has become central to contemporary art-making, and danger awaits those who fail to strike a balance between the two. By explaining the shared ways that artists account for their activities—the analogies they draw, the arguments they make—I reveal the common bases of value artists point to when they say: what I do is worth doing. I ask how we make sense of the things we do, and show why all this talk about value matters so much.

Antti Gronow is a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki. Gronow currently works in the research project Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks (COMPON). His research interests range from social network analysis to policy networks, environmental politics, and social theory.

Paper abstract: “The Compensatory Mechanism between Structural Folds and Divergent Valuation in Innovativeness”

Combining recent developments in network theory and the sociology of valuation, we propose that a group’s structural folds and divergent evaluative principles are substitutes in innovativeness. In order to test our proposition, we developed a scale to measure divergence of valuation in organizational cliques. Using data consisting of 280 cliques of 104 employees at a professional service firm, we tested whether structural folds and divergence of valuation are both positively associated with a group’s innovativeness, and their joint effect. We found that structural folds have a positive effect on innovativeness only when divergence of valuation is low. Furthermore, divergence of valuation contributes to innovativeness only with low levels of folding. These findings are explained by presenting a compensatory theory of structural folds and divergent valuation. To this end, the findings contribute both to the research on structural folds and innovativeness in network theory as well as the effects of valuation in social sciences.

Erkki Kilpinen is at present adjunct professor at the University of Helsinki, where he formerly has served as Professor and as Senior Lecturer, and held various research positions. In 2009-10 he held a Fellowship at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in Uppsala.

The theory of creative action (or more exactly: theory of the universal creativity of all action) that Hans Joas proposed more than 25 years ago, is often met with misunderstandings. This presentation will explain what its actual intention is, and how its claims for universality have received increasing support in recent years, from research domains outside the social sciences.

John N. Parker directs the US National Science Foundation programs on Science, Technology, and Society and on Cultivating Cultures for Ethical STEM. He is a sociologist whose research focuses on the sociology of science, knowledge, and emotion, and the pathways by which transformative scientific knowledge can be used to solve social and environmental problems. His articles on these topics have appeared in journals such as American Sociological Review,Sociological TheorySociological Methods & ResearchSocial Studies of Science, and Science, Technology, & Human Values.

 Paper Abstract: Social scientists have focused largely on understanding the social correlates of creativity but have failed to consider the different pathways by which collective creativity dissipates and decays. This talk will explore how and why collective creativity wanes using evidence from a particularly influential form of collective creativity – ‘theory groups.’ Theory groups are small, tightly networked research groups who through extended, intensely personal interaction produce, transmit, and work together to win acceptance of a new research program that deviates markedly from established scientific practice in their field. I will use multiple forms of qualitative data from a fifteen-year longitudinal investigation of a contemporary theory group, combined with historical data from past groups, to show how five main social processes destroy the high intensity small group dynamics that enable collective creativity within theory groups and lead to the death of the group as viable social and creative entity.

Keith Sawyer is an interdisciplinary researcher who studies creative group interactions. He has conducted empirical studies of jazz, improvised theater, children’s social play, and student groups. He uses rigorous qualitative methods to analyze the cultural models and interactional practices of these groups. He has developed a theoretical model of collaborative emergence to explain the shared processual and structural elements of improvising groups. In his current work, Dr. Sawyer is engaged in a multi-year study of the pedagogical beliefs and practices found in professional schools of art and design, as described in the project narrative. This analysis resulted in the identification of a highly articulated emergent theory that is found in two universities, and in both art disciplines and design disciplines, that he calls the studio model. He is currently analyzing this large body of data in the context of contemporary theories of creativity and learning.

Paper abstract: “Dialogic status in design education: Authority and peer relations in studio class conversations”

In this talk, I examine role enactment and status relationships in university design studio classrooms. I present several video excerpts of professor-student discourse, and I analyze them in the context of previous studies of learning and creativity. I argue that professors and students jointly establish and maintain an interactional frame in which they enact dialogic status: they simultaneously perform both an authority relationship and a peer relationship. I use conversation analysis to identify the interactional mechanisms that dialogically perform these two status relationships, and I show that the dialogic blend of authority and peer relationships continuously and frequently varies throughout reviews of student work. I draw on studies of creativity in education to argue that dialogic status enactment is an effective pedagogy for teaching and learning for design creativity.