This week the University of Edinburgh is hosting the ‘Creative and Cultural Careers Festival’ (CCCF), a misleadingly titled, week-long festival promoting ‘creative’ careers. This does not only include fields such as art and music, which are regarded as ‘creative’ in the traditional sense of involving an act of creation, but other careers such as journalism or museum curation. These arbitrary classifications are damaging not only to the jobs that they label as ‘creative’, allowing them to be superseded by more serious or ‘fact-based’ professions, but also to the careers that are excluded, which could benefit from a greater focus on creativity and innovation.
Degrees in music and art at university are among the most difficult to get into, but are often the first to be dismissed as trivial and frivolous – the implication being that they could not possibly lead to a career. While both of these subjects obviously require a great deal of creativity, categorising them on this basis overlooks the amount of fact-based study which is necessary, and fails to recognise the degree of skill required to succeed in the courses themselves, and as a further career.
Furthermore, this labelling can cause different problems for other ‘creative’ fields. If creativity is defined as involving the creation of new things, then it should also include subjects such as engineering. However, the CCCF instead includes fields such as museum work or journalism, where the concept of creation could create a damaging reputation. With the increase of so-called ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’, the line between journalism and creation has become blurred. Although there is scope for creativity in works of satire, for example, there is little or no room for creation in a traditional news article. Journalism is about the pursuit of the truth, fact finding and research. To prioritise creativity over research is detrimental to how aspiring student journalists might think about their future careers, and does not prepare them for the reality of the news industry.
If some careers can be harmed by being classified as creative, then other fields can be limited through a disassociation with creativity. From early innovations like vaccination, to the Webb Space Telescope which is meant to launch this spring, creativity and invention has been the driving force of scientific and technological discovery ever since they began.
The CCCF week, then, which presents opportunities for students at Edinburgh who want to go into TV, film, fashion, music, museum curation, publishing or art (to name a few of the ‘creative careers’ advertised) is a positive event. However, these opportunities for learning more about future careers could just as easily be achieved without imposing an unnecessary dichotomy between creative and non-creative careers.
Similarly, the idea of encouraging creativity in general is important. The last event of the CCCF is entitled ‘Questioning Creativity’, and the description poses the question: “Can any career be creative?”. To answer this question then, it is not only true that any career can be creative, but also that they should be. By focusing on creativity as an important skill in every job, it would become possible to define its usefulness in science, whilst also acknowledging its limits in history and journalism. Rather than forming assumptions about the role and power of creativity, it should be more widely discussed in order to convey its full potential.
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