The Future of Creativity – A Scenario Planning Exercise

It was my first semester at Georgetown and I was ready to take on the world. I was ready to be overwhelmed with new ideas, new ways of thinking, and new information about the world around me. My mind was at its most open point.
It comes as no surprise that I was particularly drawn to the class, “How to Predict the Futures,” taught by Mike Nelson. I finished the class with an understanding of how hyper-creative ideas can sometimes redefine how one understands the future.
We learned the art of scenario planning. Alternate futures are ways of preparing oneself for four different types of futures which span from one extreme to another. Here’s an example.

a sample quadrant-style scenario plan

The planner picks two “drivers” that are the X and Y axes. The axes represent an increase or stagnation of that force. Therefore, the four resulting scenarios will be unique, which is important when preparing for the “unpredictable” future.
I decided to perform a scenario plan for the future of creativity. It is as follows.

no right reserved on this Future of Creativity map


Not With My I.P.: This scenario involves increased protection of work by creators and the copyright legal atmosphere remaining stagnant. In this future, creators will learn the benefit of protecting their works, and filing for infringement will thus become commonplace. Because the legal structure has not changed, the odds will be in the plaintiff’s favor because infringement will still have a vague definition. This scenario might see a bright-line redefining of the “fair use” policy (at least in the cultural sphere) so defendants can no longer use it as an excuse. Schools will teach copyright infringement protection rather than remixing, and creation will become increasingly silo-ed.

Lawyers or Creators? This future sees an increased protection of creative works by creators accompanied by the restructuring of copyright laws. This might include a wider-spanning fair use policy or a creative commons licensing system that is easier to understand and implement. In this case, creators will feel threatened by the new leniency defined by copyright restructuring, and they will start to protect and hide their creative works so that they will not be “stolen” in this free market.

Creative Commons 2.0: Characterized by an informed and willing sphere of creators who seek other informed modern creators with whom to collaborate, this scenario sees the adoption of Creative Commons attribution as a frequent, expected practice. The legal structure would change to decrease the copyright term to extend what’s available in the public domain. Users would feel more comfortable remixing what is available to them because they would know exactly what is available. What’s currently underground would become popular and new forms of creation would take the “underground” spot, generating new types of creative pursuits.

Cyber Prison: Assuming that copyright law will not change to adopt a more open approach to creative commons licensing or to decrease copyright term in order to expand the public domain, an atmosphere ripe for legal confusion is on the horizon. It seems that this is the direction in which we are headed based on academic-focused programs like Just Think’s emphasis on using what’s around students to create expressive, meaningful, and creative content. As I see it, these young students are learning how to remix with the available tools and technologies as a pedagogic method for understanding culture. If the student were to infringe, there’s little doubt he or she would actually be penalized based on the fair use defense.
The following quote, taken from The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy, describes why remixing is a valuable learning tool and how fair use supports it:

“Media production can foster and deepen awareness of the constructed nature of all media, one of the key concepts of media literacy. The basis for fair use here is embedded in good pedagogy.”

As students learn to use and recycle the creative culture around them, they will learn about this culture. These skills, in this scenario, are not quickly forgotten. Infringement suits will be swiftly awarded to those who instead forget, or were never taught, the regulations surrounding use and attribution.

To find out more about scenario planning, read Peter Schwartz’s book, The Art of the Long View.

I became a student of Communication, Culture and Technology at Georgetown over a year ago. At that time I had no idea that people cared about what I had to say, or, more specifically, about what I write. Truth be told, I still don't. What I know now is how important it is to care about what you write, and vice-versa. So I'll be posting these musings here. I look forward to your feedback; I ask my dog but I only get a tail wag - it's very nice but hardly constructive.