La soledad: un ingrediente clave de la creatividad / How loneliness conducts to creativity

POR MAR ABAD Original source

Una novela gráfica sobre Glenn Gould explora la vida y la obra de este genio de la música que amaba sus momentos a solas

 Glenn Gould se encerraba en su soledad para componer sus piezas. Ahí nadie molestaba. Este genio de la música clásica (1932-1982) vivía en un espacio interior tan profundo que un día de sol radiante vio algo insospechado: «Creía firmemente que todo el mundo compartía mi pasión por el cielo nublado», dijo el canadiense. «Me sorprendió mucho darme cuenta de que algunas personas preferían el sol».

La soledad siempre fue un buen lugar para crear. Isaac Asimov sólo concebía trabajar envuelto en su aislamiento. Pensaba que esos momentos eran farragosos y la presencia de otras personas sólo podía entorpecer la concentración. «Mi sensación es que todo lo relacionado con la creatividad requiere aislamiento», escribió en un artículo titulado ¿Cómo surgen las nuevas ideas? «La persona creativa está trabajando continuamente. Su mente está procesando información en todo momento. Incluso cuando no es consciente de ello. Es muy conocido, por ejemplo, el caso de August Kekulé. El químico seguía pensando en la estructura del benceno mientras dormía».

Hemingway decía que la escritura era un acto privado, que requería soledad y concentración. El austriaco Stefan Zweig se desplazaba a pequeños pueblos en Francia, donde no conocía a nadie, para escribir sus novelas. El filósofo polaco Wincenty Lutoslawski, a principios del siglo XX, se trasladó a lugar remoto para escribir sobre Platón. Fue a Mera, una isla gallega a la que sólo se podía llegar en barco siempre que el viento y las olas lo permitieran.

Incluso Sherlock Holmes trabajaba así. Era una sensación placentera, según deslizó el creador de este personaje, Arthur Conan Doyle, en El perro de los Baskerville. En esa historia, un día, el detective «regresó a su sitio con esa tranquila mirada de satisfacción interior que significa que tenía una tarea agradable por delante», y preguntó a su ayudante.

—¿Se marcha, Watson?

—A no ser que pueda serle de ayuda.

—No, mi querido amigo, es en el momento de la acción cuando busco su ayuda. (…) No me importaría si usted considerara conveniente no volver antes del anochecer. Para entonces sí me gustaría cambiar impresiones sobre este problema tan interesante que se nos ha presentado esta mañana.

Watson pasó el día en un club y, al anochecer, volvió en busca de Holmes. Al salir de la habitación, el ayudante pensaba para sí: «Sabía que la soledad y el retiro eran muy necesarios para mi amigo en esas horas de intensa concentración mentaldurante la cual sopesaba cada partícula de evidencia, construía teorías alternativas, equilibraba una con otra y decidía cuáles eran los puntos esenciales y cuáles los que carecían de importancia».

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En esa soledad fructífera pasó gran parte de su vida Glenn Gould. Aunque otras veces ese silencio era amargo y oscuro, como ese que atribuyen a los genios excéntricos y doloridos. De esos estados habla una novela gráfica que acaba de publicar Astiberri con el título Glenn Gould. Una vida a contratiempo.

La obra, de la francesa Sandrine Revel, relata la vida de este músico en una narración que transcurre entre sus palabras y los testimonios de muchas personas que lo conocieron. De esa tendencia a interiorizar en el pensamiento habla también Susan Cain, la cofundadora de Quiet Revolution que dejó atónito a Bill Gates con su charla en TED sobre ‘el poder de los introvertidos en un mundo que no puede parar de hablar’. «Cuando los psicólogos estudian la vida de las personas más creativas, descubren que son muy buenas intercambiando e introduciendo ideas, pero también son muy introvertidas. Esto es así porque la soledad es un ingrediente fundamental para la creatividad».

Cain piensa que en las instituciones más importantes, los colegios y los lugares de trabajo han sido diseñados para los extrovertidos y su imperiosa necesidad de estímulos. «En la actualidad, tenemos un sistema de creencias, al que yo llamo pensamiento en grupo, que proclama que toda la creatividad y toda la productividad vienen, por raro que parezca, de un lugar gregario», indicó en TED.

La autora del superventas Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts (Poder silencioso: Las fortalezas secretas de los introvertidos) cuenta que Darwin paseaba solo por el bosque y siempre rechazaba las invitaciones a fiestas. Steve Wozniakinventó el primer ordenador Apple cuando se sentaba solo en su cubículo de Hewlett-Packard y, según decía, nunca hubiera aprendido tanto de tecnología si no hubiese sido un niño introvertido al que no le gustaba salir de casa.

Hay muchos más. Julio Verne tampoco acudía a eventos sociales y se encerraba con llave en su dormitorio para escribir mientras su mujer, desde fuera, golpeaba la puerta para que bajara a tomar el té con las visitas. Philip K. Dick también apreciaba el silencio. Por eso redactó esta dedicatoria a su mujer en las primeras páginas de su obra El hombre en el castillo: «A Anne, mi mujer, sin cuyo silencio este libro nunca se hubiera escrito».

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El pensamiento en solitario es más libre y original que el pensamiento colectivo, según Cain. El trabajo en grupo, en cambio, exige que los miembros de un proyecto intenten amoldar sus ideas a una dirección común.

Además, la sociedad actual no entiende la contemplación, según la estadounidense. Lo que está bien visto es teclear, llamar por teléfono, llevar papeles de un lado a otro, aunque no sirva de nada. Lo importante es que siempre haya movimiento. Estar quieto y no tener nada en las manos se asocia al mal de la holgazanería improductiva.

Lo constató un experimento en Finlandia. A la oficina de Deloitte en Helsinki llegó una joven en prácticas que cada día se sentaba en su puesto sin ordenador ni móvil ni libreta. No hablaba con nadie y miraba al infinito. Eso levantó las sospechas de todos sus compañeros y un día, después de muchas intrigas y murmullos, alguien se acercó a la estudiante y le preguntó a qué se dedicaba. Ella contestó: «Estoy pensando».

Entonces las risas y las caras de desconcierto fueron aún mayores. «Disimular la vagancia aparentando que haces algo o estar en Facebook durante las horas laborales entra dentro de los comportamientos aceptados por la comunidad de trabajo», indicó Pilvi Takala, la artista que montó esta instalación artística, The Trainee, en colaboración con Deloitte y el museo Kiasma de Helsinki en 2008. «En cambio, sentarte frente a una mesa vacía, con tus manos en el regazo y pensando, amenaza la paz de la comunidad y rompe la concentración de tus compañeros».

Glenn Gould nunca tuvo ese problema. Trabajaba solo y, además, conocía el valor del recogimiento. En la última grabación que hizo de las variaciones Goldberg de Bach, en 1981, dijo: «La música debe escucharse en privado. Debe llevar al oyente y al intérprete a un estado de contemplación».

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Regretting Motherhood: A Sociopolitical Analysis

Based on in-depth interviews with twenty-three Israeli mothers, this article seeks to contribute to an ongoing inquiry into women’s subjective experiences of mothering by addressing an understudied maternal emotive and cognitive stance: regretting motherhood. The literature teaches us that within a pronatal monopoly, threatening women that they will inevitably regret not having children acts as powerful reproducer of the ideology of motherhood. Simultaneously, motherhood is constructed as a mythical nexus that lies outside and beyond the human terrain of regret, and therefore a desire to undo the maternal experience is conceived as an object of disbelief. By incorporating regret into maternal experiences, the purpose of the article is twofold: The first is to distinguish regret over motherhood from other conflictual and ambivalent maternal emotions. Whereas participants’ expressions of regretting motherhood were not bereft of ambivalence, and thus were not necessarily exceptional or anomalous, they foreground a different emotive and cognitive stance toward motherhood. The second purpose is to situate regret over motherhood in the sociopolitical arena. It has been suggested that the “power of backward thinking” might be used to reflect on the systems of power governing maternal feelings in two ways: first, through a categorical distinction in the target of regret between object (the children) and experience (maternity), which utilizes the cultural structure of mother love; second, by opposing the very essentialist presumption of a fixed female identity that naturally befits mothering or progressively adapts to it and evaluates it as a worthwhile experience.

Donath, O. (2015). Regretting motherhood: A Sociopolitical analysis. Signs,40(2), 343-367.

Focusing research topic in six steps

In previous post I have addressed different stages of the research process, that is, from the very beginning when one is formulating the research question up to the final conclusions. However, this post aims to dig into the first stages any researcher is coping at the beginning and, particularly, non-experienced researchers. Having a consistent research question is probably the most critical and challenging part. Having a good question is probably the best way to better orientate you in the subsequent stages. It works as a lighthouse that avoids disorientation in the sometimes long and confusing research process. And this is because it allows us to distinguish between relevant and non relevant data. The criterion is very simple: “you must select from all data you find just those data that support an answer to a question” (Booth et al., 2003)

What are the results of having ambiguous or abstract question? Basically, selecting data can be frustrating, so many sources, so many information and a lot of doubts of what is and not important.

So, the question is how to raise a good research question? What is more, how to raise a research question that is not merely interesting but also has wider significance, in this case, for the discipline of economics. In other words, does your question solve any problem someone, for instance, other researchers, think needs to be solved? Or, on the contrary, your question only intrigues you: “why do cats rub their faces against us? And here is when many beginners fail when formulating a research. They are unable to formulate a “big” question but with a “mental itch” (Op cit.) that only one researcher feels the need to scratch.

To that end, you must follow the following process: identify your interest-find a topic-research problem:

  1. Identifying your research interest.

Start by listing two or three interests that you´d like to explore. Interest means something that is important for you, so that you would like to know better. A research interest is something that arouses our curiosity. Sometimes without really knowing why and sometimes because they are linked to those categories that define us as person: the place you are from or you live, your hobbies, your family, your gender, nationality, your aspirations in life etc. A research interest is something that arouses our curiosity, something.

2. From an interest to a topic.

Identifying interest is seldom a problem faced by researchers, not even beginners. Most of the people have plenty of interests to pursue. However, the first challenge is often to locate a good research topic among all interests. To make it clear: a research topic is basically an interest enough focused for you to become an expert on it or, at least, to make you know much about it than you do now. Ideally, you should go for what interests you most. As suggested by Booth et al (2003:41) “nothing contributes to the quality of your work more than your commitment to it. Think in previous subjects throughout your graduate. Is there any subject where your grades have pointed out? Which one have you enjoyed most? Have you ever performed a remarkable work on a specific discipline or academic area? You might also try to identify an interest based on work you are doing or will do in a different course. Finally, do not hesitate to discuss your ideas with someone else. Get rid of your fears and shame and talk friends and classmates. It will be helpful to shape your idea and make it feasible.

If you are still stuck, you can find help on the Internet or Faculty library. The internet may seem the easiest way, but that can be also frustrating due to the overwhelming amount of information, especially if you have entire freedom to choose the topic. You should start by visiting your library or the social profile of some of your professors. For instance, you can join for free some academic network as ResearchGate and look at the work made by some of them. Starting by checking out the work of faculty member allow you to contact them directly in case you want to ask specific questions or material. That may also contribute to a better knowledge transference between professors and students and, hence, creating a more active and vibrant local intellectual life.

If you have already an idea for a topic you can search for relevant literature by keywords. Imagine you are interested in local economic development. If you scan this term on the internet, you will find thousands of references. Don´t read randomly; start with entries in a general encyclopaedia as Wikipedia. The fact you topic has some entries is a good sign. It means that you are not the only one working on this topic. Have a look to the main literature references given in the encyclopaedia entry in order for you to identify the main authors. Then you can look at entries in a more specialized search engine. For instance, Google Scholar. Here the search is focused on academic papers, excluding those performed in industry. Finally, check out specialized journals. Once again, if your topic is local economic development, then look for a journal specialized on this area. Read a reasonable amount of articles or papers related to your specific topic. Do not hesitate to take a single paper as reference. What is more, it is highly recommendable to use one paper as a guide for your own research. Your aim could perfectly be reproducing the same study but adding new elements and taking care of not committing plagiarism.

  1. From a broad topic to a focused one.

At this point, you risk settling on a topic so broad that could perfectly be a heading in a encyclopaedia: “local economic development”, “regional development”. A topic is usually too broad if you can state it in four or five words: “Local development problems in Poland”.

You can narrow this topic by adding words and phrases, but of a special kind: description, contribution, analysis, etc. All of them are derived from verbs expressing actions or relationships: to describe, to contribute, to analyse. Without such words, your topic is a static thing. But when you use nouns derived from verbs, you move your topic a step closer to a claim that your readers might find significant.

Note what happens when these topics become statements.

TOPIC                                                                                                                 CLAIM

Economic development

Poland has experienced one of the most notable economic growths in Europe in the last decade

 

  1. From a focused topic to questions.

A very common mistake among beginners is rushing from a topic to the “data dump”. Having a promising topic does not mean to have done all we need to get started with data collection. “Poland economic growth since joining European Union” is, indeed, a good topic. You can accumulate economic data on this topic, the evolution of the different indicators and differences between regions. This might be enough to have a good grade at high school, because you show that you can focus on a topic, find data on it, and assemble those data into a report. This is not a small achievement after all. However, in any advance course, as this at the university, such report falls short because it offers only random bits of information. Readers of significant report do not only want information. As suggested by Booth et al. (2003), they also want “answer to question worth asking”. To be fair, those who are fascinated with a particular topic frequently feel like any information is worth reading for its own sake. Advance researchers, however, do not report data for their own sake, but to support the answer to a question that they and their readers think is worth asking.

The best form to identify what you do not know about a topic is to barrage it with questions. First of all, the most predictable questions within you field, usually journalistic questions like headed by interrogative particles as who, what, when and where. They usually raise way to descriptive reports, that is, they may ask only about matters of settled fact. Then you can focus on how and why headed questions. They are more likely to invite deeper research and lead to more interesting answers.

Finally you can ask four kinds of analytical questions:

  1. About composition: how is the topic part of a larger system? For instance, what factors explain the better economic growth performance in Poland in comparison to other new European Union members? What industries have contributed most to such growth? Does the economic growth mean a loss of local embeddings?
  2. About the history: how the growth developed since 2005? Is it possible to identify different stages? How different industries have developed since 2005? How economic growth has affected demography and immigration?
  3. Categorization: Identify its characteristics and the categories that include it: How the economic growths vary from one region to another? How does it from one industry to another?

Once you have a clear question you may stop brainstorming. The most important aim is to identify a question that really arouses your intense curiosity. Discuss your idea with someone. It will be helpful to shape your idea and make it feasible. Pose your question in a network as Research Gate to test others opinion. Having no answer might be an indicator of either the question is not correctly formulated, or the question has no significance for your field.

  1. From a merely interesting question to its wider significance.

Once you have a question that grabs your interest, you must pose a tougher question: why should this question also grab my readers? What makes it worth asking? It is not easy to guess what will eventually interest your readers. Booth et al. Suggest working toward an answer in three steps:

  1. Describe your topic in a sentence as specific as you can make it:

“I am trying to learn about (working on, studying) _____________________

  1. Add to that sentence and indirect question that specifies something that you do not know or understand about your topic but want to:

“I am trying to learn about (working on, studying) _____________________ because I want to find out who/what/when/where/whether/why/how________________________________

I you success to compose a good sentence at this point, you are moving yourself beyond the kind of aimless collection and reporting of data that afflicts too much research.

  1. Motivate your question. This is probably the most challenging step. But this step indicates whether your question is not just interesting to you but possibly significant to others. To do that, add another indirect question, a bigger and more general one that explains why you are asking your first question. Introduce this second implied question with in order to help my reader understand how, why, or whether:

“I am trying to learn about (working on, studying) _____________________ because I want to find out who/what/when/where/whether/why/how________________________________in order to help reader to understand how, why, or whether________________________

If that larger question touches issues important for your field and/or are current and controversial topics nowadays, then you have motives to consider that your readers should care about its answer to the question you are posing.

Experienced researchers are able to flesh out this whole process even before they start the data collection, basically because they are working on a well-known question, i.e. a widely investigated problem that others in their field are already interested in. Actually, advanced researchers often begin their research with questions that others have asked before but not answered thoroughly or maybe even correctly. Hence, your research question could be the result of not only the exploration of new significant topics, but just the continuation of the work started by other researchers.

Finally, the truth is that many researchers, including advanced ones, find that they can´t flesh out these steps until they´re nearly finished. In other words, many researchers write up the results without having thought through these steps at all. It means that at the beginning of the project you may not be able to get past these three steps, but it is important you regularly reflect on them throughout the whole research project. Then you will know where you are and where you still have to go.

To summarize, your aim is to explain:

  1. What you are writing about-your topic: I am studying…
  2. What do don´t know about it- your question: because I want to find out…
  3. Why you want your reader to know about it-your rationale: in order to help my reader understand better…

6. From questions to problems.

Having a good question is usually a synonymous of addressing a research problem. But what a research problem really is. We first should distinguish between practical problems and research problems. Everyday research usually begins with solving practical problems that has just landed on you, a problem that left unresolved, means trouble. We all have this kind of problems and we all are often able to solve or, at least, we can figure out the way it may be solved. However, whenever the solution of such problem is not obvious, (i.e. when you ask yourself questions that you can´t answer), then you need to solve first a problem of another kind, a research problem defined by what you do not know or understand and; so that then you can address the practical problem.

So the process of addressing a practical problem is familiar for everyone:

PRACTICAL QUESTION: My brakes have started screeching?

RESEARCH QUESTION: Where can I get them fixed right away?

RESEARCH PROBLEM: Find the yellow pages and look up closest brake shop.

RESEARCH ANSWER: The Car shoppe, 1401 East 55th Street.

APPLICATION: Call to see when they can fix them.

Graphically, the relationship between practical and research problems looks like this:

** It is very important distinguish between Practical problems and research problems.

Although solving a practical problem usually requires that we solve a research problem as well, there are differences between them:

– A practical problem is caused by some condition in the world, from e-mail spam to terrorism, that makes us unhappy because it costs us time, money, respect, security, pain, even our lives. You solve a practical problem by doing something that changes the world by eliminating the causes that lead to its costs, or by encouraging others to do so.

– A research problem is motivated not by palpable unhappiness, but by incomplete knowledge or flawed understanding. You solve it not by changing the world but by understanding it better.

At this point you may have notice that the term problem has a special meaning in the world of research. In our everyday world, a practical problem is something we try to avoid. But in the academic world, a research problem is something we eagerly seek out, even inventing one, if we have to.

** Distinguishing “Pure” and “Applied” Research.

Having a practical problem is not necessary the point of departure when formulating a research problem. In other words, you can try to solve a research problem without having a practical problem or, at least, not apparently. Hence you want to address a research problem due to the interest of a community of researchers. This research is called pure. But when the research is rooted in a practical problem, that is, it is the practical problem that encourage to do a research, then we call this applied research. You can tell whether a research problem is pure or applied by looking at the last of the three steps in defining your project. Does it refer to knowing or doing?

Pure:

“I am trying to learn about (working on, studying) _____________________ because I want to find out who/what/when/where/whether/why/how________________________________in order to understand how, why, or whether________________________

Applied:

“I am trying to learn about (working on, studying) _____________________ because I want to find out who/what/when/where/whether/why/how________________________________so that policy makers can use data to implement new employment projects________________________

Is it useful pure research?

Well, the truth is that most research projects in the humanities and many in the natural and social sciences have no direct application to daily life. In fact, as the word pure suggests, many researchers value pure research more highly than they do applied. They believe that the pursuit of knowledge “for its own sake” reflects humanity´s highest calling-to know more and understand better, not for the sake of money or power, but for the good that understanding itself brings. What is more, the fact one project has no practical application usually means that the application is not immediately. But the truth is that many pure research results end up having important impact on society. For instance, the recent discovery of gravitational waves has a priori no application. However, it is well known that this will impact the way we understand universe and humanity, as well as other discoveries did in the past.

Finally, a typical beginner´s mistake is getting not content with having no significant practical problem so they try to force their project into the practical domain. That´s usually a mistake because no one can solve the world´s great problem in a five- or even a fifty-page paper. But a good researchers might help us understand those problems better, which get us closer to the solution.

Challenges confronting beginning researchers in conducting literature reviews

Conducting literature review is a complicated, sometimes confusing and laborious process that beginning educational researchers, especially graduate students, often find challenging. However, in the past these challenges were hardly considered, but in more recent times they have been increasingly considered by various faculties and graduate schools due to the expanding needs from growing enrolments. To further develop and strengthen the responses to these identified needs, this article reviews literature concerning challenges faced by beginning educational researchers in conducting literature review, aiming to help unpack this complicated phenomenon by constructing a coherent story. Based on our review, we propose a framework to conceptualize four types of challenges. We term them LMCO (linguistic, methodological, conceptual, and ontological) challenges. Discussions centers on the four identified challenges, recommendations for future studies and implications to graduate preparatory programs.
Chen, D. T. V., Wang, Y. M., & Lee, W. C. (2015). Challenges confronting beginning researchers in conducting literature reviews. Studies in Continuing Education, 1-14.
Source: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/0158037X.2015.1030335

“An individual’s level of personal well-being is strongly related to the level of wealth of the household in which they live”

“Relationship between Wealth, Income and Personal Well-being, July 2011 to June 2012”

Summary
This article uses data from the Wealth and Assets Survey (WAS) for July 2011 to June 2012
which, for the first time, included measures of personal well-being. It describes the results of
regression analysis considering the relationships between the total wealth or total income of
the households in which individuals live and their personal well-being. Regression analysis is
a statistical technique which was used to analyse variation in well-being outcomes by specific
characteristics and circumstances of individuals while holding all other characteristics equal.
This allows for a better understanding of what matters most to an individual’s personal well-being
compared to analysis when different factors are considered separately.
Main points
• An individual’s level of personal well-being is strongly related to the level of wealth of the
household in which they live. Life satisfaction, sense of worth and happiness are higher, and
anxiety less, as the level of household wealth increases.
• The levels of household income are less strongly related, with relationships found only with life
satisfaction and sense of worth.
• The net financial wealth of the household appears to be the type of wealth most strongly
associated with personal well-being. In particular, life satisfaction will be higher in households
with greater net financial wealth.
• Levels of property wealth and private pension wealth were not found to be related levels of
personal well-being.

Source

Looking for research ideas? The ERC Funded Projects might be inspiring

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Why “there is no such thing as economic science”?

I have recently referred to an interview made to Piketty where he states “there is no such thing as economic science. There are social sciences”. He argues that “economic processes involve social control” and that “we should teach ‪economics‬ much more in conjunction with economic‪ ‎history‬, social history, political history, political science”

That said, the truth is that Piketty’s argument is deductible from the classic economic sociology concept embeddedness. It refers to the degree to which economic activity is constrained by non-economic institutions. The term was created by economic historian Karl Polanyi as part of his Substantivist approach. Polanyi argued that in non-market societies there are no pure economic institutions to which formal economic models can be applied. In these cases economic activities such as “provisioning” are “embedded” in non-economic kinship, religious and political institutions. In market societies, in contrast, economic activities have been rationalized, and economic action is “disembedded” from society and able to follow its own distinctive logic, captured in economic modeling. Polanyi’s ideas were widely adopted and discussed in anthropology in what has been called the “Formalist vs Substantivist” debate. Subsequently, the term “embeddedness” was further developed by economic sociologist Mark Granovetter, who argued that even in market societies, economic activity is not as disembedded from society as economic models would suggest.