We believe that existing models of creativity do not adequately address the distribution of the range of creative acts across individuals in the collaborative creation of media in online environments. In particular we emphasize the fluid nature of users’ transitions between the creative roles of synthesizer, analyzer, and viewer at different phases of production online. We illustrate our position with qualitative data describing video remixing processes in the online community Jumpcut.
It is this socio-technical network of influences conflating the roles of creator and audience that underpins the model of distributed creativity that we propose. Specifically, we believe that free association of ideas as a central concept of creativity provides a useful lens for understanding the creative process in online communities of cultural production. An individual participating in such communities fluidly traverses a range of creative roles from consumer one moment to producer the next, collecting, relating, creating, and donating, acting out of curiosity and instinct at least as often as with intention and reason. Even when the individual does not directly communicate with members of the community via human language, his or her actions necessarily modify the digital collective in a subtle or profound way—actions which, in turn, evoke responses and reactions from other individuals, through a process known as stigmergy.